During these cold, cold Midwest days of winter I can think of only one thing that could keep a Nice Girl warm and fuzzy: a hot knight, of course. How about four of them? It’s probably a good thing that this was a “round table” conversation via phone or I may not have been held responsible for my actions. As it is, they were all safe and sound on the other side of the Big Pond.
Merlin’s Knights, Tom Hopper (Sir Percival), Rupert Young (Sir Leon), Eoin Macken (Sir Gwaine) and Adetomiwa Edun (Sir Elyan), chatted with digital media yesterday about their time on set, working with Colin Morgan and Bradley James and shooting the season 4 opener.
Question: What do you most enjoy about your role?
Tom Hopper: I guess we do quite a lot of physical stuff, which is a lot of fun. We do a lot of fighting and look cool with a sword, which is always a lot of fun.
Adetomiwa Edun: Yes, I absolutely concur. I’m right behind Tom when he says it’s a lot of fun kind of getting stuck in with the action because we’ve got a couple of good ones in mix in this season.
Eoin Macken: I concur.
Rupert Young: What does “concur” mean?
Question: Is there anything in the upcoming episodes that the fans should be looking for that you would like them to see?
Eoin Macken: I think if fans can start the episode where Tom wears anything on his arms, that would be epic.
Question: Did any of you actually watch Merlin before you got cast in Merlin?
Eoin Macken: Yes. I did because Merlin is a wonderful show and I heard about it so often.
Adetomiwa Edun: I also did watch Merlin before. Sorry. I’ve got Eoin Macken here making some extraordinary faces and it’s quite distracting.
Eoin Macken: I just want to know what episodes you watched before you were cast.
Adetomiwa Edun: I watched the whole first three seasons.
Eoin Macken: What happened?
Adetomiwa Edun: You want to go through all of it? Okay. Episode one –
Rupert Young: When you auditioned for the show, you — normally — I had a couple of days so I tried to watch as many as I could. So I also watched — and since being in it, I’ve watched it even more. My mom makes me.
Tom Hopper: We all now watch the show because we’re all narcissistic.
Question: Speaking of auditions, I wanted to find out if maybe you could perhaps tell us a little about your initial audition for Merlin and getting started in your respective roles.
Tom Hopper: Basically, I just did a lot of research which actually came to not a lot of avail to what they actually decided to do with the character in the show. It was slightly different from what they took on it. But yes, basically the audition consists of — and this is the same for the other boys as well — you get your script and you read it through with the director and if you’re right for the part, then they’ll give you the offer.
Rupert Young: When I first auditioned, I was up for two parts. One was the Sir Leon, which I now play. And the other was another part who actually died another night. Luckily, they cast me as Sir Leon. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be employed anymore. And I was only meant to be in a couple of episodes and then they kept calling back. So I’ve kind of developed the character with the writers so it’s been quite exciting.
Eoin Macken: I just sent a video being topless in a bed, and that was my audition. I did consider before Merlin I was going to write them letters just asking to be in the show.
Question: And then as a follow-up — again, for all four of you guys — can you tell us a little bit about some of the acting challenges you found working on the show, and then also maybe how have you seen your characters sort of grow and develop as you’ve been playing them out this season?
Rupert Young: I think — to answer the second part of your question. They managed to get, the kind of relationship we had off-screen and into their characters. So it was quite nice to get that group dynamic which the writers found and also we found off-screen. So that was really fun.
Question: What did you most enjoy about shooting the 2-part season opener?
Rupert Young: First of all, we were — it was a new — we were shooting on 35-mm and everything was bigger and better and so it just — when we were filming, it was us coming back together after being away from each other for a few months and it was the first time the unit of knights were really huge. So it just felt much more exciting and it was just a — there was an excitement even from day one that it becomes to be a specialty.
Eoin Macken: I think what was fascinating about the opener was the fact that because it was a much darker tone than the previous series and because we had this great big quest feel and it was all of us together, as Rupert said, going on an adventure, and with the Dorocha — which had a lot of special effects — it was — we didn’t really know what was going on, which kind of lends to what was happening with the characters. Because you can’t see the Dorocha and we didn’t know what was happening, it kind of — our confusion was real and that was really great.
