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!
There’s a big Merlin set visit feature in the next issue of SFX, but not all of the interview quotes made it in there. So they’re here instead
SFX goes on the set of Merlin in issue 214 (out on 21 September) and the visit includes interviews with Bradley James (Arthur), Colin Morgan (Merlin), Katie McGrath (Morgana) and no less than three of the Knights of the Round Table. But not all the quotes fitted into the feature, so here’s an extended version of our chat with Bradley James.
We hear there’s a massive new green screen in the studio this year, to help the show look more epic?
“Yeah the big green box, or depending on whatever colour it is on that day. We’ve been using that quite a bit this year, actually. It’s been used as many forms of set. Usually we go out to a forest or an old decrepit building or whatever. A few times now, we’ve been able to stay indoors, control the weather and film stuff in this green box. What they tend to do is, the floor is real; whatever floor we need – grass or paving stone or whatever – they make for real. And then the rest of it tends to be stuff you have to put in your head. They tell you, ‘There’s a big turret over there,’ or, ‘there’s a burning building over there.’ And you get on it.”
Katie McGrath (Morgana) was mentioning that there’s a lot of testosterone floating round the set this year… what with all the Knights.
“[Laughs] There’s a lot of camaraderie now, a lot of banter between the knights. Off-set there’s been a fantastic sort of lads’ atmosphere. Without making it sound like we’re all on a lads’ holiday it’s great to have a bunch of guys that you can hang out with every day. I’d say it hasn’t affected the relationship between Arthur and Merlin too much. They’re still friends, without saying it. If anything, it’s maybe taken some attention away from Merlin. Sir Gwaine, he gets quite a bit of a ribbing now instead of Merlin. He gets the flack; we’ve cut Merlin some slack. Hey, that sounds like I had it prepared.
“Having the knights round has been fantastic, because of the social aspects. Having your friends with you. I’ve got a group of mates who are on set with me now. You’re hanging out with your mates. There are lots of laughs.
“Katie and I haven’t had any scenes together so far. When Arthur and Morgana do meet up, you can imagine there will be fireworks. Guinevere doesn’t tend to go out on the razz with the lads as much as maybe she’d like. I’m not too sure. It’s a bit of a boys’ group. I think if you had a girl to look after it wouldn’t be as much fun.”
Arthur is pretty much de facto ruler at the start of series four, isn’t he?
“Yeah, with Uther being mental and all that. From Arthur’s point of view, all eyes are now on him, looking for leadership. Certainly the first four episodes really challenge Arthur, and test him. If he comes through those tests well, then he will become the King Arthur we’re familiar with from the legends. The first four episodes certainly stress the stress factor on him. Is that even a term? It sounds like a dodgy ITV show. I’m coining that.”
Do you feel the show is still improving?
“This year more than any other year I’ve been happiest about. There are certain elements of this year that have made it a far more enjoyable experience. Not that it’s ever not been enjoyable but I’m more excited about this year. There are various reasons. I can only speak for up to episode nine, but that’s what we’ve shot so far, but up to episode nine I think every episode is going to be great. Usually by this time there’s one where I’ve gone, ‘Oooh, not so sure about that,’ but I think I can quite confidently say that up to episode nine I’m happy with all the episodes”