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Colin Morgan on castmates, guest stars, and season four of Merlin

'Merlin' star Colin Morgan sits down to discuss Arthur, Morgana, Gaius, guest stars, and just a few hints of what to expect in this Saturday's season four finale.

Yesterday marked the third time I have had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Colin Morgan, who plays Merlin‘s titular character with aplomb, killer instincts, and some supernatural ability to give you one look with his blue eyes that suddenly makes you feel emotions you were previously unaware existed on the human spectrum of feelings. And while I can always wax poetic about what a nice young man he is (seriously, well done on his mother) or paraphrase what he said, what’s the fun in that? You’ve all shown a marked preference for hearing it straight from the man himself, and frankly, I don’t blame you. And so, without further ado, I present to you Colin Morgan on character growth, his relationships with Arthur, Morgana, and Gaius, guest stars, and a few teasers for this Saturday’s finale.

[Ed. Note: Due to the poor quality of the phone connection, my transcription may not be 100% accurate, for which I apologize. I have tried my very best. I also apologize for all the excited typing you hear me doing as I take notes. I did not know my microphone would pick that up. Here’s the audio, if that helps.]

One of the big draws for our readers, and I guess for a lot of Merlin viewers, is Merlin and Arthur’s relationship. Can you tell us how we’re going to see that grow and change over the course of Series 4?
Yeah, I mean it’s  one of the most iconic relationships in legend, and it’s very much about Merlin bringing Arthur to the point where he can rule the kingdom, where it’s fit for him, and he’s fit for himself. And in the fourth season we see them growing apart a bit, actually. There’s a new character called Agravaine, who’s Arthur’s uncle, who [Merlin] realizes very, very quickly is not all it appears he is. Yet he’s Arthur’s right-hand man, he’s exactly where Merlin should be… and it’s about Merlin trying to re-gain that position, to be by Arthur’s side, to get him to make the right decisions. Because things very quickly change and Arthur gets more responsibility. And it’s where Merlin should be, and he’s not there, and it’s about him sort of grappling with the whole concept.

What is your favorite Merlin to play? Is it the sort of clumsy, funny Merlin, or the dramatic Merlin, or the Great Dragoon Merlin?
I would say it’s the variety, that I like, it’s the facets of the character, that’s what fascinates me. I think variety’s the spice of life, and being able to push yourself in all directions – that’s what it is, the complexity that I enjoy the most.

What attracted me to the series was the fact that growing up I read all the different variations on Camelot and the Arthurian legends, and what I liked about it was that this one’s focusing on Merlin’s backstory. I mean Merlin, to me, was always a mysterious character, and I liked that. But also, in seasons four and five will he be taking more of that puppetmaster role that I was used to seeing in the previous stories and the previous tellings of that legend?
Yeah, that’s a big theme, actually, coming up in this season, because that’s  absolutely what Merlin’s driving towards. He’s gaining wisdom and a certain kind of power in that wisdom. Certainly in parts you’re seeing Arthur listen to him a lot more, you’re seeing Arthur in fact change the way he’s thinking, sometimes, because of what Merlin says. And you see the beginnings of that, and that’s pretty exciting. But they’re also growing a little bit further apart, so I’d say Merlin has to work ultra-hard to try and be heard. And hopefully by the end of the season you’ll see that the relationship has come to the point where maybe they’re ready to set rules and set grounds and become a good team to rule the kingdom.

I wanted to ask you about Merlin’s relationship with Gaius in Season 4, maybe you could tell us a little bit about that. And also, what’s it been like working with Richard Wilson in this series?
Richard Wilson is an absolute gentleman. You can speak to anyone on set or any of the cast members, and they’ll have nothing but praise for him. He is a pleasure to work with and an  honor to know.

I’d say the relationship between Merlin and Gaius is one that I love hugely, I think it’s fantastic. What’s great is there’s an episode this season that takes the two of them away from each other for a while. And it’s really interesting to see how Merlin reacts when Gaius isn’t around because maybe you don’t realize how much you needed him until he’s gone. And it’s a really interesting episode about their relationship and the love they have for each other. And I guess at some point Merlin is going to lose Gaius, and he’s not going to be around forever, and it’s just a taste of what that whole part of his life will be like. And really at the minute Gaius is really the only one Merlin can really confide in. So if Gaius isn’t around, life becomes even more lonely.

