Described as “Misfits meets This is England” by star Jay Lycurgo (sold!), The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself is destined – destined! – to be your next queer fantasy obsession. Based on Sally Green’s young adult novel Half Bad, the new Netflix series follows the titular 16-year-old bastard Nathan Byrn (Lycurgo), the illegitimate son of the world’s most dangerous and feared witch whose rather unfortunate birthright lands him smack dab in the middle of an ancient war within the witch community.
With the help of the rebellious Annalise (Nadia Parkes) and charismatic ‘bad boy’ Gabriel (Emilien Vekemans), Nathan embarks on a perilous journey to end the war and discover who he really is. The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself is your average British coming-of-age, witch-centric story with queer, three-dimensional leading characters and an abundance of guts, gore and utter carnage. They don’t make anything original these days, huh?
GAY TIMES spoke with stars Jay Lycurgo and Emilien Vekemans about all-things The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself, including their characters’ trajectory across the series, why the series stands out amongst others within the same genre and the “natural” romance between Nathan and Gabriel. Again: spoilers ahead.
GAY TIMES: Jay, Emilien was just telling me about how you’ve both been exploring some witchcraft today, is that right?
Jay: Yes! A load of magic.
Emilien: A lot of magic.
Jay: He knew who my first kiss was when I was in year eight, so that’s scary.
Emilien: That’s pretty impressive.
Jay: I’m scared now.
GAY TIMES: What, like their name? Their details? Their address? What did he know?
Jay: He knew ‘C’ and ‘A’ and then I opened my mouth and he somehow knew that it was Carlena, and that’s her two seconds of fame!
GAY TIMES: I want to start this interview off by expressing my hate for Nathan’s sister Jessica. She’s one of the most vile characters I’ve ever seen on TV.
Jay: [Laughs] I’ll get Jess in now and see what – no, Izzie, oh god.
Emilien: Yeah, she’s evil.
Jay: She would just say to you, ‘Err, yeah well, you don’t understand my character so…’
GAY TIMES: I’m gonna go as far to say that she’s the new Joffrey.
Jay: That’s a really good comparison.
Emilien: Yeah, Joffrey!
Jay: We haven’t seen a villain like her in a while.
GAY TIMES: I watched The Bastard Son and The Devil Himself a few weeks back and I absolutely loved it. I think, if I was 13, I’d probably have a dedicated Tumblr account to the series…
Jay: Yes! The fan fiction would be mental.
GAY TIMES: It will be mental. There’s quite a few fantasy/sci-fi shows out there at the moment, but The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself felt incredibly fresh to me. What makes the series stand out amongst others within the same genre?
Jay: I think, for the longest time, you saw a lot of fantasy shows out there that focus more on the magic element of it. That’s really fun, but it gets really boring over a long time. What’s really nice about our characters is that they’re really relatable. When I read the script for the first time, it was how human the characters were. When they’re emotional, they’re really emotional, and when they’re raw, it’s really heavy. We show the human nature of these characters and the world they live in.
Emilien: It’s like Jason Bourne meets Harry Potter, you know?
Jay: I would say Misfits meets This is England. Do you know what I mean? I feel like I haven’t seen a show this human and this fantasy since Misfits, and I love that because you’ve just got a bunch of kids that were on community service talking about getting drunk and messing about. This is the same – it doesn’t have the drinking and all that but it’s very much like, ‘I love this person and I’m in school wearing short ties, and on top of that, we have blue finger man – Gabriel – over here who comes in and tries to save the day.’
GAY TIMES: I completely fell in love with Nathan and Gabriel. Can you describe their trajectory across the first season and the obstacles they both face?
Jay: At the start of this series, Nathan is very lonely and isolated. He lives with his gran in the caravan and his sister who hates him. He’s without a mother, who sadly passed away when he was young, and his dad is off who knows where – and he’s a serial killer! This leaves him very isolated and hated by a witch community. It leaves him very confused because he understands why, but he doesn’t understand why it’s thrown all on him. That’s the thing, he’s a really lovely boy; he’s cheeky and charming. Now, he goes on a journey to find out who he really is. We’ve been talking a lot about it, but what’s really nice about the Gabriel and Nathan relationship is that they’re orphans. They really relate with each other.
Emilien: For my character, at the beginning you see Gabriel as this really edgy, underground witch who lives a life of – as he describes it in the series – “fabulous debauchery”. My character is very cynical and sarcastic about other people and actions or emotions. When he meets Nathan, he learns about his vulnerability. Little by little, he starts to open up to let more emotions and feelings and love in his life.
Jay: He drops his walls.
GAY TIMES: I haven’t quite come across a character like Nathan before: British, queer and the illegitimate son of the world’s most dangerous witch hunted by his own kind. You rarely see that…
Jay: Mixed race and the lead, let’s go!
GAY TIMES: Jay, what does it mean for you to be part of this story?
Jay: It’s incredible. From an actor’s point of view, you see a script that you really love and hopefully you get it. After that, you can start to think of those layers. I think it’s great storytelling and Joe’s done an incredible job on not making it the forefront – and I’m talking now on his sexuality – of the conversation. It’s more that it’s a boy who’s trying to work out who he really is and along the way, he meets these amazing people. It’s not that he wants to be with someone, it’s more that the energy is there. So when he meets Gabriel, he knows that something’s really nice about him but he can’t really work out what it is. To be in a situation where I’m a mixed race boy, Jamaican, Sierra Leonean and British, it’s amazing because a lot of actors who are mixed race and from my background need more people to have these opportunities and be leads. Hopefully, with this role, these mixed race and Black kids can see someone that’s doing it, and it gives them hope. I know a lot of people before me were shut down to be leads so I think it’s lovely to be in this situation, and what a great show to be a part of.
