How Devon Terrell Became the ‘Mike Tyson’ of ‘Cursed’

How Devon Terrell Became the ‘Mike Tyson’ of ‘Cursed’
How Devon Terrell Became the ‘Mike Tyson’ of ‘Cursed’
Adrianna Freedman

From Men's Health

Devon Terrell is not unlike most other 27-year-old guys stuck at home in the midst of a global pandemic: playing video games with friends, catching up on TV (he's currently obsessed with Netflix's Dating Around), and being the sous chef for his girlfriend (whose baked ziti, he claims, is to die for.) Where he is unlike those guys, though, is the fact that he also just so happens to be an actor changing the narrative for a character rooted in centuries-old legend.

Terrell is one of the leads in Netflix's new fantasy series Cursed, playing a young version of Arthur—and yes, it's that Arthur (the one usually mentioned with the title of "King" in front of his name). The show re-imagines the epic folklore, and instead puts Arthur off (somewhat) to the sidelines, centering its story on Nimue, a young woman destined to become the tragic Lady of the Lake. This Arthur isn't the medieval royal people expect him to be; instead, viewers meet him as a young mercenary on a journey of self-worth, something the American-Australian actor embraced throughout the show's ten-month shoot.

“In other tellings, Arthur comes from royal blood and you can always see he’s bound for more,” he says about his approach to the role. “But I wanted to focus on his vulnerability and bring him to life. He doesn’t come across as noble—he’s just trying to find his honor, whether that be his family or himself, and who he is as a person.”

Terrell never expected to portray someone as legendary as Arthur. He learned about the role while helping out a friend with an audition, which turned out to be for the role of the Weeping Monk on Cursed. After falling in love with the script, he checked in with his own agents—he wanted to try out for the show. He landed the role of Arthur a month later.

Although Arthur has warrior-like qualities in the legend, Terrell sought out to bring a more tender side to his portrayal, whether it be opening up to Nimue about not feeling good enough to be a knight or begging forgiveness from his sister Morgana for past indiscretions. It was less about portraying a larger-than-life figure people already knew and more about finding gems of sincerity within him.

“When I was reading the script, I got excited at the prospect of playing these smaller moments,” he says. “What’s great about the show is every character has their chance to really flesh out who they are, and I love the opportunity to make him a human being before we start to understand him as a warrior and the lengths he would go for his family.”

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Speaking of being a warrior, Terrell wasn’t just focused on honing in Arthur’s personality. Throughout the ten-month journey of filming, he worked out six times a week in the gym to get into fighting shape (“the producers told me to be the Mike Tyson of the show”) and avoid injury during the show’s more physical scenes, which ranged from jousting tournaments to warding off evil religious sects trying to commit genocide.

Along with the mandatory sword fighting and horse riding sessions, he also did a number of workouts, including yoga, boxing, and free weights. And while he sometimes worked out with castmates, there was one particular app that really helped guide him (and it may or may not have been an intentional nod to a fellow Aussie).

“I’m obsessed with Chris Hemsworth’s Centr workout!” he exclaims at one point. “I discovered it halfway through the shoot and it helped me so much, because the wear and tear on my body was starting to happen, especially at that point. That sword training is not easy!”

All the prep clearly worked out for Terrell, as by the time it came to shoot the final battle scene, he felt ready to take on the unstable weather conditions (and seashores) of Cornwall, England, and the controlled chaos of a hundred-plus people charging at him and his fellow castmates.

“Honestly, it’s the weirdest feeling to tell people,” he says with a laugh. “I’ll never be able to be in medieval times or be in a battle like that, but it’s one of those things where you dream of doing scenes like that, especially because it all came down to a climactic moment. I’m proud we got through that, physically, emotionally and mentally.”

For the majority of the interview, Terrell discussed his preparation and execution in playing Arthur. But there’s another distinction—a strikingly obvious one, at that—that makes Terrell different in this role from any of the countless actors (including Sean Connery, Clive Owen, and Graham Chapman) who have played King Arthur before him: he's not white.

Terrell, half Black, always had hopes when growing up to see someone who looked like him leading his favorite fantasy films. Although that never happened, he’s proud to be someone who could transforms viewers’ perspectives on who can play a role like his authentically.

“I think the way we look at diversity is sometimes we congratulate ourselves or pat ourselves on the back for casting diverse roles, when that’s what the world looks like,” he says. “I never thought I was going to get this role on TV. Once I got it, I realized that Arthur is a myth and a legend. I thought, ‘Why can’t a person of color portray that?’ If you can believe in a magical sword, it doesn’t make sense to me why you can’t believe in a young Black man playing Arthur.”

“Color had nothing to do with playing the character,” he continues. “It was about playing him to be authentic within the role.”

All that aside, there's also the whole COVID-19 pandemic of it all. Terrell says that during his time in lockdown over the past few months, he's been spending quality time with his girlfriend, reading books on the Black Lives Matter movement (“I need to educate myself on my own history”), and reconnecting with his Centr app, which he says not only helped his workouts in preparation for the show, but benefits his mental health as well, helping him to keep an even head.

He's also eager to hear what new fans think about what the show has to say.

“I think people will be open to new ideas and love the story for what it is,” he says. “It’s going to bring a bunch of viewers to a new world, and I’m happy to share the show with them. I’m so excited for a new generation of young fantasy fans to watch and embrace it.”

“Cursed” is now streaming on Netflix.


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