She’d met Terrell when she auditioned for drama school, when he was “this skinny, head-shaven, glasses-wearing guy”, she says. When she met him again at the first read-through for Cursed – which is based on a young adult novel by Tom Wheeler and The Dark Knight Returns creator Frank Miller – “I didn’t even recognise him”.
Cursed is a big, sprawling show with lots of characters and locations, and a clear ambition to run well beyond its first 10-episode season. But these three talented young Aussies are undeniably at the heart of the story.
Langford plays Nimue, a young fey (fairy) woman who will go on to become the Lady of the Lake. Terrell is the future king, and Brune-Franklin is Morgana, in this version of the story a key figure in the resistance against the bloodthirsty Paladin, emissaries of Christianity determined to wipe out all traces of pagan culture.
Australian pride aside, though, the biggest talking point is likely to be the fact this Arthur is dark-skinned.
When the first images emerged of Terrell, whose father is African-American and whose mother is Indian-Australian, the pushback was as predictable as it was swift.
“It’s amazing that we have a black Arthur, and it should be acknowledged,” says Langford. “But the fact people are making hurtful comments shows how much we have to learn and how much we still need to grow.”
“It’s exciting,” says Terrell of the producers’ decision to cast a dark-skinned King of the Britons. “People of colour haven’t really been represented properly in the fantasy world, so to be a part of that, a small part of a bigger puzzle of representation, is important.”
It wasn’t initially the intention to put a black man in the role. “We cast the net wide and Devon really won us over,” says series producer Alex Boden from England. “What he brought to the role was really exciting, so there was no way we could imagine casting anyone else as Arthur.”
Besides, says Terrell, people who are hung up on this version of the tale not being “the way it was” are missing the point a little. “There’s a magic sword, there’s vines growing on a girl’s face,” he says, “but people take issue with the idea that Arthur is this dark-skinned character.”
“It is rooted in some history,” adds Brune-Franklin of the story of Arthur’s ascension from stablehand to king. “But if you look at the origins of his birth – King Uther painting his face with the help of Merlin so that he mimicked the appearance of Igraine’s husband and slept with her – it’s in the realm of myth and legend. So it’s no-holds-barred, you can do what you want with it.”
Ultimately, Terrell hopes and believes he will be judged on the strength of his performance, not the colour of his skin.
“I didn’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘OK, I’m going to play this character as a young black man’,” he says. “I just am a young black man, and my whole thing is like any other actor – do the work, and hopefully the honesty comes across.”
Karl Quinn is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.