Sadly, all things must draw to an end, and Merlin came to an epic finale. It has to be said, the BBC were brave to take on such an ambitious project, but the team they assembled – writers, actors, stuntmen, cameramen etc – all pulled together to produce a fantastic series. Thankfully, at Showmaster’s Collectormania event in Milton Keynes, Rupert Young (Sir Leon) was attending. Abz being a huge Merlin fan was adamant that whatever happened, we were going to interview Rupert (and that’s the sort of determination you don’t stand in the way of), and the excellent Showmaster’s crew obliged.
As part of our research on Rupert we found a website that said that Rupert Young was brother to Will Young. They were, allegedly, twins. We looked at the photos and our reaction was “nah, can’t be”, but there it was, and the internet is never wrong is it! As a result our first question was wide of the mark but Rupert’s response was a testament to his character. For the record, Rupert Young of Merlin fame is not Will Young’s twin brother, and what could have been a very awkward moment became a huge joke between us all at nobody’s expense. With Rupert’s sense of humour and easy going nature we almost forgot that we were interviewing him, and it became a conversation littered with Rupert pulling faces, laughing, and talking passionately about what he does. After the interview we all agreed that Rupert was another awesome actor who we had chatted to, and also should be in Game of Thrones.
We were slightly confused when doing a bit of research and found a website that mentions your name, Merlin, and the Mood Foundation?
Ah no, that’s not me, that’s Will Young’s brother. You see, that would be really good – the one really good thing that I did, was not me… although, I could have pretended. But then you’d go “oh my god, you’re Will Young’s brother” and I’m not, and then the whole thing would just be, ah sorry. Although, it has happened quite a few times! Sorry, I hope I can answer the rest of the questions (laughs). Some guy did show me a photo of Will Young with his brother Rupert, and he asked me if I could sign it and I was thinking “Can you not see we’re two different people”, it was very weird, anyway. Sorry. Oh wait, I’ll set up a charity for next year.
Tell you what, we’re looking for a couple of ambassadors..
There you go, cool!
I wasn’t in Merlin (laughs). Why am I here? I just won a competition, sorry carry on (laughs). You’re recording this aren’t you, I’m ruining it aren’t I (laughs). You’ll say I’m the worst interview ever! Sorry.
Whilst shooting Merlin, the castle was open to the public. Did that cause any problems for you?
Ah, no, it was quite fun, there were just so many people, and every year it just got more and more. I really enjoyed it. There were times where we had emotional scenes and that could be a bit difficult but no, the only thing I found hard was when there was a big storyline when someone died or something, and you didn’t want the fans to know in advance. While social media is a great thing, you don’t want endings to be ruined because an ending could potentially be spread round very very quickly. So we used to pretend that it was a different person being burnt or something. But no it was great. There are very few shows where fans can come and watch it being made, and it was nice to know how popular the show is. So when you’re there and you see people, and you have a day where you get up really early and it’s cold, you see what it means to people. It’s hard not to be excited by that.
So that was quite motivational?
Yeah motivational, but it’s very rare when you’re filming in a warehouse in Cardiff where no-one knows you’re there and you go “I’m told people like it”, but when you actually see it, and people from all round the world see it, you release that you’re very lucky to be in such a popular show. And it’s a huge thing for people to go there – it’s not easy to find. It’s not like coming to London; there’s a bit less to do in, say, Penarth, even though I love the place.
With it being in that sort of location did you end up having a greater sense of community?
Yeah I think so. Because of the nature of filming you’d arrive at whatever time in the morning, you have makeup, costume and then get driven down to the set to film, and it’s on such a tight schedule. You weren’t always able to talk to everyone. There were a few days on our days off where, if we could, we’d go back to meet people. You want to give fans time of course because, they’re the reason why the show is such a success. There’s no point in being mean to fans.
Of course there is!
Obviously I was (laughs).
I presume the fight scenes were carefully choreographed? Did you have quite a lot of training in sword fighting?
It was choreographed yes, but for me, at my drama school I had learned a lot of stage fighting. But it is very different, even throughout the series of Merlin. We had fight directors so you’d do a lot of different styles. And of course, different people had different ways of teaching you. Some would say hold the sword in one hand and others would say, no, hold it with two hands, so it would change. It was very choreographed because if it’s not it just looks a bit messy. There’s a safety element, but also you just to have it so rigorously tight so that you both know what you’re doing because you want to do it fast and make it look really good. But it’s quite weird to have been trained, all of us, to “fake fight”. If we were ever sent back in time and actually got in a real fight we’d be terrible!
You mentioned about having different styles of fighting. Did you find something you were comfortable with or did you do exactly what you were told?
I think what normally happens is that people would say you get the basic moves. So it’s almost like a dance step. So, it was a case of “Right, aim for the top of the shoulder, then the neck, then it’s the leg, then it’s the head”, and you then find your own style. You do the same moves but like a dance; everyone did the same steps, but in their own different way. And we were very lucky that a lot of the stunt guys who came in who we would fight against would be very good, so we were able to really go for it. I still see a lot of them, and they would give us little tricks to make us look a bit more realistic and individual. You want to make sure that it looks like you do this all the time so it’s believable, because there are times you see people sword fighting or horse riding and you can tell that they don’t actually live it. So you have to make it look effortless. And we all want to try some clever little tricks that make us look better in our head. Then you watch it and you realise “oh god that was a really terrible move” (laughs). So yeah, you bring your own spin on it. For one season we all tried to have a little move that we would do and somehow you’d suddenly see someone else doing your move, and you’d be thinking “Hey, wait, that’s my move! You can’t do that” (laughs). I copyrighted that! It’s great learning different things though, different skills. Some fights you’d have ten minutes to practice and others you’d have three days, so you always had to be ready. The silliest one was fighting a skeleton – you fought someone, then the skeleton was taken away and you were then fighting nothing. You’re thinking “Is this actually real or is it going to look really stupid?”
With the Skeleton scene you just mentioned, when everything is combined and you see the completed finished article, does it come as a bit of a surprise or does it meet your expectations of what you thought it might look like?
It’s a bit of both really. I think, in the beginning probably less so. My first episode was a jousting episode where the stunt guys were falling off the back of the horse, and then we would take our hat off. So seeing that is really exciting. There would be times, like in series four, that we would be running along and you’d see this massive flying Dorocha I think it was, and obviously there would be nothing there, and we’d be acting as though it was really scary, but it absolutely wasn’t. But then you’d watch it and go “oh wow, that actually really is scary”. There’s a lot of stuff, green screen etc, so it’s all very exciting to see everybody’s hard work come together. I actually don’t like watching myself normally, but with Merlin it’s fine because there were so many effects and so many people coming together to make it exciting.
We would like to thank Rupert for taking time out to answer our questions, his fans who waited patiently behind us whilst we were doing our interview, and the Showmaster’s Crew for making it all possible.