Swedish actor Gustaf Skarsgård has portrayed everything from a Norseman in HISTORY’s original series, Vikings, to the Head of Operations at the fictional company Delos in Westworld. However, in Netflix’s original series CURSED, Gustaf takes on the role of the legendary and mystical character Merlin of Arthurian legend. CURSED, based on the New York Time bestselling book of the same name by co-creators Tom Wheeler & Frank Miller, is told through the eyes of Nimue (Katherine Langford), a teenage sorceress who encounters a young Arthur (Devon Terrell) on her quest to find a powerful and ancient sword.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a press round table interview prior to the release of the fantasy series. During the interview, Gustaf discussed everything from his interpretation of this new re-imagining of Merlin, what he thinks horror fans will love about the series, and why Arthurian legend is still prevalent today.
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Gustaf! The character of Merlin has always been a contradictory character in Arthurian legend but most know him only as an advisor to Arthur. What were you hoping to explore and play around with in your interpretation of Merlin?
Gustaf Skarsgård: What I think is so funny about this take is that there are so many different archetypes at play at once. At first, he’s sort of like the Joker character, the Joker archetype. Then all of a sudden he goes out on this quest, then he’s sort of like anti-hero quality, then he’s the lover, then he’s the father. There are so many different aspects to him which I think [was] so brilliantly created by [creators] Tom Wheeler and Frank Miller.
Where did you pull inspiration from to form your portrayal of Merlin? How helpful was Frank and Tom in helping you bring their portrayal to life?
Gustaf Skarsgård: I never draw specifically from another’s person’s performance, so it’s more of a subconscious process. They [Frank & Tom] were instrumental, first and foremost in creating this already on the page, a very interesting take on the character. It’s all there. My job is to come there and bring it to life. My job is always the same in the sense that I need to come in and use my subjectivity and place it at the heart of the character and be alive within the realm of that universe. That’s what I do.
Though the series mainly has a fantasy feel to it, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements of horror sprinkled throughout. What do you think horror fans are going to love most about this series?
Gustaf Skarsgård: Well, I don’t want to spoil anything but there’s some gory stuff in it and it’s quite eerie at times. There’s this passage when our heroine and her two female warrior companions they enter into this cave and stuff happens in there that’s quite dark and mystical. I think that’s gonna be cool. I think there’s a lot in it for horror fans to enjoy, actually.
Lastly, why do you think Arthurian legends still continue to inspire us?
Gustaf Skarsgård: I think one of the themes that are always relevant is the question of legitimacy and eligibility of power. Who is eligible and legitimate to wield that sword of ultimate power? What does that power do to us and what does that power do to different people? I think that’s, at least for me, one of the main appeals of the legend.