Merlin will return for its third season of all new episodes starting on Friday, January 7 at 10 PM ET only on the Syfy network. Colin Morgan, who stars as the title character Merlin and Bradley James, who portrays Arthur, recently held a conference call to discuss Season 3 of this hit series. Here's what they had to say:
I wanted to know how is the return of Morgana going to change the vibe in Season 3?
Bradley James: Whenever Morgana turns up in Series 3 there's been a year-long search for her as decreed by Uther. And we don't know where she's been for that year. We don't know what she's been up to or what she's been harvesting. But it becomes very evident very quickly in the first episode that despite appearances she hasn't changed. She's just as evil as she was before if not more. And so it's basically the beginnings within the first episode of where she's going to go and what she's going to create and what she's going to change.
I notice you're getting quite a few guest stars in Season 3, especially actors from the Harry Potter series. How do you think that part of the resume will help the show?
Bradley James: Well I always say that the best thing about doing the show is the guests that come on. You find yourself learning from them quite a bit. You find you're sort of enjoying hanging out with them and whatnot. And the guests we get seem to be very fun people to have around. So for us personally it's always a lot of fun. We've sort of had a great time this year because the people who were brought in were lots of fun. I'm going to use that word a few times I think if I keep talking. But in terms of commercially speaking for the show, Harry Potter's very popular. I can't see it being to the detriment of the show that you have people in the show who've been in Harry Potter. But I don't think they're in it. I don't think they've been cast in Merlin because they've been in Harry Potter. I just think the producers have gone out and found people who would enhance the show. And that's how it's felt on set for us as well.
Colin, hypothetically, if you could become a wizard would you and why or why not?
Colin Morgan: Definitely. I mean who wouldn't want to be wizard at least for a day. As long as you didn't have the dilemmas and the situations that Merlin and staff was thrown into I'd be happy, if you didn't - if you could actually use them, you know, to have a bit of fun and do something good for the world and maybe for yourself whereas Merlin's kind of limited that he has to look after Arthur. But it's all for the good, yeah, definitely.
Well if you could do something fun would it be like rainbows and fireworks and stuff like that or something fun?
Colin Morgan: I don't know. What would you create? I guess something that could - I mean there's always a search I guess for people and for happiness. And I guess whatever that one thing is that makes people happy, if there was some spell that could give people that one thing each, I guess that would be a good thing to do.
We were wondering if you were big fans of the Camelot and Merlin mythology before you signed on to be on the show.
Bradley James: I certainly was very aware of it. I think kind of growing up in Britain you find it's kind of ingrained into your psyche a little bit without your realizing it. And, they're very sort of inspiring kind of heroic stories. So I always sort of had an interest in it beforehand, not a sort of specific interest that I followed it sort of religiously or anything but certainly when the opportunity to work on the show came up I'd already had a sort of previous knowledge of what the story was about and what the legends sort of told. And it's kind of obviously been enhanced by doing the show. And research for the show's kind of I guess just improved my knowledge of various aspects of the legend.
For people who may not have seen the show before what - can you tell us what separates this version of the story from all the others that have come before?
Bradley James: Well I would say that we've completely butchered the legend and sort of reworked it for sort of Saturday night escapism because anyone who's kind of quite strictly religious to the legend perhaps will take a bit of time to get used to what we've done to it. I think we've taken the legend and kind of - I mean the producers like to sort of compare it with the sort of Smallville idea of having Superman before he was Superman. And I mean this is Merlin before he was Merlin and Arthur before he was King Arthur. So it's kind of the prelude story to the familiar tale that everyone's aware of.
I just wondered as actors, is there any I guess the word would be frustration or just kind of wishing things would move along a little bit quicker I mean with the Arthur/Gwen story line or Arthur finding out about Merlin's magic and just the various elements of the plot.
