The inspiration for Netflix’s reimagining of the King Arthur legend, Cursed, can all be traced back to a single illustration. "That iconic image of a young woman’s arm reaching out of the water and offering Arthur the sword evoked so many interesting questions for us," Thomas Wheeler tells Bustle of the basis for his novel-turned-television-series. "Who was she? Why does she have the sword? [Co-creator Frank Miller and I] started to unwind those questions, working backwards all the way to this young, restless Fey girl who sets out on a quest to deliver an ancient sword to Merlin." The woman in question is the Lady of the Lake, who is still a teenage girl named Nimue in Wheeler and Miller's story. Although the creators set out to write Cursed as an illustrated novel, Netflix had bigger plans for Nimue.
The streaming platform optioned Cursed more than a year ahead of its 2019 release. As a result, Wheeler and Miller had to serve simultaneously as book creators and series executive producers. 13 Reasons Why actor Katherine Langford landed the lead role in the Netflix series ahead of the book's completion, and Wheeler says her casting "influence[d] Nimue’s look" in the illustrations.
Some fans were left unsatisfied with the Netflix series' interpretation of Miller's artwork, however. Goodreads users have called out what they consider the whitewashing of Nimue, who appears to be Black in the original Cursed illustrations, but is portrayed onscreen by Langford, who is white. Wheeler says that readers' "impression [of Nimue as Black] may be a result of Frank’s distinctive art style,” adding that the heroine "can look a little different from illustration to illustration."
"Katherine Langford felt like an absolutely ideal Nimue," Wheeler says of the casting choice, noting that the rest of the cast features people of color in many key roles, including that of Arthur. "When we were casting the show it was very important to us that the world of Cursed reflect the diversity of our world. I discussed this a lot with our executive producer Zetna Fuentes, who grew up loving fantasy but as a woman of color rarely saw people that looked like her in these worlds. With Cursed, we strongly wanted to change that perception.”