At one time or another, most men are faced with trying to measure up to their father’s expectations. That is sometimes easier said than done, especially when others are involved. In BBC’s Merlin, Prince Arthur Pendragon has been trained to fight since birth, and his father, King Uther Pendragon, plans for his son to one day take over as the ruler of Camelot. Much to their surprise, that day comes earlier than expected in the show’s fourth season. With his servant, protector, friend (and magician) Merlin by his side, Arthur must now look after the well-being after every man, woman and child in his kingdom and protect them from those scheming to end his reign by using magic against him.
Since the first episode of Merlin, actor Bradley James has delivered a convincing and thoroughly enjoyable performance as Arthur. Following in the footsteps of his series costar, Colin Morgan (Merlin), James has done a BBC Press Q & A (see below) to talk about his character’s story arc in the show’s fourth season, which has its North American premiere on Friday, January 6th @ 10:00 p.m. EST/PST on America’s Syfy channel, and Saturday, January 7th @ 8:00 p.m. EST/PST on Canada’s SPACE Channel. Beware of spoilers and enjoy!
What has happened to Arthur since we last saw him?
Bradley James: Arthur has to take the responsibility for the kingdom on his shoulders because his father has lost his mind. All eyes in the kingdom are now upon Arthur, looking to him, not to Uther (Anthony Head), who is hiding in the corner of the room, rocking back and forth. Morgana (Katie McGrath) poses an enormous threat to the kingdom Arthur is trying to protect. He has been thrown into the deep end of a very grave situation indeed.
How does Arthur cope with the responsibility?
BJ: It's not always easy for him. He constantly has to learn lessons from his mistakes. But I would say he's the man you would want in a crisis. He always sticks by what he feels is right, which is a very good quality.
Has this changed the relationship between Arthur and Merlin?
BJ: Their friendship has grown, and Merlin comes up with pearls of wisdom more and more often. It's harder for Arthur to turn those into a joke and pretend Merlin is just being stupid. They are now forming a much closer relationship.
How does Arthur deal with Lancelot (SantiagoCabrera), his rival for Gwen's (Angel Coulby) affections?
BJ: Camelot always comes first for Arthur. If his love for Gwen causes friction, it holds back the kingdom. But if being with Gwen works for the kingdom, then he feels it should happen.
This season, the Knights of the Round Table become an integral part of the story. Do you enjoy working with them?
BJ: Absolutely! The Knights have a great camaraderie, which is what the Round Table is all about. They have a passionate dream, which they all want to achieve. The actors each bring a touch of individuality to their characters, and they are a joy to work with. Off-screen, we all get on famously. It's great to be part of that. When I celebrated my birthday, they all came along to my place to celebrate. We made a great day – and night – of it. It's been an absolute pleasure to have them around, and I'm quietly confident that that will translate to the screen.
Another important addition is Agravaine (Nathaniel Parker). Has he brought something extra to Merlin?
BJ: Definitely. Very early on, the audience becomes aware that Agravaine’s allegiance is to Morgana. Naturally, Arthur is completely unaware of this, which creates great dramatic tension. Someone has to play dumb – and as we’ve come to find out in Merlin, it's usually Arthur! But it also adds to the drama of the series that someone so close to Arthur can be the one that digs the knife in and twists it. As far as Arthur is concerned, his mother's brother is someone to be trusted implicitly. But the audience can see the cloaked dagger. Nathaniel Parker is very lively as Agravaine and has a great, dark look.
Based on their reaction to you at Comic-Con, can we assume that fans have come to recognize you for your role as Arthur?
BJ: Yes, I do get stopped quite a bit more now, but people are always very flattering – they love the show and want pictures and autographs. It's lovely when what you do for your work comes across so well!
What do you think is the reason that Merlin, particularly, has been a great success with viewers?
BJ: People relate to the ideals of the Arthurian legends and the myth of the Round Table, especially when it’s told in a way that is so entertaining and accessible. Everyone can identify with the tale, not just the British. On top of that, you have these great characters and this amazing magic and this astonishing period. All that shines through, and people love to get lost in that world.
As noted above, photo copyright of the BBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!