Based on the book by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler, Cursed is a re-imagining of the Arthurian legend, told through the eyes of Nimue, a teenage heroine with a mysterious gift who is destined to become the Lady of the Lake. After her mother’s death, she finds an unexpected partner in Arthur, a young mercenary, in a quest to find Merlin and deliver the legendary sword Excalibur.
Over the course of her journey, Nimue will become a symbol of courage and rebellion against the terrifying Red Paladins, and their complicit King Uther.
We speak to Devon Terrell who plays Arthur in Cursed about taking on a legend and what it was like to have Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler on set…
What is Cursed all about?
For me it starts with the story of Nimue. It’s an epic story of these legends that we know so well told through fresh eyes. We discover [Arthur] in an exciting new form and [there are] newly created characters who create a dynamic of a world where anything’s possible, and you’re fighting for the survival of your culture and your people and that leads to the discovery of the power within them and their destiny. We see that through the character of Nimue and it’s exciting, it’s a new take and as much as we know the characters, we discover them in such a new way.
There have been many depictions of Arthur, what kind of character is he in Cursed?
I’ve always known King Arthur as this character that’s like “of course this man’s going to become a king, he’s just waiting for his moment” or he’s waiting to reach that maturity to become that great character in folklore.
The character of Arthur [in Cursed] is a young mercenary who makes many mistakes. He’s continually trying to break down his walls and build new foundations and through Nimue, that’s what he discovers.
He’s definitely not the ‘knight in shining armour’ or the perfect guy. There’s a charm to him with the continuous mistakes he makes.
I think the young mercenary take on it is such an exciting version because we don’t see this perfect guy. We see this raggedy young man who’s really a boy. And we see the wrong and the right [in him] – I think that’s what’s exciting. We see how someone of great stature can come from that because he’s with the people.
The story is continually pushing him in places where he’s tested consistently and if it wasn’t for Nimue he wouldn’t go on this journey. Nimue is such a part of his destiny.
Where does Arthur fit in with Nimue’s quest?
He meets Nimue very early in the story. It’s not the way you’d expect them to meet but it’s one of those weird relationships that it keeps building and building. Every time trouble comes, for some reason they’re always in the same place and it’s just one of those things where he always finds himself in the wrong situation. In this story he very much also finds himself in the right situation because without Nimue he wouldn’t discover most of the things about himself that he needs to discover.
Would you say this version of Arthur is very relatable?
Absolutely. I mean it’s hard to say as the actor playing him that he’s such a grounded character [haha] but he’s very much one of the people. You would not pick this kid as potentially ‘that Arthur’ that we all talk about in the stories. He doesn’t see that within himself and I think that’s what’s very exciting. He doesn’t think much of himself.
There’s such a rich background of his family and the people that control his life. It’s such a new take and it’s exciting. I personally think with characters like Arthur and Hamlet – all these major roles in history – that it’s really dependant on the person that plays them that they bring a different truth and honesty that audiences will hopefully take to.
There are a lot of fantasy elements and swordplay in Cursed – what was the series like to shoot?
[There were] a lot of injuries [haha!] – no it was incredible we got into some incredible fight scenes which I can’t wait for people to watch. Riding horses and fighting on epic scales and magic – obviously, this is a young person’s dream! You definitely have to keep your wits about you because you don’t want to hurt anyone but it’s one of those moments where you step back and you go wow there’s 300 people dressed in medieval clothes right now playing with swords and that’s so cool.
To grow up playing videogames and reading comics and being like “oh imagine what that’s like” but to actually be in them is such a thrilling experience.
Seeing some of the things that Nimue’s character does [in Cursed] and just watching it on the sidelines, [I was] just appreciating that we get this opportunity. There’s a lot of fantasy shows out there but not really on the scale of this.
I think people really love these kinds of shows not only for escapism but also you appreciate those worlds. You appreciate [that] someone takes you on a journey and tells you a story.
I’m just excited for my family to watch it and my friends to see what we’ve done. I’ve been keeping it secret for a year and a bit now. Seriously, I can’t even tell my mum. My mum will tell everyone!
Cursed is based on the book by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler… did you get the chance to read it?
The book was kind of released as we were filming. I had this amazing resource of Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler on set. They always led me scene by scene. Things would change while we were shooting. It was one of those really exciting things where, as an actor, you had every resource you could possibly want to bring a character to life.
For me even with the character, [it was] ‘let’s go darker, let’s go to this side’. Or why does he fight this way? It’s exciting because the level of detail and the level of craftsmanship on this production is incredible.
I was jet-lagged when I got to [the set in] London and they took me through a mood board and a storyboard and character description. I was blown away, I’d never seen anything at that scale of detail to create a world. The excitement they had from day one to the last day and even Netflix were excited to tell the story.
Having the book’s creators on the set sounds pretty scary…
I think yeah for a writer there’s nothing better than to see your writing [come to life]. I come from a theatre background, and I think to see your writing come to life, you start playing to the strengths of the actors and people around you.
I think Tom really makes great adjustments and even if we’re doing an amazing speech, if you tweak a certain level of it, it just adds that little something extra.
It’s a little bit scary sometimes with the writers there because you don’t want to mess their words up but nah [Tom’s] not like that and Frank just lives up to the hype of what you would think he would be like. He’s just the loveliest human being but he’s like a little boy, he’s just so excited to pick up the weapons. You talk to him in between takes and it’s just like this man is so excited it makes you so excited to go to work when one of the biggest figures in the comic book world [is there].
I didn’t realise what an impact he had on my life. Because 300, Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns, they’re all-time classics! You don’t expect to meet people like that and he lives up to all the hype.
What’s it like working with Netflix?
Netflix is super-collaborative; all the executives that came on set, there’s definitely a vibe like a family feeling. They want [Cursed] to be great, we want the show to be great and if you had any concerns or anything to talk about, they were always there and I think they really take care of you on set.
It’s kind of crazy that this show is such a secret in the world. I can’t tell a lot of people in my life about everything that happens but the day it comes out the whole world is going to be open to it. And I think that’s just such an exciting platform…
I can’t wait to see what peoples’ reaction is to it. We worked so hard to bring the story to life. It’s really exciting.
Do you have any plans for the day it launches on Netflix?
Oh, I’m terrified! I’m in Los Angeles at the moment so I think I’m going to spend it with my girlfriend and her family and watch it. It’s exciting but I’m scared I’m going to be explaining every scene!
I know my mum’s so excited. My mum frames everything I’ve ever done in our house. Production just sent me the sword that I had in the shoot, I know that one’s going up! And Frank also signed a book for me so that’s going in the cupboard and never being touched.
It’s just so exciting especially on Netflix you know it’s going to go to an incredible amount of people and that’s all we can ask for; for people to see [Cursed] and to have their interpretation of the story.
The great part of the story is that it’s genuinely for everyone. Everybody asks me like, “can my little one see it?” and I’m like “yeah!”. It’s absolutely a story for everyone. I think it’s very relatable. That’s what I hope people get from Arthur, that he’s relatable.
I wanted to play him as ‘Arthur’. I didn’t want to play him as this potential king – don’t expect him to go on to that journey. If he does, I don’t know… if Frank wants to make him Batman I’m totally happy as well!
Cursed is out on Netflix on 17 July.