INTERVIEW: Magic comes to Comic-Con: Colin Morgan

As the lead actor of the wildly successful BBC series Merlin, Colin Morgan has brought a newer, younger version of the legendary wizard to life and in speaking with him, couldn’t picture anyone else in the part.

The second season has just finished airing on SyFy in the US and Morgan is currently filming the third season of the show. Taking the time to come to the biggest gathering of geeks in the country, I participated in a roundtable press discussion before the first-ever Merlin panel at the Comic-Con International in San Diego, and the interview is below:

[Julian asks Colin a question] So, do you like playing Merlin?

[Big laughs] No comment!

How are you doing?

Really good, really good! How are you guys doing?

Good, good!

Has it been crazy over the past few days?

It has – it’s been crazy for five days.

Five days?? Oh wow.

[Awesome handler Gary asks if we need an introduction to Colin]

No! [Big laughs]

How are you finding all of Comic Con as it’s so much bigger than Expo and that sort of thing?

It’s unbelievable! We haven’t been in there yet so I haven’t got the chance to run and have a look around.

Yeah, it’s a 2,000 seater.

Yeah [cracks up] you say that – you know everyone’s like “How’s it been?” and I go “I haven’t been in there yet.” And they’re like, “You’ll see.” [laughter] So yeah, it’s really exciting to be here and I can’t believe I’m here really – it’s cool!

Can you talk about what you were last filming? I know you guys are still in the midst of filming right now.

Oh – that seems like a distant memory. [thinks] What did I – what was I filming when I left? We did um…we did on Thursday, we did a lot of stuff with, um, with Richard Wilson, who plays Gaius and there’s a really lovely episode where he really gets a love interest [laughter from all] in this series, which is great! It’s so nice because –

A recurring love interest or a one-time episode interest?

I hope it’s a recurring one because it’s lovely – it’s genuinely nice like it’s something, it’s more of an adult episode that’s coming up, so we were filming a lot of stuff for that just before I left. The time’s really messing me up – I don’t know who I am anymore!

What’s your turnaround like? When did you get here and when do you go home?

Oh um, yeah… [thinks]

Jetlag?

Oh you’re testing me now.

We ask the really tough questions at this table! [laughs]

Yes! Well I leave tonight straight after this and I arrived on Friday at about three o’clock so…we’re here really quickly.

What a long flight – thank you for being here and for your time!

Oh man, I’m so happy to be here – yeah, it’s great.

Can you describe whether you like doing the comedy bits or the dramatic bits better?

Um, I love both – I love the variety, that’s what I love. You get the chance to really sink your teeth into both and one minute you can be doing a flat-out, pure slapstick comedy scene with a goblin that’s not actually there to the next minute be mourning the death of a loved one or to be thrown in the midst of an absolute mind-boggling dilemma which Merlin often is. So, yeah it’s the variety I love that you get a chance to do everything.

Is there particular stuff that you’ve enjoyed the most?

Um, I’ve got a stunt actually, coming up on Tuesday. [laughs] So right back at like eight o’clock on Monday night and then filming at six in the morning the next day. So a nice stunt to kick the day off, which is on wires and I love being on the wires where they pick you up and it’s when you get blasted and they yank it. I love that, I think it’s cool just getting thrown into a big foam wall and looking like you’ve really injured yourself, but you’re fine.

Also from horses, this year in particular, we’ve done all our own, there’s been no stuntpeople for the horsework. So we’ve become a bit more confident on the horses, you know, without sounding big-headed or anything! We’ve got a bit better at it after three years; they trust us now to gallop through forests and things. It’s great.

If they ever did a bodyswap episode, who would you like to play?

Ahh. Um, well… [Other journalist says “ Say Gwen!” Causes big laughs] the possibilities! Do you know what? Probably the Dragon cause that would be cool wouldn’t it?

Are you working at all with John Hurt, one-on-one?

No, not one-on-one this series. I did quite a bit in the last series, um, but because the episodes are still being written while we’re filming and he’s in London and we’re in Wales, the time just doesn’t allow it. So he often records his stuff in a studio in London and then that’s sent through to me. That’s played back for me to act against a green screen. But yeah it’s good to have him, he’s back again for the third series, so it’s brilliant to have someone like that on the show.

Can you talk about any of the guest stars in season three?

Yeah, we’ve got some great ones. Um, we’ve got, the one I was really excited about – do you know Warwick Davis?

Yep, Professor Flitwick!

Exactly! So excited about that! We just did a scene with him like two weeks ago because I’m a big Willow fan, I loved Willow when I was young. And Miriam Margolies also from Harry Potter is in. We’ve got some great guest stars but I’m not gonna — we’ve been told that we can’t say too much about them, but I know those two have already been. I mentioned them in an interview before and [they] were like “Why did you say that?” [laughs] But we’ve got some great people and good stories.

So, in your time off I’ve seen that you keep yourself busy. You’ve done Island and Parked. So anything coming up? Do you plan these things ahead of time for what you want to do?

At the minute, it’s cause we’re still filming right through to October, so at the minute there’s nothing set in stone but there’s a couple of things floating around so hopefully they will happen. I’m a bit of a workaholic; I love being kept busy and anything, again variety where you get to do different things is great so yeah hopefully, hopefully.

Bradley’s talked about how he wants the magic reveal to happen. How he thinks it should have Arthur figuring it out so he looks a little bit more intelligent [laughs]. How would you like it to happen?

