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Merlin Interview with Bradley James: For The Love of The King

As a new era ends, so to must another begin. It’s an oft-quoted saying that’s been handed down through generations, translated a dozen times, spoken in verse, story and song, but its meaning is the same: every ending is a beginning. And for fans of the SyFy series Merlin this old adage holds true as the beginning of 2013 brings about the final season of this much loved series. Set in the days of magic and dragons, Merlin tells the story of a young wizard in the time of Camelot and of a fate of mythical proportions.

Starting January 4th, the fifth and final season of Merlin is set to air, and in advance of viewing my personal heartbreak, I had the chance to talk with Bradley James (King Arthur) on the ending of the series. And although five seasons doesn’t seem enough to a heart as hopelessly addicted as my own, James tells us that although the ending of the series was inevitable, fans are sure to be left satisfied. With great guest stars, unexpected villains, and the return of one very bad one, the fifth season promises to be the stuff legends are made of…

But try to tell that to my aching heart that’s in the corner screaming: “Why? For the love of God, Why”

Keshaunta Moton for Poptimal.com: First of all, I love Merlin. And I was absolutely devastated to hear this was the last season.
Bradley James: Well, it had to end sometime and I think we’ll end it on a good note. I think you’ll be happy with how the show ends, so don’t worry too much.

Poptimal.com: Can you expand on that a little and tell us what fans can expect from the final season?
James: I think Merlin has always been a show that has told familiar legends in a surprising way. And I believe that’s what it’s achieved this time around as well. The legends that everyone’s familiar with, and they’re told in so many different ways, will have been suitably changed in our own way that will make it interesting for fans.

Poptimal.com: Last season was season 4, this one takes place three years afterwards. Correct?
James: Yes.

Poptimal.com: Can you tell us what happened in the expanse of that? Where exactly do you guys pick up?
James: We pick up with Camelot in the place that Arthur wants it to be. He’s had four years of being king in total and it isn’t until that is threatened that we come back to Camelot largely due to it not being very interesting if we’d have filmed all the times when everything was happy and nice. So we pick up with Camelot in a fantastic place and under threat.

Poptimal.com: So it starts off great and just gets worse from there.
James: Yes, you could say that. Arthur’s had time to shape Camelot to the way he wants to mold it, it’s all in a good place but Morgana ultimately hasn’t been dealt with and her return is what brings about the troubles.

Poptimal.com: Is Morgana the main villain of the season, or are we going to see some other people try to come in and cut Camelot down?
James: I think that Morgana (Katie McGrath) acts as the main protagonist towards bringing about destruction. But there are other characters who perhaps flirt with being the villain of the piece and I think that’s where the surprises will come for the audience. Not knowing who to expect next to bring about that villainous side.

Poptimal.com: We’ve heard others say that Arthur would be a great king. And like you said, at the beginning of the fifth season he’s had four years to be king. Can you tell us what kind of ruler Arthur is? Is he like his father?
James: Certainly not. I think with Arthur everyone has an awareness of what the legends of King Arthur are: this noble heroic figure who’s been celebrated for many years. That is where Arthur is going towards and he’s pretty close to it at the beginning of series five. There’s still a few things to achieve but everything’s in place. But with the arrival of Morgana that is what, I suppose you could say, will be his biggest test to achieving that status as the legendary king.

Poptimal.com: The relationship between Arthur and Merlin (Colin Morgan) is one of the defining points of the show. It’s never been a proper master/servant kind of thing, what can we expect?
James: Arthur and Merlin, their roles for each other are evolving, they’re becoming certainly more equal and Merlin is becoming more of an adviser than a servant. He’s still officially a servant, but Arthur has put a lot more trust in him over the years as time’s gone by. And I think predominately they both find themselves in such horrendous situations all the time that they know that they can rely on each other. I think that’s quite important for their relationship that no matter what happens they always have the other one to fall back on.

Poptimal.com: That’s great to have.
James: Yeah, I think many people appreciate having that in their own lives, having a relationship like that with someone knowing that that person will always be there for you and Arthur and Merlin both have that.

Poptimal.com: Are you and Colin (Morgan) close off set as well?
James: Yes, we get along very well. I think part of an element that’s rubbed off on screen as well has been the fact that we’ve gotten so well off-screen. We’ve had a lot of fun working together and we spend a lot of our time laughing which has made a very healthy working relationship which is great because we have to spend so much time together because of the show. So, it’s been a lot of fun working on the two characters together.

Poptimal.com: Can you explain Arthur’s progression of a character from the beginning of the series until now? He’s certainly seemed to come into his own, what do you think accounts for the man he is today?
James: What accounts for the man he is today… the experience that he’s been through, the responsibility on his shoulders, the person that he always had inside. It takes time to realize what’s inside of you, to realize who you are and who you will become. Along the way he had the help of Merlin, Guinevere (Angel Colby), his knights and put all that together and Arthur’s found himself being a pretty decent human being.

Poptimal.com: What do you think about Arthur as a character and as a person? Do you guys have anything similar?
James: I’ve learned a lot from him. There will be situations where I find myself, where I will draw from Arthur, how to react in a situation. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years I’ve been playing him. We’ve grown up together; we’ve been through similar things so I’ll take away a lot from what I’ve experienced.

Poptimal.com: King Arthur isn’t a widely known thing and now it’s on TV every week and millions of people love it. So how do you feel about being involved in this project?
James: It’s funny you say he’s not a widely known thing. In Britain the legends of King Arthur are very well known, so for me it’s a huge honor because it’s a character of legend who’s so ingrained in our heritage that to be playing him is a huge honor. At the same time it’s been a learning experience. I think to be able to come away in a year’s time and be able to say I played king Arthur is going to be something I say with a tremendous amount of pride.

Poptimal.com: What has been your favorite episode over the series?
James: I’m really looking forward to seeing the final two episodes of series five. But there was an episode called “A Herald of the New Age” which is in series four and it was where Elyan was possessed by a soaking wet small little child and it was a really good episode. I enjoyed that one.

Poptimal.com: Can you tell us about some of the guest stars coming up?
James: We have Janet Montgomery coming back which is always good fun, she’s a laugh. We have the character of Odin coming in series five which has been long awaited because he’s been talked about quite a bit but hasn’t shown his face since the beginning of series two. Lindsay Duncan comes back. I was pleased that Gary Louis came back. There’s a lot of recurring characters to tie up loose ends to this series.

Those loose ends will start to come together as the final season premieres Friday on SyFy on January 4th. I’ll be tuning in; I’ll probably be crying, but I’ll definitely be watching.

Images courtesy of Fremantle Media.

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