Colin Morgan: I think as an audience member, being aware of where these characters end up and knowing that they become the legends that they are, that Arthur and Gwen become king and queen, that Merlin becomes being accepted as Arthur's advisor and a wizard and that magic is out in the open and I think when you know that that's where they end up I think it can always be possibly a sense of frustration when you want that to happen quickly. In reality things don't happen that quickly. It takes time for those to happen. And I guess as well that's from a story point of view. I guess from a producer's point of view they don't want to rush things too quickly. But I do believe that things are happening at quite a pace already in terms of character relationships. It's just I think that we're - as an audience we're in the know about their - where they - of where they're supposed to be.
Bradley James: We haven't started on Season 4 yet but I would say had Season 3 not gone in the direction that it went in then yes those frustrations would have been there. But I think Season 3 kind of takes the show on in the direction it needed to go because we sort of had two seasons of, what the first two were about. And I think Season 3, things change. So I think that was needed. And I think the producers kind of answered the call with where they went with the direction of the show.
I know the show takes on some of the core myths of Arthur but a bit differently. Was there anything that's I guess been done on the show that you could talk about that just kind of surprised you the way this version takes it?
Bradley James: Surprised on the show? I suppose it's all been a surprise really in the sense that they've had to introduce aspects of the legend in a completely different way. I don't think there's ever been a kind of straightforward way of telling the story because it's not really a way that the story's been told before. I think that's one of the aspects of the show that kind of works for people is that they're not aware of where this story's going to go even if they are familiar with the legend. I think it constantly is a surprise because there's no set way of doing it I think.
What do you think Merlin and Gwen's part in influencing Arthur to become a great king?
Bradley James: Well certainly, with Merlin I think traditionally he's always been a sort of advisor and also a kind of magical helping hand in sort of previous legends. I guess we'll see. I think there's a bit of a danger with Gwynevere sort of at the moment. The relationship hasn't been developed as such to know what role she will play other than she kind of turns up at moments and kind of says you'll be the king I know you can be. So I'm not really sure what direction that will go. But I think the obvious one would be with Merlin being that sort of advisor and magical helping hand in times of need.
So if there is one particular skill that you're going to take away from your experience of working on Merlin what will it be?
Colin Morgan: Well I mean you learn so many different skills I think on the show. And I think that's probably what it is. The ability to adapt I think for me is - you're asked constantly to, green-screen, adventure, horse riding, comedy scenes, dramatic scenes, everything. So I think the ability and the skill to adapt under a tight schedule is one that I'd definitely take away.
I just wanted to ask you two, where do you feel for both of you your relationships are as characters right now?
Colin Morgan: Well Merlin and Arthur will always be - I mean, there's always that (unintelligible) issue there of servant and master. And that will always be there. But these are guys who've been friends for three years now. And as anyone who's spent that much time together you get used to the quirks and those little idiosyncrasies that each person has. But it's unique in the fact that these characters have huge things ahead of them and Arthur knows he's going to be king. Merlin does too. But he also knows that there's greater things at stake that he's the one who's supposed to see and to make that journey and to be there. So they're forced into that situation. It's just lucky that as time has gone by that they've just become closer friends.
Can you kind of tease us a little bit for Season 3 what we're going to see?
Bradley James: Well I don't think I'll get into too much trouble for this. But basically I think the thing I was most excited about with the third series is the introduction of certain characters who have a more longstanding place within the legend and the story and within the show for us because there's one or two knights who turn up. And I was particularly sort of really pleased about that because it's had a sort of aspect of developing the show as well which is a great thing about Season 3.
We probably won't even see Merlin telling Arthur, listen, I've saved your butt 100 times and stop ordering me around?
Colin Morgan: That's what people are eager to see I think. And I think as long as there's any hint of doubt in Merlin's mind that Arthur might have a similar attitude towards - that his father does, if there's any sort of hint of then it's not the right time. And you're seeing Arthur change a lot. And - but I think while his father's still alive -- maybe Bradley wants to talk more about this -- but, you know, while his father's still around. And there's an incidence there. And I think that's in any kid's or anyone's relationship with their parents they're always an influence there and you always want to do them proud. And I think magic being such a big thing for Uther, it would be hard for Arthur to change that. And I certainly think - certainly while Uther's still around it would be very difficult for Merlin to justify coming out in something so huge.