Adetomiwa Edun: What I was trying to — what I was going to say was that the scale of the first two episodes was massive and we shot in some fantastic locations that were — that sort of really — were really evocative and added to the experience of shooting it, which was a lot of fun.
Question: Was it tough with the special effects? I know there was a lot, especially with the Dorocha. Was it tough filming with those special effects?
Rupert Young: I think what’s quite interesting is when you’re filming them, you don’t actually know what you’re trying to attack. So if somebody tells you attack from all sides while looking in this general direction and hold a flame, and so you do it to nothing. And so it’s not until you actually watch the episode — you go, “Oh wow, that is actually quite scary.”
Eoin Macken: Working with the Dorocha — when you’re acting — acting is about reacting. You need to react off someone doing something to you. The Dorocha don’t really give you anything back, so it was hard to act.
Rupert Young: It’s like working with Eoin.
Question: First question is for Eoin Macken. Being the feisty bad boy, Sir Gwaine seems to have friendships both with Arthur and Merlin and they’re kind of different. So I was wondering how Gwaine would describe his friendships with each of them.
Eoin Macken: I think that the initial friendship with Arthur was actually more of a competitive relationship that became a friendship through respect because initially, Gwaine as a character didn’t have any time for Arthur because he was royalty. And Merlin was more respectful towards him and they became friends much quicker. But I think as it developed this year, I think that Arthur and Gwaine became much stronger friends, as Arthur did with all the knights, and to virtue of they’re fighting battles together so you’re fighting side by side. So Merlin and Gwaine haven’t been as strong friend-wise because Gwaine doesn’t know what actually Merlin does in terms of his magic, so Arthur and Gwaine would fight alongside each other, as alongside Percival and Elyan.
Question: Sir Leon’s been around with Arthur for a long time and, for the most part, he would have seen Merlin as Arthur’s servant. And now, things have kind of changed. Has his picture of Merlin changed. Have they — will they become sort of friends? Will they interact?
Rupert Young: I think that with the relationship with Merlin is that because he’s been around and he’s always at Arthur’s side — as has Leon, in many ways — they have grown to like each other. However, there’s always that status. So I’m always going to be a slightly higher status than Merlin. So we all — I will — I think my character and all the knights — we have a joke with him, we have a laugh with Merlin, but there’s always a line, in the same way — to a point — but not as much — as Arthur and Merlin. They — there’s that respect there, but Merlin always knows his place and we’ve always got to remember that he’ll be our friend, but when he needs to be, he is still a servant.
Question: Can we expect to see more about the knights’ backgrounds or personal lives, and if not, what can we expect to see more of in the fourth season?
Tom Hopper: I think you don’t really get to see that much about our backgrounds because this series very much focuses on the development of Arthur becoming who he’s going to be. And I think it’s more about the knights being there for him on that journey — this series. I think this series is more about us being on the side of Arthur and being there for him.
Adetomiwa Edun: Yes, adding to what Tom was saying, I think you can expect through the evolution of a slightly different Camelot, there are issues raised by Arthur’s relationship with Guinevere and things like that are sort of foreground. And I think you do. You get glimpses of the knights, but you see them primarily as actors in a — or agitators in the formation of this new sort of Camelot.
Question: And for each of you, what was your favorite scene to do?
Eoin Macken: My favorite scene personally was myself and Rupert have a really great scene coming up in I think episode 8 — 7? — where we’re just really interesting. There’s an episode that basically mainly focuses on the knights, so I’m sure the fans will look after that because we’re pretty brilliant in it. And the scene — it was quite interesting because a lot more conflict between the knights in terms of creating a different dynamic to our relationship. So I enjoyed a scene with Rupert which we had in the forest which got quite heated and it was fun.
Adetomiwa Edun: Tom and I did a little bit at the opening of the series which was quite fun, rescuing the children from the Dorocha. That was good. And then following on again from what Eoin said, I think that sort of — if I may call it the knights’ episode — has some really nice stuff — interplay between us all — all four of us, which was a lot of fun to do.
