‘Merlin’ finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

May 30, 2013 | 12:51 p.m.
rupert staged2 Merlin finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

Rupert Young plays Sir Leon, one of the Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

rupert horse Merlin finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

Rupert Young plays Sir Leon, one of the Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

rupert round table Merlin finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

Rupert Young (standing) plays Sir Leon, one of the Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

leon percival Merlin finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

Rupert Young plays Sir Leon, left, and Tom Hopper plays Sir Percival, Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

merlin and knights Merlin finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

Rupert Young, left, Colin Morgan, Adetomiwa Edun and Bradley James in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

rupert staged Merlin finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

Rupert Young plays Sir Leon, one of the Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

leon Merlin finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

Rupert Young plays Sir Leon, one of the Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

After five seasons of swords, sorcery and dragons, “Merlin” is casting its final spell. The show’s finale, “The Diamond of the Day, Part 2,” airs Friday at 10 p.m. PT, bringing the fantasy adventure series to a close in the U.S.

A modern retelling of the legend of King Arthur, “Merlin” has become a Syfy channel staple, introducing American viewers to boy wizard Merlin (played by Colin Morgan), tasked with protecting his friend and young king, Arthur Pendragon (Bradley James). Katie McGrath plays nemesis Morgana, a witch, and Angel Coulby plays Queen Gwen. The show wrapped up last Christmas in the U.K., where it was massively popular, rivaling “Doctor Who” in ratings.

In “Diamond Part 2,” Morgana’s army battles Merlin, Arthur and his Knights of Camelot. One of Arthur’s longest-serving and most trusted knights is Sir Leon, played by Rupert Young. Hero Complex chatted with Young about the magic of “Merlin,” the show’s ending and what’s next.

HC: You’ve been part of “Merlin” since almost the beginning.

RY: It was four years, I think. Santiago [Cabrera, who plays Lancelot,] joined a bit before me in the first series, but he’s hardly ever in it, so I think ultimately, I’m the longest serving.

HC: Did you have any idea when you came on board how popular the series would become?

RY: I remember watching a bit of the first series. I was working in London, so I couldn’t watch all of it. And then I had an audition, so I tried to watch as many as I could. I knew the fact that it had gone to second series that it was a popular show, but I had no idea it would go as big as this. It’s huge! To be sold to 180 countries, and to be huge worldwide. I was in L.A. in February, and some people were like, “Oh! You were in ‘Merlin!'” Someone from Brazil who’d been in London for a day was like, “Oh, I love ‘Merlin.’” You know, everywhere you go, people know the show. I had no idea that it was going to be like that, and I think the producers and the writers were so clever at making the show get better every year. The first year was quite good, and the second year was definitely better, mostly because I joined [laughs]. And then it just got better and better, and by the fourth series the format changed, and they shot it on a different kind of lens and different camera, and suddenly you could get it on Blu-ray and HD. Everything about it, the effects looked better, the stunts got better. But still, you never think it’s going to be as huge as it is.

HC: Four years is a long time to commit to a show.

RY: It is. It’s a weird thing of when I first joined,  I was quite lucky; I was only meant to be in one scene. So I’d sort of go and do it, and I did a bit, and then I’d leave, and then I’d come back and do a bit more, and then I’d leave. It was a bit sporadic. And then the following year, I did a bit more, and then the following year I became a kind of full-time regular, so I was booked for the whole series the past two years. You get kind of tired in the middle of it because you’re working long days, but it’s just exciting. It’s good tired. You’re sword-fighting, you’re riding horses, you’re living out your childhood fantasy of being a knight and killing baddies, and so the few days you go, “Oh, I can’t bear to go into another fight rehearsal,” you suddenly take stock and go, “Actually, you know what? We’re quite lucky.” So I never got bored really. I got tired, but never got bored. Naturally you want to do other projects, but I was able to do that in the break. And when you’re in a hit show, you want to keep making it. When you’re doing something you know that people love, it makes it a lot easier than when you’re making something that you go, “I hope people like this and watch it.” The pressure’s off a bit.

HC: Is it a physically demanding role?

RY: It is. It can be. The fights got bigger and bigger and more impressive, and you got a little bit exhausted with the fighting. And definitely when you’d be away for a while, and you came back for the beginning of season, you realized how unfit you’d become when you’re not fighting every day. But you know, it was good. I was always having to keep up with Tom [Hopper, who plays Sir Percival], who, you know, is huge and is one of the fittest people you’ve ever met. It was physically exhausting but in a good way. It wasn’t like I had to go and run on the treadmill for an hour. It was fun exercise.

