MERLIN’s Colin Morgan and Bradley James Talk Season 3

Merlin

The third season of MERLIN has already aired in the UK, but it’s been a long wait for those of us on this side of the Atlantic. Fortunately, we, too, can head back to Camelot when Syfy begins airing the thirteen episode third season on January 7.

The stakes are raised in the new episodes as Merlin (Colin Morgan) wages more dangerous battles to protect Arthur (Bradley James). Magic is still forbidden by King Uther (Anthony Head) and Morgana (Katie McGrath) returns, making things even more complicated for the young wizard.

Daemon’s TV was there when Colin Morgan and Bradley James teased the upcoming episodes, discussing the evolution of Merlin and Arthur’s relationship, Morgana’s return, and their favorite moments of the season.

On Morgana

When we last saw Morgana, she had vanished from the kingdom, and we pick up a year later with Arthur and Merlin still searching for her per a decree from Uther. According to Bradley, we will quickly learn that this disappearance has done little to change her disposition. “We don’t know what she’s been up to or what she’s been harvesting,” he said. “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.”

Colin sees Morgana as the biggest threat Merlin faces. “Merlin tried to kill her which is the biggest – she’s got the biggest dirt on Merlin that anyone does and she threatens to use that against him,” he explained. “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.”

On Arthur and Uther

Uther has obviously been a huge influence on Arthur so far, both as king and father, but Arthur is finding his own way more and more and we will see big changes in him this season. Bradley noted, “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.”

One big difference between Arthur and Uther is that Arthur sees shades of grey where Uther–and Morgana, and to a certain extent even Merlin–sees black and white. Bradley explained, “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. 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 Arthur has the ability to be able to see both sides of the argument.”

Uther’s hard line against magic is still a problem for Merlin and Arthur because, as Colin explained, “I think as long as there’s any hint of doubt in Merlin’s mind that Arthur might have a similar attitude towards [magic like] his father does, if there’s any sort of hint of then it’s not the right time [for Merlin to tell Arthur he`s a wizard].”

Bradley jumped in to joke, “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.” Ha! While Bradley certainly has a point, I love Anthony Head’s portrayal of Uther much too much to contemplate that yet.

On Arthur and Merlin

The heart of Merlin, of course, is the terrific and complicated relationship between Arthur and Merlin. Colin said, “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.” He sees that friendship deepening in the third season, but noted, “I mean, there’s always that issue there of servant and master. And that will always be there.”

While Bradley agreed with much of Colin’s assessment of Arthur and Merlin’s friendship, he isn’t as sure about the master/servant part. “I think they’ll get to a point where Arthur will no longer see Merlin as a servant, where they will be equals,” he said. “I don’t think that will happen too soon. But I think that’s kind of where the progression of that relationship goes.”

Arthur will continue to trust Merlin more and more as the dangers they face become more lethal. The progress will be slow, something Bradley said is necessary for the show. “That relationship has to be quite steady in its progression anyway because it can’t make any sort of major jumps because I think it’s sort of quite important to the show. So if you suddenly made too much of an adjustment to it I think the audience would kind of find it a little bit weird.”

Even though Merlin must continue to hide his magic in season 3, something Colin said Merlin has become expert at, Bradley hinted we are getting ever closer to the point where Arthur can safely learn the truth. “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.”

On Colin and Bradley’s favorite parts of season 3

More of the recognizable parts of Arthurian legend will be folded into Merlin in the third season, and not surprisingly, some of that became Colin and Bradley’s favorite things to shoot. We will see Merlin aged late in the season, and while Colin wouldn’t divulge why he is aged, he did say it was “a really fun thing to do it was great then to after nearly three years playing Merlin to get a chance to play old Merlin in terms of the one that people are familiar with seeing.”

Even more exciting for Colin, though, was shooting the fifth episode of the season, which delves into the legend of the crystal cave, one of Colin’s favorite Arthurian stories. “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,” He explained. “So that was one of my favorites purely because of the legend of the crystal cave.”

Bradley tried to be more vague when he talked about what interested him the most this season. “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,” he said. “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.”

In describing his favorite moment from season 3, Bradley teased, “It was doing a scene where a certain group of guys sit around a certain piece of furniture and, you know, get together.”

On frustration with the show’s pace

Some fans have expressed frustration with Merlin moving too slowly and Colin thinks that is because we know how certain things end up. “I think being aware of where these characters end up and knowing that Arthur and Gwen become king and queen, that Merlin becomes accepted as Arthur’s advisor and a wizard and that magic is out in the open, I think it can always be possibly a sense of frustration when you want that to happen quickly.” He cautioned that we need to not be in a rush to get from point A to point B, though. “In reality things don’t happen that quickly. It takes time for them to happen. 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 was even more pragmatic, saying “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 in the direction it needed to go because we sort of had two seasons of, what the first two were about. And I think in 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.”

The third season of Merlin premieres on Syfy Friday, January 7 at 10pm eastern/9pm central. You can read all our Merlin coverage here.

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