HE’S best known for playing the clean-cut kid of Camelot but Colin Morgan has two roles up his wizard’s sleeve that will shock fans of BBC drama Merlin.
The Northern Irish actor, who stars as the young magician in the fantasy ‘prequel’ series, plays a drug addict and an autistic teen in his first major parts since shooting to fame.
Saturday Plus met the Ulster man on a visit to the eye-popping medieval Pierrefonds Castle in Picardy in France, used to represent Camelot in the series.
Dressed in period costume and sitting outside the banqueting hall, Colin looks every inch the Saturday night hero idolised by millions of kids.
But he admits the gritty, low-budget roles might shock some of his loyal fanbase.
He says: “They’re not the kind of thing fans of Merlin are necessarily going to enjoy. They’re quirky characters, the kind I like to play.”
Colin braved the fiercest winter in recent memory earlier this year, shooting the fort hcoming film Island on Mull.
He shivers as he remembers bone-chilling days on set with Natalie Press and Janet McTeer, a far cry from mild early-summer days filming in northern France.
He says: “It was properly freezing, although I’m told the midgies can make Mull even more difficult at other times of the year. But I really enjoyed it. Island is about a young girl who was abandoned as a baby in London. Her life is really crap – she’s been in and out of foster care and has developed huge resentment for the mother who left her.
“In her mid-20s, she goes off to find her. She ends up staying in her house and discovers she has a brother- me – who is autistic and lives in a fantasy world.
“She befriends him and gets him to help her seek revenge. It’s quite dark and depressing.”
His other film project, Parked, sees him swap talking to dragons in Camelot for chasing the dragon in a parking lot, when he takes on the part of what he calls “a junkie waster “.
He says: “It’s set in Dublin. It’s about an older guy who has come home to Ireland from London after losing his job. He seeks welfare but everything goes wrong and he ends up sitting in a car park in his car when a junkie waster – me – turns up in his car doing exactly the same thing.
“A friendship builds out of it, which changes both their lives. It’s a comedy drama and I’m looking forward to seeing it when it goes to the film festivals later this year and early next.”
Young fans of Merlin might have to wait a few years before they see Colin in these projects but they’ll be eagerly awaiting his return when the fantasy drama, starring Richard Wilson and Anthony Head, returns for a third series.
When we visit the set, actors are being pulled and hauled in all directions and interview time is scarce.
Greenock actor Richard Wilson is too busy concent rating on lines to meet us but shuffles by in sackcloth and a blond wig and nods a hello to the Daily Record.
A giant banquet scene is being filmed and special guest Miriam Margoyles is learning her lines out of shot. The smell of grilled bacon fills the air – all the food in the scene is real – and the cast nibble at grapes between shots.
It might be a visit to a fairytale castle for us but to these guys it’s another day at work – especially so for the hordes of extras who sit around the castle court yard wearing period costume, reading French newspapers and playing with iPhones.
Bradley James, who plays Prince Arthur is twice dragged away from interviews by crew members demanding his presence on set. He has a fighting scene later and is pondering the likelihood of injury from the giant swords.
He says: “You could probably kill someone with one of those swords, even though they are blunted. You’d need to hit someone the right way, though, but the guys are generally on top of the health and safety situations. Touch wood, so far, it’s all been fine.”
Both Bradley and Colin have built up considerable fan bases.
Last year, one Australian fan breached security and went to see Bradley at his hotel room outside Paris. Colin has had several similar attempts made to “cold-call” him but less successfully.
One fan did present him with a meticulously detailed diary of his time on Merlin, though.
Bradley admits he’s wary of such passion from fans.
He says: “I instantly picked up my script and made it look like I was working hard on it when I saw that happening.
“That sort of thing is very flattering but it worries me a little bit.”
Celebrity fans are a different matter. Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolly’s girlfriend Laura Donnelly appeared briefly last year, and the two ‘camps’ have mingled several times.”That was cool,” says Colin. “They’re apparently fans of the show.
“Bizarrely, on our return to Charles De Gaulle airport, Saturday Plus bump into Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody boarding the Glasgow flight. He lights up when we tell him we’ve been on set with Merlin – and Colin’s “showbiz-fan” claim is verified.
In series three, the guys’ on-screen dynamic remains the same , which picks up the story a year on from the end of the last series. Colin promises things will be “shaken up” storyline wise and points to darker plots.
The leading pair have a jocular rivalry, telling tales when the ot her one’s not around.
This year it was Colin’s turn to brag about his superior horse riding skills. Bradley, though, claims it was merely a superior horse.
He says: “I always get horses that are like seven-yearolds on a sugar rush. Colin always gets placid grandads. Half way through a shoot we were riding through a lake and my horse decided to sit down. In the lake. Colin’s been telling that story ever since…”
Read the article at dailyrecord.co.uk.