The fantasy series that retells the Arthurian legend from the point of view of the mysterious Lady of the Lake is available to stream on Netflix now.
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Cursed
Credit: ROBERT VIGLASKY/Netflix
type
  • TV Show
network
  • NBC

Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) has proven she can handle a sword — and the lead role in an epic fantasy series.

Netflix's Cursed retells the legend of Arthur from the point of Nimue (Langford), a teenage heroine with magical powers who is destined to become the Lady of the Lake. If you aren't an Arthurian legend buff, that female character might not be as familiar to you as some of the other names from the tale, like Merlin and Lancelot, but with its big-budget, sprawling 10-episode season, the Netflix fantasy adventure is here to get you up to speed.

For Langford, a history lover herself, bringing the little-known story of the Nimue to life, as well as the stories of the other female characters in the tale, was one of the project's — an adaptation of the graphic novel illustrated by Frank Miller (Dark Knight Returns and Sin City) and written by Tom Wheeler (The Cape) — main draws.

With the first season available to stream on Netflix in its entirety (you'll feel like you sat through three epic movie trilogies if you do it in one sitting), we caught up with Langford about the challenges of starring in her first fantasy series, learning to wield the most famous sword out there, and what she hopes a potential second season could bring.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What first made you want to be part of this project when you heard about it?

KATHERINE LANGFORD: For me, it was kind of an interesting time. It was just after I'd finished Knives Out and I was looking for something new, challenging, and different, but I wasn't necessarily looking to do anything in TV and then I was sent a manuscript for this book called Cursed, which was written by Tom Wheeler and Frank Miller. I immediately, as soon as I picked it up, just fell in love with his story and it was something that I couldn't put down. So at that point, looking at the story and also looking at the character and being such a lover of history and a fan of the fantasy genre, it was something that really excited me. I knew it was going to be very different from anything that I'd done. So I signed on before there are any scripts and went from there.

Was the Arthurian legend something you were very familiar with before or was it more something you just knew about it the way everyone does from other tellings?

I'm a lover of history and of fantasy, but I also feel to a degree, like most people, I had a basic understanding or familiarity with the Arthurian legend. However, what was interesting to me when I really started, researching for the character after I signed onto this was curious about this legend as well is, was just how little information there is about the female characters. We've heard of the Lady of the Lake and there is so much beautiful iconography and artwork about her and she feels really familiar, but at the same time, when you actually look into her stories, there's really nothing behind the image or the idea of who she is.

Right, so true. Does that put pressure on you then telling her side of things for the first time or does it help that it's kind of a blank canvas with nothing to compare it to?

In that sense, it felt like there was a lot of liberty because this is the first time the story has been told. There really were just open doors, but also at the same time, I know that we'll put pressure on ourselves, because it is the first time telling the story, to try and do it justice and create this world from the ground up.

Cursed

Did you keep a copy of the graphic novel on hand on set as a resource or was it more important to just rely on the script?

I think to a degree it was both. The full book didn't actually come out until October and by that time we were more than halfway through filming. I definitely drew a lot of inspiration from Tom (Wheeler) on set as the scripts were changing midway through. Nimue's story is very much married to the story that you see throughout the season, so any time there was a change in the script, it affected me, so I worked a lot with Tom, just touching base about the character and the journey as we were shooting. That was a really nice process to be able to collaborate with Tom and also with Frank Miller and get their input.

Was it intimidating at all to work with these creative geniuses?

From my perspective, there was nothing but respect. Frank Miller is an absolute legend and a genius and Tom Wheeler is as well on his own. Both of them just adore this world and they live and breathe these stories. Not only are they amazing at what they do and so creative, but they're also so collaborative and so kind. I think that's the most amazing thing about working with great people and also working with people who really want to share. I really loved working with both of them.

Just the fact that they know the story inside out must've been a great resource, since they could answer any question you had?