Bradley James: Let's call the pink elephant in the room here. We need to get rid of Uther. Then we can get on with it. I'll say it if no one else will.
Arthur's a fairly, you know, intelligent fellow. At this point or going into Season 3 does he sort of maybe start to suspect that not necessarily that Merlin's doing magic but that there is something maybe more to him than just being a squire?
Bradley James: It's very kind of you to say that Arthur is an intelligent fellow. I don't think he often gets accused of that much largely because he has to turn a blind eye quite a bit when Merlin wants to do a magic trick. I think that's something that the audience kind of can get a little bit - a little questionable about Arthur's intelligence I will - so I think again not so much about willing - becoming aware of Merlin's actual abilities but more his abilities as a person without the magic I think is what Arthur's becoming aware of. I think Colin touched on it earlier saying that when sort of Arthur gets to the point where he can appreciate Merlin for who he is as opposed to what he is it might be the perfect time for, you know, the unveiling. Who knows? I don't think we have any idea how they're going to play this one out. But, they've taken on enough so hopefully they won't absolutely conquer the way of doing it.
Colin, since Arthur and Merlin are becoming such great friends do you think Merlin feels that he can perhaps get away with more magic or doing things to save Arthur than he might be more willing to do with people who don't, you know, he's not friends with?
Colin Morgan: Well I think the thing is he's had to do it so many times he's become an expert on it. So I think he's had a lot of practice at doing it secretively and in such a nifty kind of way. Obviously his abilities have developed and - quite a lot over the years. And I think he's got absolute and dedicated reasons as to why he's protecting Arthur because he's been instructed right from the beginning that it's his destiny to see him through to the throne. So he's completely driven to do it for Arthur. And if there is justifiable reasons for others as there has been and in the past he will absolutely do it because he always strives to see the good and works for that. And Arthur potentially embodies all that could be good about Camelot when he becomes king. So yeah, it's all about working towards obvious - he's definitely more dedicated to using his powers for that reason.
Bradley, I wanted to ask you about Lancelot and Arthur because traditionally they've been really good friends and they haven't really done that much with that. So I was wondering is anything coming up along that line or...
Bradley James: It's something I've picked up on myself. I mean it's, you know, in the legend Arthur and Lancelot were best friends. It was kind of, you know, the sort of such - why it was such a difficult situation that Lancelot initially to betray him is because they were such good friends. And in some of the kind of darker versions you read Lancelot is actually in love with Arthur. I don't think Santiago will be taking to follow that storyline down the road. It's been I suppose a bit difficult to kind of introduce that aspect because Lancelot hasn't been in that many episodes. She's coming up this year. But he's obviously only done two previous so it's a little bit difficult because they've pretty much introduced straightaway the dilemma of Lancelot and Gwynevere. So I would hope that it does get the opportunity to blossom as a story because it's quite an integral part to the original legend. But who knows? We shall see.
Can you tell me how you think Arthur he sees his relationship with his father?
Bradley James: Arthur's grown up with purely his father as I suppose as anyone in sort of a high position in him. And his only parental figure has been his father. So, you know, his father's such a huge influence on him. But I think as time goes on I - as the show has gone on I think you sort of see Arthur kind of starting to figure things out for himself where he has disagreed with his father. And I think in time it'll lead to Arthur sort of making the choices as king that he will do that'll be different to how Uther does it which you would imagine there'll be a stark contrast in the way that the pair of them rule. So yeah, as time goes on I think it just becomes a lot more questioning from Arthur in how Uther does things. However, I should have started with this as opposed to rattled on about that. I think what Arthur does see is that on one side he has the kind of liberal kind of argument from people like Morgana and Merlin who are saying oh you should do things and blah, blah, blah. And then he's got this kind of hard-nosed kind of conservative line from his father who's going, you need to kill people with magic. I think what he does have is the ability to see both sides of the argument. And I think that's kind of what, perhaps, Morgana doesn't have. She can't understand why Uther makes certain decisions. And Uther can't understand why Morgana feels certain ways about things. And I think Arthur has the ability to be able to see both sides of the argument.
