Thanks to streaming platforms such as Netflix, stories through film and television can now be delivered to our screens instantly and on demand. Not only has the streaming world opened up a plethora of opportunities for young, up-and-coming actors such as 27-year-old Devon Terrell, but the internet phenomenon has allowed voices from around the globe tell diverse and complex tales. The latest to launch onto Netflix is Cursed, an engaging and action-fuelled fantasy based off the upcoming novel of the same title.
Cursed is a reimagining of the Arthurian legend, told through the eyes of Nimue (played by Australian shining export Katherine Langford), a teenage heroine with a mysterious gift who is destined to become the powerful (and tragic) Lady of the Lake. Violent and harrowing war has been set upon the people and after the death of Nimue’s mother, she finds an unexpected partner in Arthur, a young mercenary, in a quest to find Merlin and deliver an ancient sword. 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.
It is Devon Terrell who fronts the legendary character of Arthur, and speaking to the actor on a phone call, he sounds clearly excited for the world to view the forthcoming series. “I’ve known the King Arthur tale well since I was a young boy. But to tell it in the fantasy world is so exciting because I didn’t see myself growing up and represented in that world being a person of colour a lot of the time.”
When I spoke with the Australian actor, the world was experiencing huge Black Lives Matter protests, and what would later be the biggest movement in American history. You may recall Terrell in his breakout role as a young Barrack Obama in Barry, and with the same sense of influence found in his latest character, we penned a question to the 27-year-old. What can we learn from this series, to apply to the real world? “Things that don’t allow you to question it are the things we should really be scared of,” Terrell told ICON.
ICON: Let’s start from the beginning. Were you always interest in acting?
Devon Terrell: “Yeah. I was born in the States and grew up in Western Australia so it’s like Heath Ledger. It’s not like a huge place for actors to really come from. We didn’t have a massive drama department so I never really thought about it as an option. Luckily I started studying drama and my Drama Teacher said, “Yeah, you’re an actor”. The more I come to understand the craft the more I have fallen in love. I wouldn’t change my life if I had the opportunity.”
How did the opportunity with Cursed come about? What was the process to be cast?
DT: “I was helping a friend audition for one of the other roles and I read the scenes and the script and thought, “This is amazing, I really want to be a part of this.” I ended up getting an audition for Arthur and the Paladin Monk. I ended up gravitating towards Arthur and once I auditioned in my home and got through the first two rounds and I Skyped with the team. It was very quick, but it was very good experience in my acting career so far.”
Can you explain who Arthur is as a character in Cursed?
DT: “He’s someone who always wants to find what is right, what can hurt people the least. Really because he does happen to hurt people a lot with one of the decisions he makes, but he’s someone who always has good intentions and he wants to make something of himself and that’s kind of his main quality, he wants to be bigger than himself. He wants more than his life and I think that’s a quality a lot of people, especially me, I always want to see how far I can go with something and how far I can push myself and that’s something I see within myself.”
How much research went into being able to portray your character?
DT: “I’m very obsessed with research, I find that the best part because the more I prepare for a role the more I understand what I’m doing on set and it’s second nature. There’s no point knowing all the facts if it’s not physical and embodied. So, I’ve known the King Arthur tale well since I was a young boy.
“But to tell it in the fantasy world is so exciting because I didn’t see myself growing up and represented in that world being a person of colour a lot of the time.”
So it’s really exciting to see this version and I did all the research including becoming a better horse rider, learning how to do archery and sword fighting and realising that you have to trust yourself when you get on set, you have to work your fields to the highest level so that when you do go on set all you have to do is tell the true word and to be present and that’s really just want acting is to me.”
As for the sword work and fight scenes, how physical were those and what preparation went into that?
DT: “No cheeseburgers I’ll be honest with you. It was extremely tough because in the industry you are working crazy hours. You have 16-hour days and then even when you get home you’re still researching for the next day for the next scene or scene in the week ahead. It’s a very, very difficult show. It’s a very big physical task but the thing is you embrace that because if you are living in the mindset of these characters, what they are going through and you have to make it feel real for the audience. It’s definitely one of those things that is a physical and emotional battle to push through for 10 months to get to the end of the story. It’s exciting to see it finally come out now.”
There are many themes within Cursed that are similar to what we experience today – war and religious and cultural tensions. What can we learn from this series to apply in the real world?
DT: “It’s understating who we believe are different and that’s one of the things about Arthur, he always willing to understand someone that he is different to. You try to find common ground and understanding and I think that is something we should all, especially in the time we are in… it’s a very emotional moment in the world but it’s a much needed moment and I think that is something that this world also brings up. I think it’s something that needs to be questioned. I think if something needs to be questioned and still stands up as a society then it makes sense.
“I think that things that don’t allow you to question it are the things we should really be scared of.”
Your breakout role was on Netflix for Barry. How did things change for you after that role?
DT: “I met some wonderful people through that, and it’s hard to establish yourself in this industry. It takes years and years and I think people believe it’s an overnight moment. There are going to be people who discovered me in this show and are like “Oh, look at this new guy”, but this has been seven years in the making for me and it’s worth the wait.
I had so much more confidence going into rooms knowing I could be in this industry and I could earn my place in this industry and I got a lot more respect in the rooms whether it be casting rooms or my peers… I want to be one of the best in my field and so for every role I try to push myself no matter how big the role is and so opportunities definitely opened up and it’s hard making that jump. It’s hard to make a living as an actor and I don’t take that for granted. Every day I am able to do that now.”
And what do you hope to achieve in the next five years?
DT: “For me it is genuinely about pushing myself to see what I can get out of my characters and how good I can be because I want consistency and I want to work as much as I can and I want to push myself to be as good as I can. So, I would love to establish myself in the industry and keep working.