Rupert Young (Syfy)Link
Rupert Young (standing) plays Sir Leon, one of the Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)Link
Rupert Young plays Sir Leon, left, and Tom Hopper plays Sir Percival, Knights of the Round Table in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)Link
Rupert Young, left, Colin Morgan, Adetomiwa Edun and Bradley James in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)Link
Alexander Vlahos as Mordred, left, and Katie McGrath as Morgana in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)Link
Colin Morgan in a scene from the "Merlin" series finale. (BBC / Syfy)Link
Katie McGrath as Morgana in "Merlin." (BBC / Syfy)Link
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.
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.
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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