My interview for the Sunday Express...
MERLIN, the BBC family drama, has suddenly grown up. The fifth series begins next month, so prepare yourself for a spirited action adventure with heaving bosoms together with knights of the round table who appear to have lost their shirts.
King Arthur is there, too, and sweet Merlin (Colin Morgan) even gets a few scenes but mostly you will find your eyes drawn to either the evil Morgana, Queen Gwen, or the muscle-bound knights wielding pickaxes.
Taking charge at home while the knights try to slay Morgana is Angel Coulby’s Queen Gwen. She says: “In between this series and the last there’s been a three-year gap and the ever-present Morgana has reared her head. Gwen is now queen and I guess she’s been building her confidence in that role over the past three years and handles it very well.
“With this character I always felt she would be a good queen because she has that sort of humble quality but she also has a very noble nature. Looking from the outside I would want her to be my queen!”
Arthur is a legend so is it possible to do any research into Guinevere? “Not really,” she says. “I have seen some of the other representations of Guinevere because I enjoy the fantasy genre but I wasn’t looking to be like anyone else.
“I wanted to be my own thing, created through the writing. I wasn’t looking for tips or anything.
“Gwen has always been a bit of a moral compass in the show. She has always done the right thing. I think the character has been quite a good role model in that sense and she has maintained that throughout.”
She plays opposite Bradley James’s King Arthur. “He’s definitely been a bit of a joker but all of the rest of the knights are the same. I wouldn’t particularly pick out Bradley as a prankster.”
Yet she agrees that the series has become darker.
“The audiences have grown up with the show and you need to expand the sophistication a bit, and it’s more interesting in terms of character development to see that we have moved on while dealing with life or death situations. It would be weird to sugar coat it in a way. It’s serious stuff. There are moments of levity though. I’m always really impressed by the way they make that work.”
Her costumes have moved on too. “If I look at series one I had a problem with the way I looked, especially the linen tabard!”
She now has a red velvet gown. “The outfits have picked up and we have learned from mistakes in the past. Each series gets better and better. I did have something to say about how I looked this year. I texted the costume woman to ask if I could have some off-the-shoulder dresses this year. She said, ‘It’s funny you should say that!’ and that’s what has appeared. I love the costumes and I’m very happy with them.”
She reveals that shooting at a chateau in France has its challenges: “It’s all a bit mad with the Merlin tourists. When we first turned up to shoot it there were already four German people there wanting to watch. We don’t know how they knew but they were there.
“Now the chateau’s full of hundreds of people visiting the castle who also want to watch the filming. We can’t stop people coming in so the film runners have to move the crowds around to keep them out of the way. “They all have camera phones so I remember when I first stepped out in that red dress, someone came up to me and said, ‘You’re on Twitter. In that dress!’
“We sign a confidentiality agreement but that doesn’t stop all the people coming to the castle and taking pictures but most of the fans don’t want to spoil it for anybody else. Thankfully!”
Will Merlin run and run? “We never know until we finish what the BBC will want. I guess if people want the show to continue we will keep doing it.
“As an actress you do want some variety. I’ve just done a Stephen Poliakoff drama but with Merlin I wouldn’t want to still be there in season 10!” I’m sure millions of fans around the world would disagree.
Merlin, BBC1, autumn