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'Merlin' Katie McGrath Q&A: 'I've been privileged to be part of this'

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Merlin Season 5 Volume 1 DVD pack shot
Merlin might be drawing to a close, but Digital Spy is continuing to bring you the latest news and interviews right up until - and even after - that final episode airs!

With the first six episodes of Merlin's final series hitting shelves in a Series 5, Volume 1 box set packed with bonus features, we've spoken to Bradley James (Arthur) and the show's co-creator Julian Murphy...

But naturally we couldn't pass up the chance for a chat with the lovely Katie McGrath (Morgana) too! In our interview, Katie opens up about her five years on Merlin, hints at what to expect from the two-part series finale and gives her thoughts on those movie rumours...

How was the decision reached to end Merlin at the end of this fifth series?
"It's funny - we always kind of had the idea that it would be five years. Whenever you talked to Johnny [Capps] and Julian [Murphy], they always said they had a five-year plan... so we all had this sort of notion that it would be [a five-year run].

"We weren't sure that we would get to do the five years - it obviously depended on how popular it would be - but I think we all felt very lucky that we got to go from the first series to the last series and got to tell the story in its entirety, because so often a show doesn't get to do that.

"It doesn't get a chance to wrap up all its storylines - sometimes it goes longer than it should, sometimes it doesn't get to go as far [as it should] - and I think as a cast, we all feel extremely lucky that we got to do the five years, finish off the characters and tell their stories from the first day to the last day.

"It's very rare that you get a chance to do that. We put a proper full stop on the end of the story - and for me, a full stop on Morgana."

So everyone came to the decision to end the show collectively?
"Well, it was kind of always the plan. If you go back and look at whenever Johnny and Julian were asked, we only ever were aware that we were going to do five series. They had planned out the stories for that - the character arcs, everything had been planned for five years - and we were lucky that the BBC let us do that and thought it was important that we tell the story in its entirety, from start to finish, rather than keeping it going.

"There would be a tendency, I think, if we kept on going, to repeat ourselves, and now it's going to hopefully going to finish really strong and answer everyone's questions. It's a real privilege to be able to do that, to be honest. I know it's very rare that it happens."

Merlin S05E10 - 'The Kindness of Strangers': Beroun (BARRY AIRD), Morgana (KATIE McGRATH)

© BBC / Shine



Without revealing too much, what hints can you give about the final episodes?
"You totally want us to give it away! (laughs) I think what's lovely is the last two episodes really answer all the questions that have been posed throughout the past five years. Everything's tied up, every character has an end in some way - from Gwaine (Eoin Macken) to Percival (Tom Hopper) to Morgana to Merlin (Colin Morgan).

"There is an ending where everybody can say, 'Yes - now I understand'. The journey is finished, the characters' arcs have come to an end and, as a viewer, there's something very special about being involved from start to finish with a character and seeing them all the way through. I think the last two episodes are really strong, and they do that."

What was it like reading the final script and filming your final episodes?
"Oh, harrowing and horrible! For the last two weeks, it was the last of everything - it was the last time I'd be in a certain location, it was the last time I'd be doing a scene with Bradley [James]... so every day you were saying goodbye to something.

"Obviously you don't usually film your final scene on the final day and so for my final scene, I was very lucky - Colin came over and did my clapperboard for me. It was a special effects take, so they have to use my final scene - my final take - in the show! I'll always be able to have that."

There was a big shift for Morgana from the third series onwards. As an actress, how did filming the first two series compare to what followed?
"It's not an understatement to say that I owe everything as an actor to Merlin. It was pretty much my first job and I didn't know what I was doing for many years on it. It wasn't until the third and fourth series - the fourth series especially - that I really found my feet with the character, and as an actress.

"I'm glad that I had those few years to be able to do her justice when she became this powerful, confident sorceress woman. Because when she was an unsure, a little bit all-over-the-place princess, I was still quite unsure as an actress.

"By the time we got to her being confident, I was feeling much better about my abilities. I'm really glad I had those two years, because I'm not sure I would've been able to do her justice at the start."

Merlin S04E13: 'The Sword In The Stone - Part 2'

© BBC / Shine/Nick Briggs



So Morgana's journey paralleled your own journey as an actress?
"Yeah, it did. I mean, I owe everything to this job - it has made my life, it has made me the actor that I am today. Any chances I have after this are directly because I had five years on such a great show.

"I mean, it's the type of thing the BBC do better than anyone else - bringing in young, untried actors and showing them what they should be doing by pairing them with... y'know, Richard Wilson and Anthony Head and Charles Dance. To be part of that is a privilege and now I'm feeling very sad that it's over!"

