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Miriam Margolyes makes TV audience gasp as she asks interviewer: ‘What are you? Sort of brown?’

Miriam Margolyes has raised eyebrows after she bluntly asked an Australian talk show host about his skin colour.

The British-Australian star, 82, best known for her role as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series, was discussing the war in Gaza during an appearance on the Australian programme The Project on Thursday (21 March), when she quizzed host Waleed Aly, 45.

“Whether you’re black or white, it doesn’t matter,” the notoriously outspoken actor said, before turning her attention to Aly, pointing at him and asking: “What are you by the way? Sort of brown?”

The audience erupted into a mixture of gasps and laughter, while Aly appeared shocked by her enquiry.

Aly then held his head down toward the desk and began laughing along with the rest of the panellists, who all looked slightly puzzled by the line of questioning.

Once Aly had composed himself, he replied: “This is a really interesting question…I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m not joking about that.

“So, I’m Egyptian,” he said, to which Margolyes replied: “Oh really?”

Waleed Aly then held his head down toward the desk after Margolyes asked him, ‘What are you? Sort of brown?’ (Channel 10)
Waleed Aly then held his head down toward the desk after Margolyes asked him, ‘What are you? Sort of brown?’ (Channel 10)

“Which is in Africa,” continued Aly. “So what do you wanna call that?”

“Well, lucky,” she replied, changing the subject. “Because I like Egyptian people. I’m on the side of the Palestinians I have to tell you that now.”

Miriam Margolyes was appearing on the show to call for a ceasfire in Gaza (Channel 10)
Miriam Margolyes was appearing on the show to call for a ceasfire in Gaza (Channel 10)

“Because being Jewish, we always have to say what we are. Are we for Israel or against Israel? I’m only for humanity. Ceasefire. Ceasefire,” she said, to applause from the studio audience.

Aly turned to the camera and poked fun at the unexpected exchange, telling viewers: “Well I think it’s safe to say that conversation did not go as predicted!”

‘Well I think it’s safe to say that conversation did not go as predicted!’ said Aly (Channel 10)
‘Well I think it’s safe to say that conversation did not go as predicted!’ said Aly (Channel 10)

“Who the hell cares,” shouted Margolyes in response. “It’s important!”

The Independent has contacted Margolyes’s representative for comment.

Her comments come one week after she told Harry Potter fans to “grow up” and “get over it”.

She said in two recent interviews that she worries about adult fans of the 25-year-old franchise because “they should be over that by now”.

"It was 25 years ago, and I think it’s for children," Margolyes told New Zealand’s 1News.

“I do cameos [personalised video messages] and people say they are doing a Harry Potter-themed wedding, and I think, ‘Oh gosh what is their first night of fun going to be?’  I can’t even think about it. Harry Potter is wonderful, I’m very grateful to it. It’s over. That’s what I think.”

The Call the Midwife actor later told ABC News Australia that once teens are through puberty, “it’s time to forget about it and go on to other things”.

“If your balls have dropped, then it’s time to forget about it. You know, go on to other things,” she said.

“I just think that it’s for children. And then it’s time to move on.”