Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
4

Cult Interview

Alexander Vlahos 'Merlin' Q&A: 'Mordred might not be the villain'

By
Merlin Season 5, Episode 1 - 'Merlin's Bane - Part 1'. Merlin (Colin Morgan)

© BBC / Shine

Last Saturday's Merlin series five premiere ended on a shocking cliffhanger as the man who had taken Merlin (Colin Morgan) and Arthur (Bradley James) was revealed as the druid boy Mordred - only now he's a grown man... and quite possibly Arthur's doom!

Ahead of the concluding part of 'Arthur's Bane', Digital Spy caught up with Alexander Vlahos, the Welsh actor who plays the adult Mordred, to find out how he landed the role, how much inspiration he took from his predecessor Asa Butterfield and whether or not his character spells trouble for Camelot...

We've just seen you make your debut as Mordred - what hints can you give us about what he gets up to?
"Obviously now the big reveal has happened - I think everyone knew that Mordred was coming back and I hope that in the end everyone liked the big cliff-hanger. From now on, it really does centre around Mordred's mission, because he has been searching for Morgana (Katie McGrath) - he hasn't found her yet so he's been working at getting towards her and then happened to stumble upon Arthur and Merlin at the end of episode one.

"Merlin and Arthur are being held captive and Mordred is with the Scottish bandit Ragnor (Stephen McCole) taking them as slaves to Morgana! So that's the crux of the opening part of episode two, it centres around a snowy landscape, because we head back to Ismere... but obviously it doesn't all go quite as planned. Nothing's ever really that simple, otherwise the series would end after episode two!

"But Mordred finally gets around to completing his goal. He finally gets to see Morgana and the last time he saw her was back in series two - eight years in story mode, if you're counting it like that."

Are you excited for viewers to see more of Mordred this week?
"Yeah, I'm more excited about episode two because I'm in it more! It's really weird - episode one was more about that premonition [with Mordred] really and the cliff-hanger - the reaction to that was really positive, so I'm really looking forward to episode two.

"I will tell you there is some amazing scenery and some amazing scenes; me and Colin have about three scenes on our own where we talk about Emrys and all that magical stuff really comes out. Hopefully it'll be good to watch."

Merlin Season 5, Episode 1 - 'Merlin's Bane - Part 1'. Mordred (Alex Vlahos)

© BBC / Shine



How did you first get involved with Merlin, and how aware were you of the show before you joined the cast?
"Obviously I was aware of it, you know, it's a very successful TV show. I think I watched half of the first ever episode when it first aired but then filtered out - it wasn't down to the show, I think it was just down to my lack of being willing to stay in on a Saturday night!

"I think I saw the cliff-hanger of series three - the last two episodes with Emilia Fox (Morgause) and Tom Ellis (Cenred) - and then I watched all of series four. By that point, I think Merlin understood what it was doing. I haven't seen series two, but a lot of people talk about it not really understanding its genre, or not understanding its timeslot and its placement.

"When I saw the end of series three, I was quite surprised by how different it looked because I always remember series one as being quite colourful - everything was in the daylight and in the castle, it was all quite bright and there was never really any dark stories. When I tuned in at the end of series three, it had shifted massively and I was quite impressed by it.

"Then the phone call came from my agent saying, 'They want to see you for Mordred' - I remember doing the audition and while I was standing there, they looked at me staring at my hair going, 'What are we going to do about this?' At that point, I had a buzz cut and I was so concerned that I was going to lose the job over my hair!

"But then I had costume calls and make-up calls... it was a bit of a whirlwind, so I didn't have time to stop and think, which was probably a good thing. I didn't have any sort of breathing time. Then I was sort of meeting everyone... I was sat next to Colin and next to Richard Wilson thinking, 'This is a bit mental'... so that's basically how it all came about!"

Merlin Season 5, Episode 1 - 'Merlin's Bane - Part 1'. Colin Morgan

© BBC / Shine



What happened with the hair? Did you grow it out or did you wear a wig?
"In episode two, I'm wearing a headscarf - then I had a couple of weeks off and at that point my hair started growing. By the time it gets to episode four, five and six, it was all my real hair. So scheduling was carefully planned around my lack of hair, which was very nice of them!