When they could. I'm quite nerdy when it comes to character. Although I've played roles that are integral to other stories, this really was different for me or not just in terms of genre, but also, I think specifically with these genres, there's such a strong sense of protagonist and the protagonist leading the journey. That was a really eyeopening experience. Not only learning a skillset in a short period of time and shooting on different locations, but also being able to juggle, the spontaneous changes, and deal with everything that came with filming while maintaining the integrity of her story. That's also why it was really nice to collaborate because I wanted to make sure that we weren't undermining her capabilities as a woman. So often I feel like that's done in scripts: You read something where the woman is running and then she falls over for no reason. I really wanted that strong sense of not undermining her capabilities and honoring what she could do in the circumstances where she could.

Totally, if she's going to fall there better be a good reason for it. Speaking of the physical side of the project, how much training did you have to do before you shot, and was it a grueling process? You spend a lot of time wielding a sword and riding a horse.

Well, I trained as a former elite athlete, so I was really excited to dive into the physical component. You really understand why people train for 8 to 9 months before these roles. To be able to do these skills on camera, you have to really have —not only confidence and ability— but you have to have to be able to mix that with comfortability on screen. We were really blessed with a great stunt company called Steve Dent and they gave up four weeks, to turn me into this capable and confident sword fighter, stunt woman and horse rider. To be able to get through that shoot and to perform all the stunts, that's really what I wanted to do to honor Nimue's strength. I don't know if we get the opportunity to continue the story, but if we do that's something I'd like to dive more into because I really did love that element of it. Even if it's freezing cold water, if it's snowing or it's the hottest day that the U.K.'s ever had —which it was when we shot one of the fight scenes— that's an aspect that I think is really important. Again, it's a skill.

Yeah, get it on the resume! Did they have a replica sword that was less heavy for some of the non-fight scenes, where Nimue is holding it aloft and making speeches or whatever because I imagine it's pretty heavy?

So another amazing thing about shooting something in this genre is that we had our own in house weaponry that crafted and created from scratch all of our weapons. I had a steel sword and I had a stunt sword and I also had a half sword which I would pull out just for easy take and whatnot. That is the magic of filming.

Other than the sword, I wanted to ask you about some of your costars. One of the cool things about this reimagining of the story is that it gives Nimue and Arthur a relationship. How was working with Devon Terrell (Barry)?

Because of the role that I had in the story, I was able to work with everybody was at one point or another even if it was in a really brief way. Everyone on the cast is so talented and just brings these characters to life. It's funny because obviously I'm Australian and this is traditionally a British legendary folktale, and we actually have three Australians on the cast. We have Devon Terrell who's originally from Perth, and then Shalom (Brune-Franklin who plays Morgana) who's originally British but she's been in Perth. So it was a bit of a danger when the three of us were together because both of them have a very strong Australia accent. I think Devon does an amazing job in his role. The thing about this story, which really excites me, is the potential to see this story and these characters that we've seen a hundred times, in a completely different way. Whether that's Gustaf Skarsgård as Merlin or Peter Mullan as Father Carden or Danny Sharman as the Weeping Monk, it feels like there's a new chapter to this age-old story.

Right, there's also so much still to unpack with all these characters. If the show gets a second season, what are your hopes from Nimue — other than making it out of the water?

I think it's entirely up to Tom Wheeler and his magnificent brain and imagination. We're just so excited to tell this first season and bring it to the world. It's a tall order. Now that we've laid the groundwork and dived into some of these characters, I get the feeling that this really is the tip of the iceberg. We've really just had a taste of where this story could go. What really excited me about her is that a lot of season one is about the sword and slightly opening the door ajar a tiny bit on her potential. I think that there's so much more left behind that door that we haven't seen with or without the sword and also her relationship with Merlin. Where do these powers come from? How deep do they run? What happens if she harnesses them? What happens if she uses them for bad or for good? There's a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of untapped potential that I'll be interested to see personally. Also to see the world expand would be an exciting thing. It's all up to Tom!

Stream season one of Cursed on Netflix now.

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Cursed (TV Show)
type
  • TV Show
rating
network
  • NBC

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