Everyone knows the story of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and the wizard Merlin. But do you know how it all started? The BBC series Merlin is in its second season, and the ratings are on the rise. It premiered on NBC last year and this year moved to the SyFy Channel. It's the origin story of Prince Arthur, (Bradley James) servant and secret wizard Merlin, (Colin Morgan) Morgana (Katie McGrath) the King's ward and budding sorceress and lady-in-waiting and future queen, Gwen (Angel Coulby.)
We recently got a chance to chat with Angel Coulby, who is currently filming Season 3 about the show, about her character and working with Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Head. She told us that her favorite Arthur stories include the miniseries Merlin with Sam Neill and Disney's The Sword in the Stone, and gave us her opinion on the new Doctor Who (Coulby appeared in the episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace”). Merlin airs Fridays at 10/9c on SyFy.
Newsarama: I know you guys are filming Season 3 right now. We're not quite caught up to you here, and I know you may not be able to say much, but are there any stories that King Arthur buffs will recognize in the new season?
Angel Coulby: I can't give too much away. [laughs] Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera) may be back and I'm not even 100% sure about that myself, but he may be back. There have been whispers of that. There will be more stuff, in terms of my character, there will be more stuff with Arthur and Guinevere's relationship. It will be tested and what will happen with their feelings for each other and that kind of stuff. And there is another story, which I don't know if it even is a real story...in terms of the story of King Arthur, but a member of Gwen's family turns up and that is interesting. And there is all that kind of stuff with Morgana as well which really begins to develop as well...Arthur's relationship with his father is really, really tested and he finds out about his mother, which is disturbing information for him.
Nrama: Guinevere has traditionally been vilified. But in this version, she's a good person and concerned about morals...but then there is her thing for Lancelot. Did you go back and do research or go with the script?
Coulby: I mainly go with the script and what they're giving me....there are so many different versions of Guinevere. In some stories she's a real cow and kind of evil. And in other stories she's very kindly, but like you say, she is sort of vilified and actually, when you look at the story, she's responsible for the downfall of Arthur. But actually there is a little more to it than that. [laughs] It's actually some of his actions that are responsible for that. He's kind of responsible for his own downfall. After she leaves him for Lancelot, he tries to get her back...when he tries to execute her, that's it. You know, when you try to execute someone, that's it! [laughs] I think it's much more interesting to have her as a really good person who has a dichotomy of which one she loves the most and why she loves each one. It's kind of a genuine struggle for her, I think.
Nrama: I've heard from a number of people who work with Anthony Head (King Uther) that he's a bit of a goofball on set. Is that true?
Coulby: He so is! That really sums him up! [laughs] He's brilliant. He's so different from Uther, you would not believe! He's very silly...he's always very professional when he's actually doing a scene, but yeah, I get on really well with Anthony. We have a real laugh together. I'm really glad he's part of the show.
Nrama: Do you guys ever tease him about Buffy?
Coulby: [laughs] No. I think we're all really quite impressed that he was in Buffy.
Nrama: I know you were on an episode of Doctor Who and I must hear your opinion of the new Doctor, Matt Smith.
Coulby: Do you know, I've only seen the first one? And I thought it was really good. I was really impressed. I actually saw Matt Smith...I've seen him in a lot of things, but a long, long time ago, I saw him in a play in Manchester. He had quite a small part but he really, really stood out. And I kind of thought he'd be a bit of a star...and now he's Doctor Who, which is amazing and brilliant. And I think his assistant (Karen Gillan) is brilliant as well. There is a really good sort of new dynamic that they have going on. Really successful
Nrama: Back to your own work, Merlin the show has gotten darker from Season 1 to Season 2. Is that trend going to continue?
Coulby: Well, I hope so. [laughs] I really like the darker side of it, and I think it's a lot more interesting to show those two sides, the darker and the lighter side within one episode...I think it does get darker.
Nrama: Fans of the show over here tend to be fans of sci-fi and fantasy. Are you into any of that stuff?
Coulby: Yeah. I haven't had a chance to watch that much TV recently so I don't really know what's going on in that sense, but...I watched Avatar recently and I loved it. I've always been a big fan of just anything fantastical, and otherworldly. I love all the old Star Wars films. I can watch them again and again. Anything in the fantasy/sci-fi genre I'm totally into.
Nrama: Would you like to do more stunts? I know you do some of your own. Do you think at any point Guinevere would pick up a sword and start whacking people?
Coulby: Well, I've always said, she's a blacksmith's daughter, and he made swords. He probably would have taught her a bit of swordplay. So I think she'd be quite good with a sword. The producers haven't necessarily taken that on board yet. [laughs] But I really enjoy it. I love doing sword fighting stuff.
Nrama: Considering this is an origin story, I'm wondering how far you can go. For instance, Gwen and Arthur really can't be together unless Uther is no longer there.
Coulby: Yeah. We're not entirely sure as a cast. We don't know exactly where they're going to take the story. Quite often they'll sit you down at the beginning of the season and say, 'This is what your character arc is and this is what's going to happen.' And then you get the script and you're like, it's completely different from what they said. [laughs] They've obviously changed their minds. We don't know where we're going to end up. I always imagine that once Arthur and Guinevere get together, we'll be coming towards the end of our story. But I don't know exactly what they're planning for it.
Nrama: Is there anything you can tease for the end of Season 2?
Coulby: Well, I can say...there is more of Morgause. She comes back and causes problems. There's a big battle and...I don't want to tell you to much because it will give it away. [laughs] But there is an interesting thing that happens between Merlin and the dragon.