By Sajida Ayyup
When Netflix proposed the idea of producing a 2020 TV series based on Cursed, co-created by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler, it came as a huge surprise because fans didn’t know what to expect from a storyline that’s exploring different scenes on screen and off.
The illustrated young adult book, a first for both them, follows the life of Nimue, a.k.a “Lady of the Lake” from ancient mythology involving King Arthur and similar legends that are categorized as “Arthurian” — a series of stories rooting from medieval history revolving around King Arthur. In the history of television and film, only a few have become successful with the likes of Merlin (2008) and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). Now we’ll witness the story led by a female protagonist, which Wheeler thinks is an important step towards representation in illustrated novels. His 12 year-old daughter played a key role in bringing this book to life by serving as a source of inspiration to him.
“I didn’t feel like she had the same access characters to this mythology that’s so great,” Wheeler said. When he was around seven, he watched Excalibur (1981) and was almost always surrounded by the characters. With the stories having a huge impact on his life while growing up, he often wondered they didn’t for his daughter.
But for Miller, his fondness for Alice in Wonderland and Arthurian stories in his library of children’s illustrated books seeped through Cursed. “It’s been a joy for me to revisit that,” Miller said. He also spoke to Wheeler’s daughter and others like her to find out gaps they could fill using their book. “What Tom and I both discovered at each turn was that we keep coming at each other with different angles of this wonderful mythology,” Miller added. “It’s like having an enormous jewel in your hands with a million passes.”
Wheeler enjoyed re-telling this Arthurian legend owing to the creative liberty in his hands to take well-known characters far from recognizable but staying true to their cores. “Frank was always great about exploring the limits of that,” he said.
When it came to which characters would join Nimue’s path in Cursed, both Wheeler and Miller would leverage on personal favorites and adjust along the way. Even for the weapons portrayed in the story, Miller said he observed two tables with props in England that could be used in the show.
“I’ve got books at home about weapons for the stories I do,” he said. “Let’s see some surgical stuff. The stuff they brought out? Whoa, you will never go to the dentist again.”
Despite scouting for the perfect weapons to use in the series, Miller confessed he wasn’t prepared for something that was in production and being drawn at the same time. “I was drawing characters without pictures of people playing them because those parts hadn’t been cast yet,” he shared.
Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) will play Nimue in the Netflix show and will be joined by Devon Terrel (Ophelia, 2018) as King Arthur and Gustaf Skarsgård (Westworld) as Merlin. Wheeler, particularly, was amazed how much Langford was attached to the character.
“It seemed to make a ton of sense for us, and she kind of digs [filming in tough terrains]. More intense, the better,” he shared, while pointing to a show still on the screen.
Both the creators are actively involved in the production of Cursed on set. Despite having countless versions of how different characters develop throughout their path in this legend, they both believe there are aspects to understanding them that hasn’t been discovered yet.
Miller instantly brings Superman’s plot line into conversation to further explain why. “I’ve grown up with all the different versions of Superman, including the ones who were done way before I was born,” he said. “I think with Cursed, what really emerged here is the rather feminist tag that pervades it.”
Miller also emphasized on excluding Nimue’s backstory or origins within this book, as he said he doesn’t agree with the concept of race. “One of the things that I observed about this production, and it also applies to my approach to drawing people, is that race, per se, is irrelevant,” he said. “My goal while drawing Nimue was to make her seem intelligent.”
As Nimue progresses in Cursed, she meets various characters along the way. Both Miller and Wheeler suggested there might be certain deaths that would disappoint the fans. “Don’t get used to him,” Miller said, spoiling how Billy Jenkins (The Crown) plays a character that’s “fragile.”
That’s all we know until the Cursed TV adaptation premieres in 2020.