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The first interview with Merlin

Friday, September 5 2008, 06:34 BST

By Neil Wilkes, Editor, Digital Spy

Magyarul / Angolul

There are now just over two weeks to go until your new Saturday night obsession begins. A fresh spin on the classic Arthurian legend, Merlin tells the hitherto uncharted story of the wizard's younger days. The story begins with Merlin's arrival in the city of Camelot, where the tyrannical King Uther has imposed a ban on any use of magic. Tube Talk speaks to the young actor in the titular role, 22-year-old Colin Morgan (recently seen in Doctor Who's 'Midnight'), to find out what happens next.

Why does Merlin come to Camelot?
"His mother sends him there because he doesn't quite fit in with the people in his hometown. I guess his mother feels that going to Camelot will be a bit of a release for him, allow him to be himself and to get guidance from Gaius (Richard Wilson). But it becomes very evident to Merlin quite quickly that he can't be himself. There's a horrific incident that happens that makes it very clear that using magic in Camelot is death."

Is it hard for him to keep his powers under wraps, then?
"He has to learn to guise it. He won't tell anybody about his powers, but he is thrown into these situations where he has to look for ways in which he can help people without others knowing. He doesn't always do it in the right way. We know about the great magician Merlin became, but we don't know about the mistakes he made along the way."

On arrival in Camelot he becomes manservant to the King's son, a young Prince Arthur (Bradley James). How do they get along?
"They get off to a bit of a rough start! It takes a bit of work, but then they're thrown into a situation where they have to work together and learn how to be friends, I guess. As viewers, we know from the beginning that their destinies are intertwined, but very much within [this show] it's about how that happens."

Merlin is also described as quite "impulsive". How so?
"On many an occasion, he will leap into a situation where he will do something which may not be right, but it's his heart and his impulse. He means well! That desire to help people and to want to do the right thing is what often gets him in trouble. And it just so happens that he does it in a magical way."

How familiar are you with the legend?
"I think when we started [filming], I knew as much about the legend as anybody. The basic sword-and-stone story, stuff like that, and of course everyone has this image of Merlin being this old guy with a beard! I've since been reading up quite a lot on Arthurian legend and there's quite a big gap missing in Merlin's life, the time when he was growing up. Why wasn't that documented? This show explores one possibility."

You have a very strong northern Irish accent but Merlin doesn't. Whose decision was that?
"For a while in the early auditions, I was keeping my own accent but I think we wanted to avoid making any statements as to where Merlin was actually from. From what I've read, there's evidence to suggest he was Scottish or he was Welsh. Going for a neutral accent made Merlin quite neutral."

The hype is now starting to build around the show. How does that make you feel?
"You spend six months in this world of Merlin and suddenly it gets to this stage, where other things are starting to happen. I have never experienced anything like this before, but it's exciting and it'll be interesting to see how it all turns out. It's a very exciting time for everyone. I'm just very thankful that I've been given the opportunity to do it."

Merlin begins later this month on BBC One.