Spoiler Time: Merlin’s Bradley James Interview
Merlin‘s Bradley James recently spoke to Digital Spy about working on the show and about the show’s final season.
For those of you in the UK, it’s probably all good, but for those of you in America and other countries where the show’s fifth season hasn’t aired, this interview may contain massive spoilers.
You have been warned!
Here’s the interview:
How long have you known that Merlin would be coming to an end this year?
“I’ve known that for quite a while, largely because of my own knowledge that I felt that I didn’t want to go on past series five and I guess the makers of the show have decided that they don’t want to do it with a new cast.
“So I’ve known that I wouldn’t be part of it for quite a while, but have obviously had to lie and… fudge the truth a little about it, for quite some time.”
So it was the cast’s decision not to continue?
“We were asked if we wanted to do a series six, but I’d always had in my mind that we’d kind of gone as far as we could – off the back of the five series – and I’ve always harped on about wanting to leave it on a high. I think that’s what’s been achieved this year.”
What hints can you give us about the two-part series finale?
“I can say nothing, really – obviously you’ll have to watch it! But what I can say is that I’m happy with it. I haven’t seen it, but filming it and reading it and whatnot, I thought, ‘Yeah – this is a good way to end the show’ – that is all I can confirm… I’m happy with it.”
Was it emotional reading that last script and filming those final scenes?
“Well, that would be telling you what happens almost! It was emotional in terms of finishing with the crew, because we’ve had a lot of the same crew for quite a while and we’ve all grown together as a family.
“The fact that all these people who you’ve spent every day with for eight months a year will no longer be that collective again… that was probably the most emotional thing about it.”
Alexander Vlahos came on board for this final series as Mordred – what was it like working with him?
“I think he’s managed to fit in very well – the difficulty I think is that we were quite a tight-knit group, especially with the knights having been around for a couple of years and having spent that time bonding. Alex had to come into that and fit in, which I think he did quite well…
“But at the same time, his character has always got that thing where the audience is not sure what the deal is with Mordred – he’s kind of a character on the outskirts. And I think that applies to Alex and his time on the show also because it’s very difficult to penetrate a close-knit group. But I’ve really liked the stuff he’s done so far – he’s picked up the Mordred story very well and made the most of a great opportunity.”
Gwen and Arthur’s relationship also took an unexpected twist this series when she turned to the dark side. Was it fun playing out that storyline?
“Yeah… but I think they’ve always given Guinevere a get-out-of-jail clause actually. I’m not sure that they couldn’t have gone further with that one. They had a moment last year where Gwen kisses Lancelot [Santiago Cabrera] and then [the writers] went, ‘Right, we’ll put a magical bracelet in to make it alright…’
“That was quite a late addition to the script, because they were afraid of demonising her character. I’ve always felt that they could have gone a bit further with that.”
Would you have preferred Gwen to have genuinely turned this series, rather than it be blamed on magic?
“Yeah, it would’ve been far more interesting, I think. But I guess you can’t really dedicate an entire series to that, and [Gwen genuinely turning] would probably take longer than the three episodes they put aside for that storyline.”
Arthur’s father Uther (Anthony Head) also returned this year. Did you enjoy getting to put a full stop on that relationship?
“Well, I think there was a full stop with Uther in the fourth series and I think it was more… I don’t really want to say addition – it was kind of something all on its own. I think [that relationship] found its resolution and that episode was just something for the audience, to say that Uther was still a tyrant and that, even in death, he’s a bit of a cranky old man!”
Their father/son relationship ended on quite a sour note. Did you expect Arthur and Uther to get a happy ending?
“I think it was more interesting the way it turned out. I think Uther as a character… the danger is always making him a likeable villain. I think it was good to steer away from that. I think it would’ve been too safe to go, ‘Oh, he was evil, but now it’s alright’ – I like the fact that they went away from that.”
You’ve said that you only wanted to make five series of Merlin but there’s talk now of a movie trilogy. Would you reprise Arthur on the big screen or have you definitely played that role for the last time?
“You can never say never – in a situation like that, if someone came along with a script that really excited me, it would be very difficult to say no. But it would have to be for the right reasons.
“We could’ve stayed on and made a series six and made lots of money… but it wouldn’t have been right. I don’t think that’s what you need to be aiming to do in life – you need to be creating good things that entertain people and I’m not sure series six would’ve done that.
“If we were to do a film, that is what it would have to do – it would have to be worth making. So, y’know… we’ll see.”
Merlin has this huge, dedicated fanbase – do you have a final message for the show’s fans now that the series is coming to an end?
“I think I would have to save that until the series finishes. Let’s wait until they’ve seen it before we start giving final messages – we have four episodes left and aside from the generic ‘Thanks for the support… blah-dee-blah’, I’d like to see how the final episodes go down first, before saying my goodbyes.”
Do you not have a solid feeling how the fans will react to the final episodes then?
“Well, I think that’s one of the interesting things about this show – we’ve always provided a different way of telling the stories and I think there’s been surprises in this series which have been good for the show, ’cause it’s kept the audience on its toes.
“I think the last four episodes prove that as well. Far be it from me to give too much insight as to what happens, but the surprises will continue.”
What are your ambitions now that Merlin is over?
“My ambitions are to find a decent Christmas present for my Mom – always a sensationally difficult task every year! And just to have a good period of time up until Christmas and then there’s an abyss of knowledge as to what will happen in my future.
“But I’m looking forward to it. I’m in a great place right now and looking forward to whatever challenges come up next.”