So it’s a really good relationship, it’s a father-son relationship. Merlin was, you know, he lost a father relationship, and it’s always been missing in his life, and Gaius and him are very much a surrogate father and son.

Have you heard anything about season five? I know you’re going to start shooting in a little while.
Um, season five… We know nothing about it. They keep things so secret from us for quite a while. We only find out really, like, three episodes at a time, so when we started season four, I only knew episodes one, two, and three, and then when we finish those I get four, five, and six. So I know nothing about season five, I only know that season four ends on such an intriguing note that they can’t not do a fifth season. We’d have a lot of very upset people if we ended on that cliffhanger.
You were talking a little bit about how things are going to be changing and getting darker this season, and I’m pretty interested in Merlin’s relationship with Morgana this season. Can you talk about – has Merlin has any regrets as far as when Morgana really needed him, he turned his back on her?
Yeah, I mean, it’s a difficult call, because Merlin has tried a lot to show her the right path, and it became very clear early on that he was told that Morgana would be his downfall and his doom, and would be the one who would be in direct opposition to all his goals and his destiny. And that’s been his most important thing, that’s his focus. And as difficult as it is or has been, he’s had to set so much aside for that, for the future, and for the future of his kind. And if that means sacrificing her, or anyone, as ruthless as it is, that’s what he signed up for when he came to Camelot, that was the deal.

And it says a lot about him as a character, the fact that sometimes your emotions have to be shoved aside, and you gotta do that. And Morgana is definitely beyond redemption, she has chosen that path, and as far as Merlin concerned she’s had her chances. I think if you try to build a fire too much, you’re definitely going to get burned, and I think Merlin’s done building the fire now and is just ready to put it out. And he’s very focused on that this season.

Morgana has built up a huge fear of this figure called Emrys, who is what Merlin’s known as among the Druids. And as she has the image of Emrys, of old Merlin, so throughout the season, whenever Merlin changes into old Merlin, she has this terrible, terrible fear of him. And he doesn’t quite understand it, but of course it’s great from his point of view, because we don’t often get to see Morgana in such a state of distress. Certainly as ruthless as she is, she has a huge fear of Emrys as well, so that’s why we have strong subplots throughout the whole season, too.

When you look at the relationship with you and Arthur, I think there’s always some danger in storytelling when you take a heroic, iconic figure like Arthur and you kind of make him a bumbling fool in the sense that he doesn’t recognize Merlin’s power. Is there any conscious effort to balance that a little bit, to keep Arthur heroic in spite of the fact that we’re trying to build Merlin up as a hero?
Well, I think we see  big changes. And I think it’s interesting, certainly.  Because I think there’s an odd interplay, there. Because we’re in the know, we know that Merlin has magic, we know that he’s the one doing all the behind-the-scenes stuff. But to everyone else there’s absolutely no way they’d suspect Merlin, he’s a servant. So I don’t think there’s any sort  of dumbing down of the character as such. Because we, I think, certainly since Series one Arthur’s grown significantly and is a lot more mature, and he’s certainly leaning towards that king he’s going to become. And we certainly see the [unintelligable], and I think this season’s a lot more tasked with the transitions that characters make.

There is room for two heroes, then.
Oh, yeah, I think so.

Photo Credit: BBC

Categories: | Clack | Features | General | Interviews | Merlin | TV Shows |

12 Responses to “Colin Morgan on castmates, guest stars, and season four of Merlin”

December 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

I really like your questions in this interview and it seem Colin evaded the ones I was the most interested in – the fact that Arthur is “dumbed down”, for example. If they seriously don’t recognize this side effect of the secret magic then that’s a bit worrisome.

And I don’t quite know what to do with his answer to the magic reveal question? It just seems really sad that after seeing the Arthur & Merlin relationship develop so beautifully he thinks Arthur would execute Merlin on the spot. And the season has already shown that Arthur is different from his father (4.07, 4.10) so I’m just going to take these as evading.

I can’t see how anything but the magic reveal can really change the current set up of the series and open it up to many new options. Neither can I see “you’ll see that the relationship has come to the point where maybe they’re ready to set rules and set grounds and become a good team to rule the kingdom” happening without the magic reveal, because as you implied in your questions, it puts a heavy strain on their relationship.

Oh, just give me the finale!