Tom Hopper: Certainly my favorite had to be saving the kids with Adetomiwa in episode 1. That was a lot of fun. And saying again really, I think the knights’ episode — which is, I believe, episode 8 of this series — so I think for all four of us it was a lot of fun to do that though because we all got to get a peek or hint of something that was really on the story line of the episode. So that was a lot of fun.
Rupert Young: Yes. Same. I think the characters developed a little bit in those, as Eoin said, conflicts and that was the most fun to shoot. The rest were not quite as fun.
Question: What kind of feedback do you get from fans about your characters?
Tom Hopper: I think it’s varied really. Three of us are on Twitter and you get kind of mixed feedback, which is some girls and guys that, I guess, have an attraction towards them and then I guess there are some that just want to know every single fact about the show. And I think they know more about the show than we do. But generally, the feedback is good. It seems like we have some very nice, loyal fans. It’s nice.
Adetomiwa Edun: Yes, it’s really nice. It seems that this show has a really supportive family, which is awesome. I think a lot of girls are very jealous of Eoin Macken’s hair. I get a lot of questions about what products he uses — Pantene Pro-V, I believe. And I get asked a lot as well how I feel standing next to Tom’s arms, and I always — as I always tell people, if they’d let me get my arms out, then –
Eoin Macken: What Tomiwa was talking about is not euphemistic. He’s actually being literal. Myself, Rupert and Tom are all on Twitter so we really get interaction with the fans. Adetomiwa doesn’t know how to use Twitter. He’s not very tech-savvy, but we’re trying to teach him. And I think the fans have actually been great. And being on Twitter and so forth allows you to engage with someone, and they’ve all said some — I’ve actually learned an awful lot more about Merlin and the show from them because, as Tom said, they do know everything about it. And when we don’t pay attention to what’s going on, they remind us.
Rupert Young: I think that’s the amazing thing about the fans of the show is it’s all age groups. You do see — there are a lot of children — that the age goes up to 80. It’s a family show and it’s — there are a lot of different people. And so what’s interesting is just seeing that dynamic and seeing people around the world who love the show and know the show.
Eoin Macken: Yes. It’s been — I can say one more thing. It’s been genuinely fascinating because Merlin does have such a wide-reaching fan base. It does hit all demographics and you do get people all over the world, which is great because you get to see how everyone’s got a different subjective take on it from all the different (inaudible) of the world and because we all seem to be connecting with it. It’s great.
Question: Can you talk about working with Bradley James and Colin Morgan?
Unidentified Participant: Are they in this show?
Unidentified Participant: Yes. They’re great. Obviously, there’s — as you can tell, there’s a lot of banter between the boys here and it’s all a lot of fun. So having us all together, working with those two — they (inaudible) what we have joined and it’s been great working with those guys on their journey of making the show and it’s — they’re good people — very good actors.
Eoin Macken: Colin and Bradley — what’s great — what’s actually genuinely great with working on Merlin is the actors on Merlin are all of a really high caliber. They’re bringing some great guest stars and so forth like Nathaniel Parker and different people. But the actors on the show are the main (inaudible) — which is Colin and Bradley and Katie. And Colin and Bradley, in particular, are both brilliant and it is always great working with them. And as people, Colin’s Irish and Irish people are generally great, and Bradley’s British and that’s cool, too. So it’s great working with them.
Rupert Young: I think when you first set up on the show, you can see — Colin Morgan and Bradley — they’re the hardest-working people I’ve met. I know it sounds like we’re sucking up to them, but they generally are brilliant. They’re working flat-out for 8 months, and so they make us all raise our game. So it’s — yes, it’s a great — two great people to work with.
Adetomiwa Edun: I guess our interaction with them is — as a group, it’s slightly different, like Bradley is very much sort of one of the lads and we have a lot of good times with him, and Colin is just like one of the warmest, nicest sort of most generous people you’ll ever meet.
Watch a new episode of Merlin, Aithusa, airing tonight at 10/9c, on Syfy.
(Photos: ©2011 Leigh Kelly/GT/FremantleMedia Enterprises; © Shine Ltd./FremantleMedia Enterprises)