Speaking of newcomers, Merlin introduced Alexander Vlahos this year as the new Mordred. What was it like working alongside him?
"He had such a task ahead of him - Asa [Butterfield] was so beloved and had done it for so many years, but Alex was brilliant. He came in and he knew everything that Asa had done. He'd watched it all and he was really aware of the character before he came into it - he really did study it.

"He managed to take all the bits that Asa had done and completely make it his own. You can absolutely imagine that Asa's Mordred grew up to be Alex's Mordred.

"It was a hard thing for Alex to have to do, because he was coming into a show in its fifth year - everybody had been together and he's the new boy. But he did it so wonderfully and he played it so subtly - it would be so easy to give Mordred away, but I think what Alex has done has been brilliant.

"For me, to be able to have that relationship of Morgana and Mordred as equals, rather than as the maternal thing that it had been before, was really important, because she now sees another person as her equal - her magical equal and also her equal in life. Everybody else she's manipulated and mused, but she can't do that with Mordred, which I think is really interesting."

Merlin: Morgana

© BBC



Morgana's relationship with 'dark Gwen' also played a vital part in this series. Did you enjoy getting to work with Angel Coulby again?
"It was funny, because we realised how much we'd missed [it]. We hadn't had any proper Morgana / Gwen scenes since the second series, so when we started to get these scripts in, we thought, 'Finally, some proper time for us and our characters'.

"In this fifth series, these are the best dramatic scenes that we've ever had, and it's the first time you sort of see the power shift as well. Before, it was very much the lady and her maidservant, and now you begin to see them more as equals. In fact, in those scenes, Gwen kind of took the lead and I was prodding from behind.

"It was really interesting - the change in that dynamic and Morgana plotting from behind. Gwen thought she was doing things her way, but she was really being pushed. It was very clever the way they did that. It was pure Merlin - you knew you were going to get it, but you didn't know in what way."

Merlin S05E06 - 'The Dark Tower': Morgana (KATIE McGRATH)

© BBC / Shine



As part of that storyline, you got to don the old lady make-up - did Colin give you any tips beforehand?
"He did, he was great. I didn't get to see it - I was sat in make-up for four hours and didn't properly see it until fifteen minutes before I had to film it. I was asking Colin what to do and he was saying how subtle face movements don't work, and all of this stuff...

"He was brilliant, but nothing can compare you for that. It is exhausting. It's sort of sensation overload and I had quite a bad allergic reaction to [the make-up] so that didn't help matters!

"But the problem when you're doing something that Colin has already done so wonderfully and brilliantly before you is that you feel you have to live up to it. I've learnt many years ago not to try to live up to Colin Morgan - there's no point, he is on a level that is far beyond the rest of us, so it's better just to have him as your goal and silently plod along behind him!"

Colin also got to explore his own inner old lady later in the series...
"Yes, isn't it amazing how convincing Colin is as a woman?! It's weird, isn't it? (laughs)"

Merlin S05E10 - 'The Kindness of Strangers': Beroun (BARRY AIRD), Morgana (KATIE McGRATH)

© BBC / Shine



Merlin has such a dedicated fanbase. Do you have a final message for the fans?
"I just can't believe how lucky we were to have these people who stuck with us for five years. We were this little show about magic that nobody had heard of down in Wales, and people have taken us to their hearts in a way that I could never have imagined.

"Even in my wildest dreams, I wouldn't have believed five years ago that I'd be sitting here, talking to you, with this amount of people having been so positive. I've never had a bad word said to me about any of it. I don't know what it is about the show that makes people respond like this, but I feel extremely lucky to have been part of it.

"There's this little voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me, 'This is an important time - these five years will be an important part of TV in the future', because it has affected people so much and I am privileged to be a part of it."

There's been talk of Merlin movies once the series ends - would you consider reprising the role of Morgana in a film?
"There's been a lot of talk about it over the past couple of years, and I could never understand what story we could tell better in a two-hour movie that we haven't already told in 65 hours of TV. It's been such a privilege to have that time to grow a character and see her through to the end, and the most wonderful thing that we have been privileged to do is to be able to tell the end of the story.

"That for me has been really important and I don't say it lightly when I say I've been privileged to tell this story from the start to the end. But I can't imagine what story they would tell [in a movie] that we haven't already. If they can come up with a story that I feel like we've missed out in those 65 hours, I'll be like, 'Absolutely - let's do it', but I can't think of what it would be. But to be honest, any chance to spend time again with Bradley, Colin and Angel, I'll probably jump at in a heartbeat - I don't care what it is. Pantomime in Woking, I'll do it!"

Merlin: Series 5, Volume 1 (episodes 1-6) is now available on DVD. Series 5, Volume 2 and the Complete Series 5 DVD/Blu-Ray are released on January 21, 2013 by Fremantle Media Enterprises. Order on www.amazon.co.uk.

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