December 21, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Colin is the sweetest of the sweet, but he’s also a master of talking a lot while saying nothing at all. I think, too, that he was answering from the pov that Merlin the series has not yet aired officially in the states yet, so he was couching his answers to fit the very beginning of season 4–when Uther was still alive and Arthur had not yet gone through the progression that we’ve seen, where he has for example declared he would respect the Druids.

My feeling is that this past season, season 4, Merlin has grown as a character the least of all, and that the show is now more zeroed in on Arthur and his relationship/”romance” with Gwen. I wish we could ask Colin and Bradley about that, and actually get a straight answer.

Pretty much, if we were expecting any kind of real insight at all on the characters or the show, this was not the source to get it from. Colin simply will not say anything negative, even slightly, ever.

Thank you for posting this, Julia, and good on you for being able to speak directly with the man.

February 16, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Actually, Colin was straightforwardly asked and answered honestly about the slash-factor in this interview (and was slightly negative about it):

“TTO: I have to ask you about this phenomenon of “hoyay” that I read about everywhere, where people see a gay subtext between Merlin and Arthur. Are you guys aware of this when you’re filming and what do you think about all this?

CM: It’s certainly something that we never ever play. I think you’re watching anything, and you’re looking for it, you could probably find it. You could find gay connotations in Barney. You could find it anything.

I think it very much depends on the individual watching it as opposed to any portrayal that’s being done on-screen.

TTO: Well, it’s a huge online thing. And I think it goes back to the whole keeping a secret, how Merlin can’t tell Arthur about his magic.

CM: It’s lucky that I’m not an internet person. I avoid the internet like the plague, so it’s probably a good thing that I don’t know what’s been going on.

But I can attest to the fact that there’s no intentions there of pushing of any that kind of subtext. It purely as innocent as the scripts are.

I think it’s very much dependent on the individual watching it.”

So he’s not ALWAYS completely 100% PC.

February 16, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Your response to my comments actually has nothing to do with my comments. My point was that he was deliberately vague on anything to do with season 4 because he knew the interview was geared towards the States, who hadn’t seen it yet and he didn’t want to give away any spoilers.

Also, the interview you quoted from was done long before season 4, and I will definitely agree, there was no sign of any slash in season 3. I’d like to ask Colin the same question you quoted after this season where the HOYAY! was so deliberate it wasn’t even funny, and see if Colin says the same thing.

December 21, 2011 at 1:10 PM

Thank you for this interview with Colin Morgan who I appreciated hugely. He really is an amazing actor and looks like a wonderful person. I like the questions and the way Colin answers them is very clever!

December 21, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Like you, dear interviewer, I can say I’m in love with Colin Morgan’s powerful acting, piercing gorgeous blue eyes and sweet personality. Also his Irish accent is so adorable! I adore his portrayal of Merlin, who is my favorite character, and the way he shows all those emotions and feelings. I hope we’ll hear even more about this amazing actor! Thank you for sharing this interview.

December 22, 2011 at 2:50 AM

Julia, thank you so much for this.

December 22, 2011 at 6:07 AM

Thank You Julia, a lovely interview with a lovely person – especially thanks for raising the “dumbing down” question. This insistence on preserving Arthur’s obliviousness has led to contrived story lines, and a failure of the writers to account for the character’s past in their current behaviour – the dreaded reset button.

Then there is the strange reluctance to let Heroes be Heroic and it’s not only Arthur, the Knights weren’t really allowed to show heroism until the finale, all those blokes jokes in mockery of Merlin made no sense to me. Even Lancelot “the noblest of them all” got zombified and his memory marred for Arthur and his brothers in arms – yes Merlin knows the facts but he’ll never tell will he – as that would mean Magic Reveal

At the start of this year I had such high hopes for The Reveal now I don’t see it happening ….. ah well maybe next year

December 22, 2011 at 7:36 AM

Thank you so much Julia for this amazing interview. Colin is such a fantastic actor and a great man. Looking foward for the epic season finale!

December 22, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Thanks Julia! Those were great questions! Colin is amazing! I have to admit that I was expecting the questio as to what or how Colin feels about the show’s preoccupation with Arthur’s lovelife. I imagined that it will go like this: “Tell us Colin didn’t you feel that Merlin was shoved into the sidelines as the writers mucked about with the Arthur/Gwen theme? We certainly did!” LOL

February 21, 2012 at 8:26 AM

hello colin iam shaghayegh my country in iran ilove you movie merlin

February 22, 2012 at 6:33 AM

hello colin i love how old are you?

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