How would I like to see it happen? Um, I think it would be interesting if it happened for a reason that Arthur could see justice and sense in. That, I dunno, say they were in the midst of a war or a battle and they were desperately losing and Merlin in the middle of things went “Bwah!” [Exploding hand gesture and sound effects!] Do you know what I mean? And it just, he had no choice but to use something so dramatic in front of everyone and it won it, it won the war. I dunno, it’d be an interesting situation wouldn’t it? I dunno, there’s so much stuff but he’s ready, it’s time isn’t it?

I don’t think you’ll find anyone who disagrees here!

Yeah yeah! We’ll see, we’ll see.

He [Arthur] can conveniently pass out only so many times.

[big laughs] Yea, exactly! Conveniently passing out just as Merlin uses his magic. That’s one of the things the show doesn’t take itself so seriously that that’s an issue. You know, it’s, we as actors and I’m sure the writers aren’t under any illusion that that’s, you know, justifiable in a way. It kind of fits in with the genre of the show and you kinda take it on board or hopefully people do.

But yeah, there’s lots of stuff coming up with it. They’re veering away from that I’ve noticed in the new series. So yeah, you should be happy.

What’s your favorite stuff that you do on the show?

I love doing all the action stuff – running through forests being chased by things and you don’t really have to act at all, you just kinda have to run. But I do love the concentrated stuff where you’re able to, you know, really focus, sit down and concentrate and do something that’s actually is really, dramatically good hopefully or that you can feel like you’re really putting a lot into it.

We care about our characters and care about the show and when you get scenes where you can really delve into parts of a character that, you know, are morally and emotionally interesting, that’s what I love as well.

So this is kind of a big geekfest essentially. What do you geek out over?

Ooh, well I’m a big fan of the fantasy genre myself, you know. And I love, revisiting childhood films and childhood things. I recently just bought the X-Men: Animated TV series – which I loved when I was younger. I saw it and I was like “Aww I have to get that!” [laughs] And I’ve watched them all back-to-back, so that’s one of my recent geek-outs there. So that’s pretty good.

I know over the years as fandom grows, more and more people are making the trip to Pierrefonds to see filming. How is it affecting the filming and yourselves – that the numbers keep getting so big?

Yeah, it’s daunting for us, because we’re not used to it really. But you suddenly find yourself filming a scene – you know, it’s only meant to be you maybe standing in the courtyard and you look to your left and there’s about sixty people standing there and sixty on the other. You go “This is weird…” [laughs]

So it’s weird because you’re supposedly doing your job and filming but it’s not as if people don’t know that. Do you know what I mean? It’s not a hindrance at all because it’s just people wanting to come and observe, see it and support it. And it’s lovely – it’s really nice. But it’s also just showing that it’s just growing and becoming this other thing. People want to come and see what we do. It’s good!

Does it make you feel self-conscious at all?

[Emphatically] Yes. [laughs] Definitely, I’m not good at stuff like that, I’m just like give me a script with words and I’m fine! [laughs]

Have they started implementing where they put screens up so you don’t have to see people watching you?

They’ve done that a couple of times whenever – because I guess everyone’s got their things that they like to do before a scene and sometimes you look really silly doing it. Like sometimes I just run around jumping and look like an idiot before a scene and if somebody’s watching that going “What’s he doing?” You know and you feel a bit silly but sometimes it’s nice when you go off on your own if you want to do that.

So, purely selfish question! I’m from New York and I know you’ve been there before, what is your favorite thing about the City?

Um, walking into Times Square at night for the first time. That was really cool because you see it so much and it’s so iconic and for the first time to walk there. I saved it up! We were there during the day and “No, let’s wait until It’s nighttime.” We went there and that was my highlight.

Last year, we didn’t get very much with Merlin and Gwen. The friendship was built so much over the first season and it just kind of disappeared. Is that something we get more of in season three?

No, it’s something that really fizzled out. Um, I think it was assumed to be, you know, because the character of Guinevere, they’re toying around with it at the minute because I think we know inevitably, she’s going to be queen. Um, it’s how she gets there and that’s the biggest journey. She’s got the hardest journey I think in the show and Angel does it brilliantly. So I guess it’s how long they’re holding that off for and how much they can do with the character of Guinevere.

But they’ve cut off ties with Merlin now really. Um, there’s a couple of adventures coming up on where they help each other out. I think in times of need, she’s actually a really good mate, a really good friend. They get on really well together and I think that’s now their relationship. They’re just great mates.

What’s your favorite genre of music and any favorite bands?

Oh um my favorite band is Death Cab for Cutie – they’re my favorite band of all time. But I’m really listening to a lot of a band called Stars, they’re brilliant, Im loving them. A band called Helio Sequence recently, which are really great. So kinda indie, indie rock is kinda my thing but I listen to loads of different music.

So do you get to go to a lot of concerts?

No! [laughs]

But you’re so close to London, that’s so tough!

I know, the last one I saw was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Brixton Academy in London that was cool. But that was…God when was that? [laughs] I dunno! I mean, I love gigs, that’s my thing – I’m not a club person at all. I’d rather just go to see live music and bands and chill. But yeah, when Merlin takes over, that’s it.

No time for the Reading Festival this year?

No, I’d love to! I don’t even know who the lineup is. Have you been there before?

Yes, twice. It’s fantastic.

That’s good.

And I’ve done the camping!

You have to do the camping – just do the camp and don’t wash for five days. [big laughs] Come on! You can be hardcore.

I think I want to do Glastonbury next year.

Glastonbury would be great; Angel’s done that before. She’s gone with a few people. This year for once the weather was actually good. The first time where people won’t end up looking like creatures from Merlin!

Any actors or actresses that inspire you?

Ah – Sean Penn.

Thank you so much!

Thanks – cheers!


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One comment

  1. Sabrina Stocks /

    I absolutely adore Colin morgan he is both a fantastic actor and absolutely gorgeous!!!!

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