J.K. Rowling found out that all’s fair in love and war the hard and awkward way on a Zoom call. The author of the Harry Potter series spoke to someone she thought was Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. The person behind the call wasn’t the Ukrainian statesman at all, though, rather the Russian comedic duo Vovan and Lexus. The roughly 12-minute Zoom call, where Rowling can be seen on video while the fake Zelensky was audio-only, was uploaded to YouTube last week and spotted by the Hollywood Reporter.
On Friday morning, a spokesperson for Rowling confirmed to Gizmodo that the prank call had taken place, adding that the video of the conversation posted online had been edited and was a “distorted representation of the conversation.” The video does indeed seem to skip to different parts of the call, suggesting that it has been modified.
“We can confirm that J.K. Rowling was a victim of a distasteful hoax video call by Russian pranksters, Vovan and Lexus, posing on camera as Ukraine’s President Zelensky,” Rowling’s spokesperson said. “J.K. Rowling was approached to talk about her extensive charitable work in Ukraine through her charity Lumos, supporting children and families who have been affected by the current conflict in the region.”
The spokesperson did not respond to questions about what measures are taken to confirm the identity of people Rowling speaks to.
Despite the confirmation from Rowling’s team, the conversation between the author and the Zelensky impersonator is so awkward and weird that you would be forgiven for thinking it’s fake. The fake Zelensky says looks the shape of Harry Potter’s trademark scar, a lightning bolt, looks like the letter “Z,” and asks Rowling to change it because of the “geopolitical situation.” The letter “Z” is currently used to signal support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although the exact meaning of the symbol is still shrouded in mystery.
In the call, the fake Zelensky asks Rowling if she can substitute Harry Potter’s lightning bolt for a Ukrainian trident. The author appears to be taken aback by this request, but nonetheless says she will look into it. She muses that she could maybe do something like that herself on social media.
“I will look at that. It might be good for me to do something like that myself on social media because I think that that will get into the newspapers,” Rowling said.
At another point in the call, the prankster tells the author that he’s already spoken to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the war but feels like Johnson doesn’t really understand what’s going on in Ukraine.
“What is also important for me is to know that people who are not politicians, they really support us, they really feel what we feel, especially many famous writers, many famous musicians,” the fake Zelensky tells Rowling, which sounds almost reasonable until he starts pushing his own career as an actor. “And you know, I was also an actor in past. Maybe in the future I hope I will take a part in a new movie about Harry Potter, especially when you put Ukrainian trident on his forehead.”
The pranksters also ask Rowling to clarify where the money collected by her Lumos charity will be sent, explaining that Ukraine wants to “buy a lot of weapons and missiles with your money to destroy Russian troops. I hope you are all for it.” In another random twist, fake Zelensky also whether Albus Dumbledore is really gay and if Rowling can tell him who he slept with, adding that he hoped the wizard didn’t sleep with a transgender person. (Rowling has been heavily criticized for her transphobic views in recent years.)
After introducing Rowling to his team, which he calls the “Order of the Ukrainian Phoenix,” a reference to one of the books in Harry Potter series, the fake Zelensky asks the author to please say hello to his friends, fellow Russian writers Vovan and Lexus. Rowling cheerfully obliges, and the video turns to black.