Katherine Langford Puts a 'Timely' Twist on Arthurian Legends in 'Cursed' (Exclusive)
By John Boone
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Katherine Langford hadn't planned to return to TV so soon after 13 Reasons Why. She certainly wasn't expecting to find herself months into a nearly yearlong shoot in the U.K., filming an epic battle scene on the hottest day of the year.
"It was, I think, 101 or 105 [degrees], and we were under lights," Langford tells ET's Lauren Zima. "I was wearing three layers of leather and everyone else was basically wearing red blankets and it was wasp season, so I would roll around in fake blood and then someone's job after every take was to pick the wasps off of my costume. Which sounds crazy, but it was actually a lot of fun."
It also comes with the territory when you sign on to a project like Cursed, Netflix's reimagining of the old Arthurian legend. "We think of King Arthur and Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table and we're very familiar with the male characters," Langford says, "but we very seldom if ever dive into the stories of the women." This tale, however, is told through the eyes of the Lady of the Lake.
Arthur and Merlin are still central to the story, though they're unlike how you've seen either before. Arthur, who first appears singing a tune in the town square, is played by Devon Terrell, who says, "The idea of young people of color watching this and being like, 'Oh my gosh, I could play a role like that, a role that hasn't been played by a person of color,' it's exciting. I loved Harry Potter, I loved Lord of the Rings -- and I still love it to this day -- but I never quite saw myself in those worlds."
Merlin, meanwhile, sloshes his way into the fray, shirtless and drunk. "Merlin isn't Dumbledore or Gandalf, we haven't only seen him with a long gray beard and long white hair," says actor Gustaf Skarsgårdsays. "We've never seen him drunk and without magic before." As for whether you can officially dub this take sexy Merlin? "That's in the eye of the beholder!"
Ultimately, though, this is the story of the Lady of the Lake. "To be able to have the opportunity to tell her story, but also place a woman at the epicenter of this legendary tale, it just feels so timely," Langford says. "[She] is such an icon in the Arthurian legends, and we really know very little to nothing about her."
In Cursed, we meet her as Nimue, the headstrong young fey woman cast out of society for her magical abilities who is fated to become the Lady of the Lake. Amid a war raged by King Uther and his Red Paladin soldiers, Nimue will be tasked with delivering a certain sword to a certain wizard.
Speaking of the sword.
"There was a lot of debate, like, 'This is the Sword of Power, how big is it? What does it look like? What is on it?'" Langford recalls. "And the armorer was handing me [swords] like, 'This is Russell Crowe's sword from this thing and Chris Pine's from this thing and Timothée Chalamet's.' And there was a moment where I went, 'One day someone's going to say, This is Katherine's sword, a woman's sword. Here is the sword for playing a queen.' Because I'd only been picking up swords of kings and knights. So, to have that and feel the power of being a heroine and be a vessel for that story for a woman, it felt very inspiring."