"You can't really tell at all and we shoot things out of order - like that cliffhanger [to episode one] we shot three months after we started filming because they were waiting for the hair to grow back and for me to look like Mordred. We were about halfway through filming episode 5 and at that point and we went back and did the cliffhanger.

"That's actually a bit better from an acting point of view, because by that point we had filmed about a third of the series and I sort of understood who Mordred was at that point. I think they had done that with Matt Smith - they filmed 'The Eleventh Hour', his opening episode for Doctor Who, like halfway through the schedule."

When you were deciding what kind of Mordred you wanted to be, how much did you take into account Asa Butterfield's previous portrayal?
"Oh God, loads. So much... too much really - I put a lot of pressure on myself. The thing I want to put across that it wasn't pressure from [producers] Johnny Capps or Julian Murphy or from any of the people that have directed the series - the pressure never really come from upstairs, it came from myself.

"I watched a lot of Asa's work - I watched all the videos on YouTube that I could find of him playing Mordred. I just looked at it in a way that you would with any other job that you were taking over. For example, in the theatre, if you're understudying someone, you have to be a carbon copy - obviously you're a different actor, but you have to match some of the same qualities of that person, so the other actors don't get put off. I think that's a good analogy - that I was understudying Asa."

Merlin Season 5, Episode 1 - 'Merlin's Bane - Part 1'.

© BBC / Shine



Mordred is the show's villain, but do you have to sympathise with him as an actor?
"Of course, you have to. I sort of question calling him a villain - it's like with Morgana; is she really a villain or is she just fighting for something she really wants? It's hard because people tell you [that] you are playing the villain, like 'Oh, you're Mordred, you're the new bad guy', but I'm playing this series as I would any other character, whether they be bad or good.

"It's really important to believe in what your character wants, so I had to really believe in what Mordred wants - he wants what Morgana wants, but they're just on a different level. She's been brutally killing people for years because she wants the throne that's rightfully hers and she wants to live in freedom of magic. I think Mordred wants to live in the freedom of magic, of course he does, it's just the way he goes about it that's a little different."

Merlin Season 5, Episode 1 - 'Merlin's Bane - Part 1'. Morgana (Katie McGarth)

© BBC / Shine



Have you had much interaction yet with Merlin fans? I know you're on Twitter and they're quite a dedicated fanbase...
"They are quite dedicated fans, you're right. As an actor, if you put yourself on a social media site like Twitter, you have to take the bad with the good. You're signing up to an account that lets people from every walk of life contact you directly. Whether you read it or not is a different question, but they know it goes direct to your phone. You have to leave yourself open to criticism as well as the positives.

"I got quite a lot of criticisms initially [when I was cast] because people didn't know who I was... and quite right too. I was very nervous with episode one coming out, and when it happened I was very relieved - I had this great enormous pressure lifted off my shoulders because of the reaction I got immediately afterwards.

"I think what's great about something like Twitter is that people can tell you immediately what they think. I think the reaction was 100% good and that made me go, 'Okay, at least I know I'm on the right track'.

"We've got two weeks left of filming series five of Merlin and it's good to know that they like what I'm doing - it's like having a metaphorical pat on the back from an imaginary source - the Twitterati, the Merlinians as I call them! When the episode went out on Saturday, it was just a good reaction. I'm blessed because the fans are very [die-hard] - if you messed up, you would know. I think if they didn't like you, they would have told you!

"You know, it's crazy because in episode one, I had a minute-and-a half of screen time in a 45-minute episode, so it's crazy that episode two is coming out and I'm pretty much in all of it. But hopefully the reaction will stay the same.

"I am genuinely enthusiastic about it all and I think it's because I'm new and it's all exciting to me. I'm really happy and grateful that I have been given this opportunity to play a character that is important to this series, as well as the legend."

Merlin continues this Saturday (October 13) at 8.25pm on BBC One.

You May Like

Comments

Loading...