The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

EVON Ter­rell has a sim­ple mes­sage for any­one crit­i­cal of his casting as the first black man to play Arthur in the new Net­flix re-imag­in­ing of the knight’s tale.

Em­bold­ened by the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, even join­ing in protest marches near his new Los An­ge­les home, Ter­rell is seiz­ing his mo­ment with all the power of Ex­cal­ibur.

“If you can be­lieve in a mag­i­cal sword,” he tells

“you should be able to be­lieve that a per­son of colour can play Arthur.”

The US-born, Perth-raised ac­tor – who made his debut as a young Barack Obama in an­other Net­flix biopic, to wide­spread ac­claim three years ago – has taken an­other step in his im­pres­sive in­ter­na­tional ca­reer.

Yet, he hasn’t been of­fered a sin­gle job back home in Aus­tralia.

It’s an in­dict­ment on the lo­cal in­dus­try’s lack of di­ver­sity and a con­ver­sa­tion Ter­rell hopes has been started by the racial up­ris­ings around the world.

“I’m not try­ing to say any­thing con­tro­ver­sial now ... but in terms of Aus­tralian TV, I don’t see any­one on it that looks like me. I didn’t see my av­enue into the in­dus­try be­ing easy. I still haven’t, to this day, worked in Aus­tralia and I lived there for the ma­jor­ity of my life.

“It is up­set­ting, es­pe­cially as an Aus­tralian ac­tor. I know there’s so many ac­tors of colour in Aus­tralia that don’t feel like they’re rep­re­sented on the screen there. TV and film and me­dia have such a huge im­pact on cul­ture and it’s one of those things that just has to be bet­ter, in gen­eral,” he said.

Born to an African Amer­i­can fa­ther and In­dian Aus­tralian mother in Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, Ter­rell con­fesses he’s been con­fronted re­cently by the scars of his own ex­pe­ri­ence with racism – and is des­per­ate to make a dif­fer­ence for gen­er­a­tions to come.

“I re­mem­ber grow­ing up when I was in Perth ... peo­ple grab­bing my hair and telling me I looked like a sheep. You try not to let it af­fect you, but it does af­fect you that peo­ple feel they can just grab you in that way and say those things,” the 27-year-old re­counts painfully.

“I think it’s one of those things… ev­ery coun­try is com­ing to terms with their form of racism or their form of dis­crim­i­na­tion. The best thing is the truth com­ing to light and real con­ver­sa­tions are now hap­pen­ing with friends and fam­ily.

He adds: “My thing as an ac­tor, I’m ed­u­cat­ing my­self ev­ery day and as a per­son of colour as well. I’m half African Amer­i­can and my lin­eage has roots to tragic things, most likely, and I’ve cried a lot dur­ing this pe­riod. You’re just hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions now that you’ve al­ways wanted peo­ple to talk about but they don’t be­lieve you ... they think it’s in your head.

Em­brac­ing his bi-racial her­itage, he says: “I def­i­nitely see my­self rep­re­sent­ing both coun­tries and the truth is there are amaz­ing things about both coun­tries and there are things we need to work on.”

But see­ing him­self among the black faces of pro­test­ers on LA’s streets has shown the young ac­tor that change is go­ing to come.

“It was just that mo­ment of walk­ing on the streets ... I was walk­ing with my girl­friend and her friends in the marches and just feel­ing like ‘This is a mo­ment and if we don’t cap­i­talise on this, then when is the change go­ing to hap­pen? When are peo­ple of colour and those in the LGBTQI com­mu­nity go­ing to gain the re­spect of the gen­eral com­mu­nity if you don’t take a stand?’”

His work on the screen will be legacy enough, star­ring as a young Arthur, a mer­ce­nary, who joins Nimue [des­tined to be the pow­er­ful and tragic Lady of the Lake] in her quest to re­turn an an­cient sword to Mer­lin.

Al­ready known for his process for a role (he taught him­self to play left-handed bas­ket­ball to por­tray Obama), Ter­rell again threw him­self into prepa­ra­tion to play the me­dieval war­rior.

“It was one of those things where I wanted to get into the shape of what a me­dieval per­son would look like or move like. I didn’t want to go in there look­ing like Thor, no of­fence to Chris Hemsworth, but it was con­stant horse train­ing and fight train­ing and archery. Then the emo­tional stuff on top of that and learn­ing your lines.”

The pro­duc­tion proved some­thing of a Perth re­union for Ter­rell, Kather­ine Lang­ford (who stars as Nimue) and

Shalom Brune-Franklin, who all hail from the West Aus­tralian cap­i­tal.

“I’ve know Kather­ine for three years. When I did Barry she came to the premiere in New York.

[in which she starred] hadn’t come out yet and then it just ex­ploded and we’ve been mates ever since then.”

The 10-part se­ries was based in Lon­don, with the cast holed up in ren­tal ac­com­mo­da­tion in the fa­mous melt­ing pot of Not­ting Hill.

But the ex­pe­ri­ence liv­ing there would come with more than a few hip­pies, Ter­rell says.

“I swear there were ghosts in ev­ery place that we filmed. I think Kather­ine got locked in by a ghost, but I swear I was liv­ing with a ghost the whole time. I was ter­ri­fied in my house. They put us up in Not­ting Hill, which is an in­cred­i­ble place

... we had so much fun. It would be amaz­ing to do an­other sea­son just to go back and be to­gether again ... it was such a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Peo­ple per­son: Devon Ter­rell has made a ca­reer play­ing fa­mous fig­ures in­clud­ing Barack Obama and King Arthur.

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