Rupert Young plays Sir Leon, left, and Tom Hopper plays Sir Percival, Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

Rupert Young plays Sir Leon, left, and Tom Hopper plays Sir Percival, Knights of the Round Table in “Merlin.” (BBC / Syfy)

HC: “Merlin” had lots of guest stars, and the group of knights kept growing. When new people came on set, did you show them the ropes?

RY: A little bit…. What I love about the industry and especially “Merlin” is I remember sort of meeting all of them for the first time. And the first time it was Eoin [Macken], he was Sir Gwaine. We were having lunch somewhere, and he was so quiet and hardly said anything, and I was like, “This guy’s a bit weird, and he seems really moody and grumpy.” And then you realize that he was just having a bad day or getting into character or something, and then you get to know him, and he’s so different. And Tom was just so excitable and really had just such an intelligence. Maybe I did show them the ropes a bit, but they were all very good people, and we got to know each other relatively quickly. We all just clicked very well. When the other guys joined was when our Knights of the Round Table really started. So I’d come in and have some storylines, and that would be great, but it was when we became our unit, that’s when we went, “Actually, this is great.” I remember one of the first days we were all together, riding into this castle with chain mail and cloaks and all of that, just looking ’round and going, “This is really cool.” And there was a school party of 8-year-old French children looking up in awe, and we were like, “It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Look at us.” That was when we kind of bonded.

HC: What set Sir Leon apart from the other knights?

RY: I always wanted to be a bit edgier, but one characteristic I always saw was that I was like the chief knight. I always felt that Leon was kind of the annoying guy you’d have at school who did everything by the book. He was like a prefect and would do everything the way a knights’ manual would tell them how to do it and would get gold stars and would be the first to put his hand up to help out wherever, whatever was needed doing, like, “Let me do it, please!” … Gwain and Lancelot were more, “I’m just going to do whatever I want to do and throw caution to the wind!” But Leon was always a stickler for rules, who would probably be really annoyed if he didn’t win Knight of the Year award every year.

Rupert Young (standing) plays Sir Leon, one of the Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)

Rupert Young (standing) plays Sir Leon, one of the Knights of the Round Table in “Merlin.” (BBC / Syfy)

HC: Who is the best monarch for Camelot? Morgana? Arthur? Gwen? Uther?

RY: I have to say I quite like Uther, even though I think story-wise, it probably made more sense that Arthur was doing it. Uther was a bit of a tyrant. Who doesn’t love a tyrant in charge? I think that Gwen probably would be quite a good queen. I think Arthur was very good as well, but I think he was quite battle-happy. But that’s a very hard question. I think Camelot would probably be best run by … I’d say Arthur. That would make everyone happy. In case Bradley reads it, he’d be annoyed if I said Gwen. So let’s go for Arthur.

HC: How did it feel wrapping up the final season?

RY: It was a really weird thing because we had spent a lot of time with each other. That always happens at the end of filming at the end of every [season]. About a month before it ends, everyone is exhausted, because we always get a week off in the middle. And the week off, everyone comes back more exhausted than they did before. So a month before, everyone is feeling ready to finish, and then suddenly you get to a couple of weeks before, and people are like, “This is it. We’re not going to see these people.” Normally you finish, and you have a few months off, and then before you know it, you’re back. And it suddenly kicked in, and it was really sad. But we all went out, and we were such a close group — and not just the actors, but the crew and everyone. It was just brilliant. We celebrated a lot, and they threw a party for us, and we had a wrap party in London. We’ve been so lucky that we’ve all kept in touch. I still see pretty much all of them. It’s a really close family that we’ve got. So it was really sad, but we all knew that it was probably good to end the show on a high, and that we’ve made friends that, whether we like it or not, we will keep as friends for a long time. And France, the end of France was really sad and really exciting, just being in the castle and having a big party there was just incredible. It was a good end. It was a good celebration of what we’ve been through.

HC: What’s next for you?

