Arthurian legend is a conglomeration of stories told throughout the ages. Each new age/territory brings with it new takes on this popular legend. The wizard/prophet "Merlin" has a different historical name & plays a different role in each story he is mentioned in. The BBC TV series 'Merlin' adds its original take on the Arthurian legend for the modern age & follows a tradition by building upon the Arthurian legend for our time & for history. Thank you Merlin!
After a hard day on the set of Merlin, Bradley James loves nothing more than simply getting out of his armour.
"That's the best part of my day," jokes the 27-year-old who plays king-in-waiting Arthur.
"It means I start floating round the room and have this light feeling in my shoulders, which I haven't experienced since six o'clock in the morning. As cool as it looks, I'm always happy when it goes."
During the past three years, James and his co-star Colin Morgan, who plays Merlin, have become as much a part of BBC Saturday night television as Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli on Strictly Come Dancing, and they're now back for a fourth series of the wizarding drama, which is set to be the darkest yet.
"Effectively, our audience is growing up," says James, whose dark blond hair and heroic good looks have brought him many female fans over the years.
"People who were 12 when we first started are now 15. And 16-year-olds are coming to the end of their teens, so it allows you to push those boundaries and also to develop the characters. We're really just dipping a toe in the water of the darkness of the actual Arthurian legend, because of our time slot.
"The legends are incredibly dark, quite twisted and messed up, so we're pushing to do justice to the stories."
The end of series three saw King Uther Pendragon's illegitimate daughter Morgana (Katie McGrath) crowned Queen of Camelot and then dethroned by Arthur and his army, while Uther (Anthony Head) lapsed into mental illness.
In series four, the Knights of Camelot become a fixture and Arthur starts acting more like the king he's destined to become.
"The eyes of the kingdom are looking to Arthur for everything. He's become the stand-in leader, while Uther hopefully sorts himself out," says James.
When Merlin first started, Arthur was the antithesis of a heroic noble king, explains James: "So the first four episodes are very big, because he's tested in that role and put under stressful situations any leader would have to face."
The actor's clearly delighted with the way his role's developed.
"When you're working on a show a few series in, the challenge is to keep it fresh. Bold scenes and storylines help do that."
James is chatting during a short break from filming in Cardiff, where he's having a rare day in the studio, and is as polite and courteous as you'd expect someone playing a knight to be.
"We've been all over the place. Yesterday we started in the studio, went to film in some forests around the corner and then made this dash an hour up the road to the Brecon Beacons."
The jousting and castle scenes are all shot on location in France, he explains, but for "safety reasons" James doesn't do any actual jousting - a fact which might disappoint some of his waiting fans.
"They seem to know our movements even better than we do," he jokes. "They turn up at a moment's notice."
Merlin has gained quite a big following across the pond and this summer, the cast flew to San Diego for the second year running, to attend pop culture convention Comic-Con.
Devon-born James was intrigued to see how American fans differ from those back home: "There's a lack of cynicism out there, they take their appreciation for that world very seriously.
"Over here, there's always a bit of holding yourself back, it's the British way."
Having attained pin-up status from the show, James has also become used to the odd fan moment: "There's one thing that's happened and I'm a little bit nervous of letting the story come out, just in case I encourage others to do it...
"What I will say is there have been quite a few strange moments in my life, created by the fact that I do a show called Merlin."
He's certainly recognised in the street more: "I get a lot of those 'did I go to school with you?' looks. It's all part of a very flattering element to the job, and it's very nice when people come and say they enjoy your work."
At Comic-Con it was announced the show had been recommissioned for a fifth series. James puts its continued success down to its careful reworking of the Arthurian legends.
"We can all relate to the morals of the story - it doesn't matter where you're from. What Arthur was trying to achieve and instil in his knights has inspired many people.
"What we've done is taken that material and told the story in a way that allows an audience to sit down on a Saturday night and escape."