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The Letter For The King: Northern Ireland actor Thaddea Graham 'so proud' to star in Netflix series

Star loved being on horseback and speaking in her natural Belfast accent in new series

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Northern Ireland actress Thaddea Graham

Northern Ireland actress Thaddea Graham

Northern Ireland actress Thaddea Graham in Netflix show The Letter For The King.

Northern Ireland actress Thaddea Graham in Netflix show The Letter For The King.

Northern Ireland actress Thaddea Graham

Rising star Thaddea Graham was thrilled at being allowed to speak in her natural Belfast accent in the hit new Netflix adventure series The Letter For The King.

The Chinese-born star, who was raised in Northern Ireland, plays Iona in the coming-of-age medieval mini-series which sees a young squire set out on an epic adventure across mythical kingdoms.

And she has spoken to Sunday Life about fame, fan fiction and her favourite co-stars - horses.

Fresh on the back of buzz generated by similar fantasy adventures Game Of Thrones and The Witcher, the swashbuckling new series shot in New Zealand and Prague is proving popular on Netflix during lockdown.

So much so, Thaddea says she has been left spellbound by the creative feedback from fans.

She said: "I love hearing other people's thoughts on the story and the characters, it's really interesting to see what stands out to them or what hits them emotionally and I love hearing different opinions.

"The thing that amazed me the most, though, is the online outreach of people getting creative and making video edits, drawings, cartoons etc.

"Those things take so much time, effort, patience and skill. I'm very thankful for those artists for sharing their work with us, it's so kind and I'm very in awe of how much talent is out there. We have some very skilled viewers!

"The reception has been kind of surreal to be honest. It's always strange when you work away on something and keep it all hidden for so long to then finally be able to talk openly about it.

"I'm so proud of the show that we created and to be able to share everyone's hard work."

She's also delighted to have been able to keep her natural Belfast accent in the show.

"We all had a chat with our writer, Will Davies, when we got to New Zealand. He said it was very important that these characters feel like real people.

"And for me, obviously, my accent is my accent . He said, 'Let's keep that... that's real to you, that's your truth, let's make it Iona's truth as well'.

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Northern Ireland actress Thaddea Graham in Netflix show The Letter For The King.

Northern Ireland actress Thaddea Graham in Netflix show The Letter For The King.

Northern Ireland actress Thaddea Graham in Netflix show The Letter For The King.

"To look like I do and to sound like I do, and for it not to be challenged, is fantastic. For people at home to hear our accent on a Netflix show… it's really empowering," she continued.

Based on the 1962 Dutch novel, De Brief voor de Koning by Tonke Dragt, William Davies' new Netflix adaptation tells the story of Tiuri, a teenage squire who answers a call for help and navigates three kingdoms on a treacherous journey to deliver a secret letter.

Thaddea says the young cast bonded well whilst shooting on locations in Europe and Down Under but insisted her favourite on-screen partners were the horses.

She continued: "Filming was so much fun, we had an amazing cast and crew that got on really well on and off set.

"We shot in New Zealand and Prague in beautiful locations and built sets. We got to do a lot of our own stunts, sword fighting and horse riding, we learnt a lot of new skills and for a lot of us this was our first big job.

"My favourite co-stars were the horses though, for sure. The cast won't be offended by that because I think most of them would probably give the same answer.

"It was a real privilege to be able to work with some incredible horses and be trained by such skilled riders.

"It was amazing to see how in tune with the animals they were and I so admire our horsemaster, Justin Cooney, an Aussie with a heart of gold and patience of a saint. He made us all feel so safe and at ease. He's such a caring man and I miss him greatly.

"I used to ride as a kid but stopped when I went to secondary school. It was lovely to literally get back in the saddle and it's rekindled a love for the animals."

Thaddea also spoke of how pleasantly surprised she was at the diversity of the young cast and working with a pal.

She added:"I sent off a self-tape whilst I was on holiday and then got recalled into a group audition in London with Amir Wilson (Tiuri) and Islam Bouakkaz (Arman).

"I was struck at how diverse the auditions were because usually when you're waiting to go in, you see loads of people who look like different versions of you all going for the same part.

"Looking around, though, there was just a load of young people and I thought that was really exciting.

"All of the character descriptions focused more on personality traits than physical features so no one was boxed in to aesthetics.

"Islam and I actually trained together at ArtsEd in London for three years so being in the room with him was really great. It made it a lot easier to be free with someone you know so well."

Despite the popularity of the show, Thaddea has since had a number of projects postponed due to the coronavirus crisis, however the young actress is philosophical about the disruption and paid tribute to frontline workers, adding: "Yes, projects have been postponed but I don't think that's any different to any other industry.

"Whatever our jobs are, worldwide, everyone is learning how to adapt and prioritise what is truly important right now.

"It's an extremely surreal situation and all I can do is support where I can. The biggest thing I can do to help is to follow the advice to stay at home and maintain a high level of hygiene.

"I think we should all try to be patient, kind and gentle with ourselves and each other. Take it day by day and help each other through this, at a distance of course.

"Some days I feel really inspired and creative, other days I just want to lie on the sofa and watch TV, both are perfectly fine.

"I'm fortunate that those are the biggest decisions I have to make in a day and I cannot thank the people who are fighting every day and night to get us through enough. They're incredibly brave and selfless and we need to get behind them and support where we can."

Belfast Telegraph