***WARNING: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD***
One of the more delightful panels that I got to see at Comic-Con was the cast of Merlin. Moderated by Jenna Busch, the panel was fun of delightful people with terrific British accents: Co-creators Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps, as well as Angel Coulby (Gwen), Katie McGrath (Morgana) and Colin Morgan (Merlin). Morgan came out with a video camera and taped the entire panel and the audience for himself.
The entire panel started out by expressing their delight that the show is now filming its’ 5th season. The cast and creators discussed how season 5 will start out 3 years from where season 4 left off and will be darker, with a more adult feel as the characters are all moving into adulthood. There will be more stories that are not entirely Merlin-centric and we will see Arthur stepping up to the plate as king while Merlin becomes a man as well.
Murphy and Capps explained that seasons 4 & 5 were green-lit simultaneously but they don’t have the whole series mapped out – they have some plot points that they plan to hit at certain times but they keep a lot of flexibility. The turnaround time for the show, especially towards the end of the seasons, is very narrow. Often the show isn’t delivered to the BBC until the day before it airs.
Coulby was asked about her experiences at SDCC and about her character. She was thrilled to be at her first Comic-Con and excited that she finally gets to play Gwen as queen, after the whole “Lancelot debacle”. “I was enchanted!”, she insisted, to which Morgan immediately replied, “yeah, that’s what they all say!”. Coulby thought that Gwen’s coronation just felt right. Turns out McGrath also thought the coronation felt right for Morgana, but obviously that didn’t work out. McGrath insisted that Morgana is not necessarily a villian – she’s just a “misunderstood hero”, which garnered her some audience cheers and boos.
Morgana’s character apparently has spent a lot of time between seasons 4 & 5 incarcerated for using magic, and now she’s on a personal crusade for revenge. She blames Arthur for her misfortune. “You thought she was bad before? She’s better!”, McGrath assured us with a huge smile.
Asked about Merlin’s character progression, Morgan talked about how the whole series is a coming of age tale for Merlin and he is now entering adulthood. He crossed over last season when he killed Agravaine.
Capps and Murphy shared that Tony Head, Lindsay Duncan, Janet Montgomery, and a few others (secret!) are coming back to the series. There will be two dragons, and the knights will play a bigger role.
While US fans wait for S5 to premiere on SyFy in the winter, they can play the new Merlin Facebook game. According to Capps, they have always wanted to do a Merlin game but waited until they had the best situation. It was very important to them that the game have good storytelling. The game will grow with fan feedback. McGrath and Coulby both commented that they think their game avatars are better looking than they are (I would find that hard to believe!).
There’s also a new Merlin YouTube channel that just launched. It has trailers, behind the scenes footage, and other special videos for fans.
The creators shared that Bradley James (Arthur) had to stay behind in Wales so that they could continue to film. The audience expressed their sadness that he was left behind, so it was clarified that he had all of his knights for company and “they were practicing their sword play”, according to Morgan. We were then treated to a taped messaged from James that included an entertaining blooper reel.
We then saw James have a tongue-in-cheek interview with Rupert Young about his character, Sir Leon. According to Young, the show was originally called Leon, but then was renamed Merlin, much to his disgust. He talked about how his hair is a metaphor for the character – the wilder it gets, the wilder the character and there was an amusing scene with very pompous Young and a hairdresser who just wasn’t getting how important the hair was to Young and to Leon, followed by some scenes of Young getting into character as Leon.
Back to the panel, we learned that on set they make fun of “Johnny’s biscuits” – apparently Capps eats cake when he gets stressed and the size of the cake is proportional to the stress. He always has cookies on his desk, just in case.
Morgan apparently loves theme parks and was really disappointed that he didn’t have time to hit any of the parks in California during the trip. He told a story about taking Richard Wilson onto Space Mountain at Euro Disney. Wilson was terrified and Morgan thought it was hilarious.
We were then treated to a trailer for season 5 and then they took some audience questions. Asked what magical creature they would want as a pet, Coulby wanted a dragon and McGrath wanted Merlin, which got a lot of laughs from the audience. Merlin’s relationship with the knights was discussed – he will seek Lancelot’s help this season and will lead the knights at some point. Gwen has regained Arthur’s trust which is very important to her. She still doesn’t quite understand what happened with Lancelot, but it won’t happen again. The enchanted bracelet is banished forever, Coulby told us. Mordred will be coming back as a young adult.
There was discussion of Merlin’s love life. Morgan pointed out that Merlin is notoriously lonely in most of the legends and everyone who gets to love Merlin dies. This comment got quite a sad reaction from the audience, to which Morgan suggested that auditions could be held in the audience to find a girlfriend for Merlin, which of course got everyone all riled up.
McGrath felt isolated last season and is glad to be back working more with the main cast. Morgana will interact more with Camelot this season in a “clever way”. She sweetly said that Morgan makes her a better actor because he’s “ridiculously talented”. She likes Morgana’s costumes as they are comfortable and “rustic”. She was so excited to be at SDCC that she told us she was shaking, just answering questions. Murphy was asked by a member of the audience which writer came up with the idea of the white dragon saving Morgana, and he can’t remember, but promised the dragon would return.
Asked about what it was like to be on set, Morgan said that everyone gets along well and there is a great vibe and no off-camera conflict. McGrath added that the blooper reel really shows what it is like to be on set.
Regarding the knights, they are a “big, merry band of really hot men”, per McGrath. Murphy added that they joke that they are the “knights of the occasional table” and told a story about when they used up all the moisturizer on set once, much to the dismay of some of the ladies.
Unfortunately, that was the last question of the panel. So, check out the Facebook game and be ready to watch when season 5 premieres on SyFy in the winter of 2013.