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Why Roy From The Devil All The Time Looks So Familiar

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

The Devil All the Time is an intoxicating shot of adrenaline from director Antonio Campos. Set in the backwoods of Knockemstiff, Ohio at the end of World War II, The Devil All the Time is a kaleidoscope of downtrodden folk, predatory preachers, and a community ravaged by a faraway conflict. It's a sinister thriller with a lot of horrifying action to unpack — especially if you're afraid of bugs.

But you might have found your interest piqued by one familiar face in particular: Brother Roy. Roy is a traveling preacher and lost soul who appears willing to do anything for the Lord, though the pressures of life on Earth turn him to a darker path. So who is the man behind this morally gray Bible-thumper?

Roy is played by none other than Harry Melling. Fans of a certain age probably know him as Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter franchise, but he's so much more than that. Grandson of Patrick Troughton, famed Second Doctor in the long-running Doctor Who series, Melling has appeared prolifically in stage and screen productions, earned critical acclaim for his performances, and is a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Here's why Roy from The Devil All the Time looks so familiar.


A 21-year-old Harry Melling was featured in the third season of the BBC's family-friendly Merlin series. Here, Melling appears as Gillie, a young man in possession of a powerful magical ring, the likes of which are absolutely forbidden in the kingdom of the tyrannical Uther. Gillie comes to Camelot to appear in a tournament, one promising great danger to contestants and incredible acclaim to the winner.

The young and unknown Gillie doesn't appear equal to the task, but Merlin soon learns about the power he derives from the ring he wears. Gillie rebuffs Merlin when the young wizard tells him to stop using magic, at the risk of being punished for breaking the magical ban. However, Gillie revels in his early tournament successes, and continues winning through subtle spell work until he faces King Uther himself in the final.

Worried for the king's life, and of the potential effect his demise would have upon the king's son Arthur, Merlin consults Kilgharrah the dragon. Kilgharrah sees the conundrum from all sides, but concludes that Gillie may have to die to preserve the balance within the kingdom. You'll have to watch the episode to see how this magical conflict resolves. However, the episode is worth watching if for no other reason than to see the intensity that a young Harry Melling brings to his role — proof that the actor was more than ready for impressive appearances to come.

The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z begins in a simpler time... at least for the British aristocracy. A half-decade before the first World War, England is still at the top of its historical game. Its colonial network dominates half the globe, and consequently, English nobles think their society is the center of the universe. These Anglo-centric notions are challenged when a young Percy Fawcett returns from South America, having represented England in a colonial border dispute between Bolivia and Brazil. He reports to England, to his patrons' dismay, that Amazonian society may be older than their own, and may hide unimaginable wealth.

Harry Melling doesn't play Percy Fawcett, but a fictional character by the name of William Barclay. Barclay doesn't believe in the secret city of riches and culture that Fawcett wishes to seek out, and it's a point of fact in his worldview that any people found living there would be inferior in all respects to members of his English society of the early 20th century.

Barclay represents many people with English culture of the day, as they learn just how big the world is, and how difficult it will become to control it as war changes the global order. Both humorously out of touch and humorously sympathetic, Melling plays his part with a subtle appreciation for history, and a knack for portraying British personality quirks that still persist to this day.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

If you enjoy being metaphorically punched in the emotional stomach, make sure to queue up The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. This tragicomic masterwork by the Coen brothers is a series of six unrelated short films, each set in some corner of the American Old West mythos. 

We've got Tom Waits as an unrelenting gold prospector in "All Gold Canyon," and Tim Blake Nelson as the cheerful but deadly Buster Scruggs in the titular segment. But it's Harry Melling as the "Artist" in "Meal Ticket" who had audiences staring in shocked silence when the credits rolled.  

"Meal Ticket" proves that Melling is an actor with incredible range. He appears as Harrison, an actor with no arms and no legs, who survives by delivering one-man performances of classical works in a cheap traveling theater wagon owned by Liam Neeson's aging "Impresario." Harrison gives knockout renditions of Shelley's Ozymandias and various works of Shakespeare, though his performances never draw more than a handful of poor workers and passersby. 