RY: I did a guest part in a show called “The White Queen,” which is a BBC and Starz co-production, based on a Philippa Gregory novel. I think it’s coming out in London in the summer and coming to Starz in the U.S. in October. And then just trying to decide what I want to do next, not that it’s always down to me, but just looking for the next good job. When you’ve done a big show like “Merlin,” you want to keep up and try and make sure you do good things. What’s been amazing with the fans and the followers we get for “Merlin,” they’re all so interested to see what we’re doing next. So it’s kind of making sure you do things that they would want to watch so they don’t have to sit through rubbish.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark


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12 Responses to ‘Merlin’ finale: Rupert Young talks Camelot, knighthood and more

  1. Victoria says:

    Great interview from Rupert. I love his interpretation of his Sir Leon character.

  2. Diane says:

    So many fans do NOT treasure the ending. Many, many fans all over the world feel let down and wish for a revival of the series. There are global campaigns in place working to bring the show back with thousands of members – most notably on Facebook – Merlin-Join If You Want to Bring Merlin Back. Even reading comments on the Official Merlin Page – I notice the same message every time I check in- hundreds of comments that say -" We Want More Merlin! We didn't like the ending – it was too devastating and devoid of any hope ".
    Please work with us to bring this show back and we ask the producers and writers of this exceptional show to perform one more daring liberty from the traditional story. Please bring Merlin back!

  3. Jeff says:

    Diane, the endings of TV series are often not appreciated by fans simply because they don't want them to end. In the case of "Merlin," while the finale would probably have been best if it had gone on another hour, in the end there is no other way the story could possibly be wrapped up. Arthur is the once and future king, and it is foretold he will return when he is most needed. Merlin's sudden appearance in modern day is a strong indication that Arthur is ready to do exactly that, but it is a tantalizing glimpse into a possible outcome, not a setup for a new series. Personally, I found it the perfect grace note to the melody the series had conveyed. Your pressure to bring back a show that has ended EXACTLY the way it needed to end is laudable, but how could it possibly get anywhere? The series is over. Plain and simple. Maybe you'll learn to love what it IS, instead of urging that some additional effort is needed … which almost never leads to anything that is creatively worthwhile.

  4. Cecilia says:

    i just hooked on the show the last of the 3 seasons and im so sad it ended. I thought Gwen would annouce that maybe or hopefully she was pregnant, but to my dismize didnt hear that. I sure hope they bring it back

  5. Adrina says:

    I myself have become really fond of the show. I will miss watching Merlin on Friday nights, my 11 year old grandson also.
    I enjoyed every single episode and Yes! I too will MISS Merlin the television series that I have becomes attracted too.
    Thanks for such and enjoyable series.

  6. Kathy says:

    I love Merlin and very sad it is done. I was disappointed with the ending. It was too sad and felt like a cliffhanger without ever knowing the ending. Please give us the final chapter. The relationship between Merlin and Arthur was so good how it grew. Would love to see them together again.

  7. Beth Frame says:

    Merlin is (or was) the best thing on tv! I love the way when King Arthur did think he could change thing over night he made the round table noble KNIGHTS and KNIGHTS with HERO DNA. or both. Bradly (Arthur) should know he is as much King Arthur as Mark Hamill is a Jedi Knight!

  8. nick.J says:

    I to was up set of the ending and i really really really wish it would revive the series i was filled with disapoinrment and sadness i thought the ending was a Terrible mistake and should of made it as the true king aurther trilogy should be as it has alll these years.

  9. Slea says:

    I too, Hated ! the series finale. not what I expected at all. It may not be " Creative " but I so wanted Arthur and Qwen to be reunited, Arthur to declare magic lawful and to have merlin at his side as his new court sorcerer. I am an incurable romantic any way

  10. Jes says:

    I am super sad it ended.. Finally something really good to watch and just like that its over! I am so disappointed that Arthur and Merlin didn't get to go on with Merlin's secret out! Plus all the actors were so good!! And good together! I'd rather have so many seasons I am finally sick of it, that way I am not so sad it's over.

  11. Beth says:

    Wonderful interview. I enjoyed the finale. I would have loved to have seen Arthur and Merlin working together after Merlin's secret was revealed, and I was so distraught that Gwaine died, but for the series and for the legend I think the ending was what it needed to be, and that it was very well-done. It ended on a strong, very emotional note, which means it's sure to be remembered for a long time.

  12. Taylor says:

    I understand that this is IT, and I've only just gotten into the series in july and finished it a month later. If anything, a movie would be amazing for when arthur returns. if not, then theres always fanfiction!

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