For many viewers, Katherine Langford is still Hannah Baker from 13 Reasons Why, but that's about to change.
The leading role in 13 Reasons Why was Langford's first major part. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing the teenager whose suicide was the central focus of the series. The series ran for four seasons, but Langford left the show after season two in 2018. Big screen roles followed, including Knives Out and Love, Simon, but now she's back with a TV show, Netflix's Cursed, playing a role that's a far cry from Hannah Baker.
In her new series, Langford plays Nimue, the (cursed) young woman who goes on to become The Lady of the Lake in the King Arthur legend.
"I think it's a little different for me because I finished up on the show a couple years ago," Langford said about shedding Hannah Baker. "And for me, it was such a beautiful role and something that I'm really grateful for, but I also feel grateful for having done a couple of things since then. I think there's a bit more space for me between that role and this one. But definitely, I think this role of Nimue and also the story of Cursed, it's so different than anything I've done before. Not just in terms of character and genre, but also in terms of just the vast skillset I had learn in order to play this role. It was a really nice and different challenge for me and something I feel like I learned a lot from."
The challenges presented by Cursed were both physical and emotional. On the physical side, Langford said she trained as a swimmer for years, but had never played a role that was so demanding on her body. She trained for four weeks in horseback riding and sword wielding before filming even began.
"To be able to use my body for a role is something I've never done before and I was really exciting to dive into that. During shooting it's cold and you really have to fully commit. I have to say, I loved throwing myself in there even if it was freezing cold, it was a really enjoyable part of the experience…I definitely would love to dive more into that," she said.
When she was making 13 Reasons Why, Langford told us she used music to leave the character behind at the end of the day. She continued that tradition on Cursed. Normally she travels with a gifted keyboard, but while filming Cursed for 10 months, she rented a piano to have in her home.
"It was something that I loved to go home to. I have to say, this was—I would probably say it was one of the most grueling shooting experiences I had. It was challenging for different reasons. Although Nimue goes through a lot, it was a lot of physicality," she said. "Playing the soon-to-be Lady of the Lake, you're in water all the time and when you're in water in the UK, it's not exactly the warmest weather or like Maui as Tom [Wheeler] promised. [Laughs.] It was really an amazing experience to learn that and to dive into that world. These epic pieces, they require so much work. It was almost like shooting 10 one-hour movies back-to-back for an entire year."
Most of Nimue's challenges that weren't of the physical nature stemmed from the curse. The show is called Cursed after all. "I don't know if I'm as brave as her. I like to think I am, but there's something when you sit with a character on a show vs. on a movie. Playing this character, this girl, for 10 months, you really become more attached," she said.
Because of the power Nimue doesn't quite understand, Langford said the character grew up lonely and restless and she was able to tap into her own feelings.
"I identify with the restlessness because I think no matter who you are or what age you are or where you are in the world, we all know that there's something special inside of us," she said. "We're always trying to figure out how do I use this or what's my purpose? Where do I fit in? So, that, I felt, was a real in for me from the beginning."
Cursed is now streaming on Netflix.