interview by JANA LETONJA

British actress Kassius Nelson just had her breakout moment in Netflix’s series ‘Dead Boy Detectives’, which premiered in April. Prior to this role, Kassius starred in cult-favorite UK drama ‘White Lines’ on Netflix, and appeared in ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ with Neil Patrick Harris.

Kassius, you just starred in Netflix’s ‘Dead Boy Detectives’. How did you land this role and what excites you about it the most?
I auditioned for the role and sent in a self tape. It was similar to most auditioning processes. However, it was done over Zoom, including the chemistry read. This was due to the pandemic as we started this project back in 2021. It was interesting to have a chemistry read on Zoom as typically they are in person. It can be challenging to connect through a screen opposed to being physically in the room with the other actors, but something about George, Jayden and I just clicked and it’s been that way ever since.

I’ve not played someone like Crystal before. There is so much about her and this project that excites me, to be able to play a character that exists in this very unique world. As an actor, I want to be as versatile and malleable as possible, and Crystal allows me to explore an avenue I’ve not encountered before. There is so much room for growth in the world of the unknown, in the world of this show, and that’s something that really excites me.

The series is a mix of different genres, with being a supernatural horror detective comedy-drama. How challenging and exciting was mixing all the genres in one project?
This was a really enjoyable process and it allows for a multi-layered show that has something for everyone, and each moment balances out the next. The writers are doing the hard work for us by juggling the mixture of genres. But there are a lot of visual effects in the show and when filming those scenes, so much is left up to the imagination that it can be challenging acting opposite things that are not there, like the giant mushroom or the floating eyeballs. It’s not until we see the final edit that we realise the scale of these creatures.

Your character Crystal is a psychic medium, who is able to see and communicate with ghosts. What was your favourite storyline of the season?
I have so many favourites. I love Edwin’s storyline and the challenges he has to overcome as the season progresses. Not just his internal struggles, but also externally as he learns to connect and express himself to others. It’s really intriguing to watch a character from an era that is so far removed from the world we know, trying to exist and trust the modern world that he now finds himself in. George is a fantastic actor, so to watch him bring Edwin’s character to life has been an absolute joy.

Esther’s storyline is another favourite. She is such a unique character and that’s really all down to Jenn Lyon, who is truly phenomenal. I loved working with Jenn, she is incredibly generous to act opposite in a scene and I found myself rooting for Esther even though she is supposed to be the villain of the season.

Being able to see and communicate with ghosts is kind of a superpower. If you were able to have one superpower in real life, which one would you want it to be and why?
I think teleportation would be an efficient superpower to have. It would come in handy for work and would eliminate any travel time. Hopefully, then I wouldn’t be late.

Having earlier mentioned all the genres of ‘Dead Boy Detectives’, in which genre do you generally feel the most comfortable as an actress?

I don’t know if I feel particularly comfortable in any genre. Each new character you play, brings with it it’s own challenges regardless of the genre the project exists in, and often the journey to your character almost always lies somewhere outside your comfort zone. There’s still genres that I have not yet tried. As my career grows and evolves, I would like to explore playing different characters who exist in a variety of worlds and tones to know if there is one I prefer more to the other.

How and when did you develop your passion for performance and acting?
I started acting in theatre when I was 14. I was extremely shy as a child and acting gave me a form of expression, it was somewhere I could go and process parts of myself. Simultaneously, it allowed me complete escapism, especially at a time when I was really uncomfortable with myself and still figuring out who I was. I could put on these characters and become immersed in them and the world they lived in. I didn’t have to be myself and there was something really freeing about that.

I’ve always loved movies. I had countless VHS tapes and DVDs growing up and I would watch movies on repeat. The minute it finished, I would watch the whole thing again. I would completely loose myself in the world of the show. If you spoke to me, I wouldn’t be able to hear you as I was totally immersed. I hated when a movie would end and ‘they lived happily ever after’ cause I always wanted to know what happened next. Now, not only do I get to create stories that can offer the same comfort and escapism it gave me, but I get to be part of what happens next.

Would you say starring on a film presents a bigger creative challenge for you than starring on a series?
Films and series come with their own challenges and are both equally demanding for different reasons. A benefit of a series is the lifespan of the character is much greater than in a movie and it can hold more of a presence because of that. However, you have to track your character arc over a larger period of time. A series can keep its audience company for a lot longer than a movie. It can live alongside its viewers, which I really like. They’re both equally challenging and equally rewarding.

One of the biggest challenges I faced with this role was the accent. It was an additional element to navigate, especially as the majority of my scenes were opposite two British characters. It was my first time doing an American accent and we worked incredibly hard on it. I had sessions with an accent coach leading up to filming, as well as sessions twice a week during filming. It was important to me to also have an accent coach on set with me every day, for every scene to keep the accent in check. But because this is a series and Crystal is in nearly every scene in every episode across the season, it’s such a large amount of dialogue and it can be hard to keep that level of consistency throughout, especially during heightened emotional scenes. Along with this, Crystal has spent a large portion of her early years living in London, which I think we notice in her very British sarcasm, but some of that should also be reflected in her rhythm and tone so it was a tricky balancing act. I feel really proud of what we have produced, but ultimately, I’m still learning and so much of this is new to me. I can definitely see the areas where I want to improve and develop, and I look forward to having opportunities where I can do that.

Besides acting, what are your other passions in life that you enjoy the most?
I’m naturally a quiet and introverted person, so I’m still figuring that out and learning about parts of myself and taking each day as it comes. I have recently rediscovered my love of reading and am in need of some good book recommendations.

What can you share with us about your exciting, upcoming projects we’ll be able to see you in next?
Unfortunately, I can’t share anything just yet. But, all will be revealed soon.

makeup OLLY FISK
interview JANA LETONJA