GAY TIMES: Emilien, it’s established early on that Gabriel has some insecurities in the love department. Without giving away any spoilers, why do you think he is this way?
Emilien: I think it’s more about trust issues and commitment issues. I really based the fear of my character from his childhood because he’s abandoned by his parents when he’s a child. I think that trauma really stayed in him and I based the whole psychology of the character on that event. He has such a huge fear of being abandoned again, so that’s why struggles to commit to anyone.
Jay: To let anyone in.
Emilien: Exactly. He has this shield up, which is a weapon. I think we can relate to that. A lot of people at some point in their lives have this thing where you don’t wanna be with anyone. You just want to look for this sensation of one-night stands or partying. You just want to get lost as protection, and that’s something I could really relate to.
GAY TIMES: Fantasy and sci-fi continue to be the most relatable genres!
Jay: I feel like that’s our show and that’s what is so nice. You do have the witches and stuff, but it’s more than that. The characters have been through so much. You don’t really see this stuff in Harry Potter. Joe does such a great job to establish these characters and their traumas to then hopefully be fixed, you know? Yeah, he’s brilliant. I can’t praise him enough.
GAY TIMES: Initially, Gabriel is quite irritated by Nathan and Annalise, but he soon grows fond of Nathan. Other than their similar upbringings, why do you think Gabriel is so drawn to him?
Emilien: Good question.
Jay: I think it’s his power as well.
Emilien: I think at some point, he’s impressed by the way he’s handling things and the honesty of the character. I think my character struggled to be really honest and I think that’s why he’s attracted to him. It’s like, ‘Wow, you can carry your vulnerability?’
Jay: He’s holding his own.
Emilien: Yeah, you’re just like, ‘I’m vulnerable, but I’m carrying it with pride.’
GAY TIMES: And Jay, why do you think Nathan is drawn to Gabriel?
Jay: I guess the main point was that they get to know each other on a human level. After the quest to get his blood, there’s a huge relatability with them. I’m just trying to think when it shifts, really… Episode five is quite a big point with Gabriel and Nathan and having those little moments together, where they talk about things…
Emilien: It’s more about flirting, I think…
Jay: Yeah, we also get to laugh as well. I think at one point, the ship starts to shift. Scotland, episode two, is such a big difference and it really changes Nathan as a character and he comes back a different person. His relationship, maybe with Annalise, is starting to change and he starts to feel like this new person; only to find this blood witch that he can actually relate to. Before then, he’s only heard myths about blood witches. They’re supposed to be these violent creatures and suddenly, he meets a person in his boxers and bathrobe and he goes, ‘Y’know what? This guy’s funny.’ It’s very natural.
GAY TIMES: I wanna meet a blood witch in his boxers and bathrobe. Where am I going wrong?
Jay: [Laughs] You need to find the hidden door!
GAY TIMES: Fans tend to go quite wild over queer romances. When you were filming, was this in the back of your mind? How championed they will be on social media?
Jay: I already knew that people really liked ‘Nabriel’. People really ‘shipped’ us.
Emilien: From the books!
Jay: Yeah, from the books.
Emilien: There’s already a community really fond of Nabriel.
Jay: They’ve got the artwork and everything, so we knew. But initially, you’re not really thinking about that until it comes. When we were on set, we just wanted to get it right. We’re very precious with it, making sure that when we’re in those scenes that we’re doing it the right way.
GAY TIMES: Hypothetically speaking, how do you think Nathan and Gabriel’s romance will impact Annalise and the trio in a second season?
Jay: I’m really excited to see what Joe comes up with because I have no idea. That’s what’s really exciting about the show, you have no idea what the dynamic will be because there’s so many possibilities. I’m open to anything. I have an idea, maybe, but I don’t know if that’s what they will go with.
Emilien: What’s your idea?
Jay: I don’t wanna give it away! We’ll see, it could go any way. The cliffhanger at the end of the show, I think the whole fanbase will be like, ‘What is going to happen to these guys?’
GAY TIMES: Tell me about set, because I can’t even imagine what it was like filming this show with all the blood, gore, action and witchcraft…
Emilien: Yeah, a lot of blood!
Jay: A lot of blood, but a lot of fun. We all got on really well and everyone in every single scene, we always wanted to do the best we could.
Emilien: What’s nice is that we had so many different locations and it was real locations, we didn’t do a lot in the studio so we were really travelling. We were in the streets, on a boat.
Jay: That boat was something, I’ll tell you that.
Emilien: I was driving the boat, actually.
Jay: Oh yeah!
Emilien: I was actually driving the boat during the scene.
Jay: He wants you to know that, he really wants you to know that.
GAY TIMES: Do you not need a boat license, or something…?
Emilien: Next question!
GAY TIMES: As a result of this show, your profiles will inevitably skyrocket, so how are you both feeling right now? Are you ready?
Emilien: I don’t really realise it, to be honest. It was my first job in English and also in England, so it’s still quite… far? I don’t realise how it could be changed.
Jay: I don’t really think about it, if I’m honest. This show was just so incredible to do and I feel, creatively, so fortunate to work with incredible actors like Emilien, Nadia and Izzie and with Joe Barton and the directors. That’s really what it is all about. Also, I feel if the casual audience does come on board and really love these characters… We really worked hard for it, didn’t we? So hopefully they do. That’s what matters. If we do get the fanbase and all that, that’s great. We were just saying that we’re just really normal boys! I’ve lived in London and Croydon and all that, and I have no idea about anything. I just go Tesco and try to get my meal deal. We’ll see!
The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself is now streaming worldwide on Netflix.