Because the character is so physically limited, Melling is forced to deliver the emotional nuance of the material through only his face and voice. It's an incredible performance by any standard, but unfortunately even Harrison's best work may not be enough to pay the Impresario's bills. You'll have to watch the film to find out how this theater tale resolves, but fair warning, Melling's desperate performance is one that'll stick with you.

His Dark Materials

You've heard never to stand between a bear and her cubs. Well, the same holds true for a bear and his armor. Harry Melling's petulant Sysselman in the North learns this valuable lesson the hard way in season 1, episode 4 of HBO's His Dark Materials, and Melling's portrayal of the whiny bureaucratic bully makes the comeuppance totally satisfying to watch.

For those not acquainted with Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy, the bear in question is Iorek Byrnison (voiced by Joe Tandberg, Runar in Final Fantasy XIV), an exiled bear king who has been deposed after being manipulated into violence. When he discovers that his armor is hidden beneath a priest's house, Iorek storms off to recover it. When Melling's Sysselman tries to stop him, Iorek threatens to smash his head beneath his paw.

Lyra (Dafne Keen of Logan) manages to save the Sysselman's sniveling life. And though we don't see Melling's character again, the conflict he provides is a significant turning point for the series. Here, the newly re-armored Iorek and Lyra meet, and he agrees to journey north with her to save the children from Bolvangar. Just as he did in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Melling's character manages to make a lasting impression, though here he proves he can play a contemptible character just as well as a sympathetic one.

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds is good news for those who thought Harry Melling looked good in uniform in His Dark Materials, but wished he'd take a more heroic turn. Here, Melling's "Artilleryman" is one of the soldiers facing off against a true existential threat against humanity. 

Our story takes us back to the reign of King Edward VII (that's 1901 through 1910, for those not up on their British monarchs). One day a strange spherical aircraft lands in Woking, a small town near Surrey. The community approaches with caution, but unfortunately the alien life within awakens and begins killing indiscriminately. When this initial crisis is resolved, soldiers arrive to rope off the area, and Melling is the Artilleryman who catches the camera's eye. 

The three-part miniseries departs from H.G. Wells' novel, as subsequent episodes tell the action in flash-forwards and flashbacks. In the past, Melling is part of the human resistance that works to repel the alien invasion. In the future, the invasion appears to have been quashed, though the world is badly altered, and Melling's Artilleryman is nowhere to be found.  

Lest you think that Melling's Artilleryman is merely an unnamed side character, he actually appears all the way back in H.G. Wells' original 1898 novel. There, the Artilleryman lazily accepts the end of human society on Earth's surface, and improvises a fascistic pipe dream wherein humanity will rebuild beneath the surface of the world. Melling's character works with slightly different themes in the BBC production, but the actor is no less poignant in his take on the iconic character.

The Old Guard

One never knows whether Harry Melling will play the good guy or the baddie, but 2020's Old Guard saw him, once again, on the wrong side of justice. Melling plays Steven Merrick, the ultimate "Pharma-bro." When Merrick learns that there are immortals on Earth (led by Charlize Theron as the centuries-old Andy) who can heal and be healed seemingly indefinitely, he has to stop these miracle workers, and, if possible, control them. 

In this role, Melling explores the limits of sociopathy, with a character willing to subject other human beings to endless torment if it means greater power and profit for his corporation. Like a certain young, disgraced pharmacy exec we could name, Melling's Merrick has no powers of his own, and no real interest in healing the sick. Instead, he wishes to dominate powers he can't truly understand for profit.  

It's a potent allegory for our time, when all good things in the world seem to be endlessly commodified. We can't tell you how the plot develops in the second act, but suffice it to say that Melling plays his corporate creep to the teeth. You'll have to queue up Old Guard to see whether justice is served.