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Is this the new Westeros?
Netflix is rolling out The Letter for the King, a six-episode period drama that invokes Game of Thrones for the teenage set. Based on the popular novel by Dutch author Tonke Dragt, the action kicks off when a ruthless prince threatens to cast the world into darkness.
As a result, a young knight in training, Tiuri (Amir Wilson), embarks on a quest to deliver a secret letter to the king. Along the way, he unexpectedly finds himself at the center of a magical prophecy foretelling the rise of a hero who can defeat the prince and restore peace. If he’s going to survive the journey, Tiuri will have to learn what it means to be a true knight -- and a true leader.
ET's Katie Krause recently sat down with the young cast for their take on the inevitable comparisons to the epic HBO fantasy drama. They promise that it's more wholesome and family-friendly.
"There's no escaping the fact that people are going to compare it," Thaddea Graham, who plays Iona, tells ET. "Both have sword-fighting and horses and really complex characters, but I think our show will bring people together. The whole family can watch it."
The actors zeroed in on what sets Letter for the King apart from the rest of the teenage dramas and fantasy shows on television and streaming today.
"A lot of the time, when you watch fantasy shows and you see kids battling, it feels like they get it kind of easy and in reality they aren't going to," Graham says. "And that is what all these characters struggle with, trying to make the adults see and listen to them and understand that our points are actually quite valid and really, really insightful."
"They constantly have to prove themselves because they are kids," Gijs Blom, who plays Prince Viridian, tells ET. Adds Wilson: "Sir Fantumar would be a good example, because he is always trying to put down his son and make the younger novices feel so much smaller to make himself feel so much bigger and seem so much bigger. Really, he is the weakest of them all."
Because the story follows Tiuri and his crew as they go on an adventure, the cast revealed that training to become believable warriors was particularly grueling.
"The training, oh, God, it was quite hard," Wilson admits. "We went out to New Zealand three weeks before and everyday, we had four hours of boot camp. Four hours of running, the basics of sword fighting, and then in the afternoon we would have an hour of horse riding every day for the first three weeks. But, yeah, it paid off very well."
In bringing Letter for the King to the screen, the series takes creative liberties with the plot and is able to expand the world by introducing new characters not in the book.
"In the series, we introduce a lot more characters and in the book you only really follow Tiuri," Wilson says. "We have more than one storyline to follow. We have so many different people and you get to follow each one and follow their journey."
"It will look different," Graham confirms. "We take a modern take on a classic story and the messages are still very much the same. We just try to let it resonate with a modern audience and I really think it pays off. My father read the book to me when I was a child, so I feel really proud being a part of it."
"And importantly, the writers did a really good job of bringing strong female characters into it, which is really important especially for today," Ruby Ashbourne Serkis, who plays Lavinia, tells ET. "Some of the strongest characters in the show are female and they weren't in the book."
Looking ahead, the cast are hopeful that their time in the Letter for the King world is not over, expressing optimism that they'll get to continue the story with a second season.
Graham shared enthusiasm over the possibility of digging into the sequel, The Secrets of the Wild Wood, teasing that elements of the second novel do find their way into the first six episodes.
"The second book is really cool. I read it after we finished shooting because I just wasn't ready to let go," Graham says. "In the first season we draw a bit from the material of the second book. It just takes some things and gives it to the audience earlier, so I think there are great opportunities to continue the story."