You don't have to give me any spoilers but what episodes from Season 3 have you enjoyed playing and what part did you tap into to make it realistic?
Colin Morgan: One of the ones that I really enjoyed doing because it was one of my favorites from the Arthurian legend was the legend of the crystal cave. And it was fun to kind of in my head imagine what it was going to look like because there was a lot of CGI involved of seeing visions of the future reflected within crystals and to sort of try and imagine it and then again as often with this show with so much CGI to see the end of result. It's always good to see the two of them married. So that was one of my favorites purely because of the legend of the crystal cave.
Bradley James: For me it was doing a scene where a certain group of guys sit around a certain piece of furniture and, you know, get together. That was easily best moment for me.
If Arthur finds out about the magic what do you think his reaction will be? Do you anticipate something or has it been developed or how's that going to go?
Bradley James: I actually believe that we're very close to the point where were Arthur to find out I think previously that we'd perhaps have a problem because Arthur would, you know, bring it up to the powers that be and Uther would become aware. I think we have reached the point or at least we're not very far away from if we haven't where Arthur would be able to accept it. Without spoiling too much of Season 3 I think certainly the direction that the show goes I think we're not far away from it.
Bradley, after three seasons how good are you at broadsword?
Bradley James: Well I didn't ask if there's belts or rankings. I'm really good when someone tells me what they're going to do and what moves they're going to do because I can make it look like I didn't know what they were going to do and then block those moves and kill them. If someone was to attack me without any previous choreography I don't know. It'd be interesting to see what I would do. But it wouldn't be interesting to me. It'd be bloody scary. But I would imagine I was better than when I started.
Colin, can you talk about an episode where they age you up later in Season 3?
Colin Morgan: Yeah. I'm not sure I can say under what circumstances I do age. But I can probably tell you more about the kind of - the mechanics of what that involved but - which was about six hours every day and - in prosthetics and getting the prosthetics applied on and the wig fittings and beard fittings. I was aware prior to that going for head cap and getting the mold made and then of course the process that the special effects guys then had to do in terms of aging. Then my face and contact lens has been made and teeth mold's been made. It's just a long, long process. And for what was then a really fun thing to do it was great then to after nearly three years playing Merlin together a chance to play old Merlin in terms of the one that people are familiar with seeing.
Colin, who do you consider a greater enemy for Merlin: Morgause, Morgana or Uther?
Colin Morgan: Definitely Morgana. I'm probably a combination of Morgana, Morgause but probably Morgana just purely because of the part she has. Merlin tried to kill her which is the biggest - she's got this - the biggest dirt on Merlin that anyone does and she's - she threatens to use that against him. And again she's in a position of power. And Merlin's the only one that knows of what her true power is and how she can use that. So yeah, Morgana definitely.
You guys always do a sort of behind the scenes thing every year. So it was - the first year was the video diaries. And then it was the road trip and the secrets and magic. And this year you guys did a quest. How did that work out? Was there any reasoning...
Bradley James: I think they just spring it on us each year what they want us to do. And they just chucked us in the room and run to the back of the studio, threw whatever crap they had lying around in it and went oh we'll make up some challenge and put it behind the scenes footage. But it's actually quite fun. I remember sort of dreading that, thinking oh god, what have they cooked up for us here. But then I remember it being quite a lot of fun.
Merlin will return for its third season of all new episodes starting on Friday, January 7 at 10 PM ET only on the Syfy network.