Emilia Fox plays the powerful sorceress Morgause, who proves to be a formidable enemy – but who exactly is the mysterious and beautiful lady, and what is she doing in Camelot?
What is like wearing the armour?
“The armour is very heavy and also I get chainmail itch which develops after about half an hour of wearing it. You just want to have a good scratch with a knitting needle. Also having that helmet on you can’t see anything, I don’t know how knights walked - literally, it’s like always looking through a letter box! And also Bradley [James - Arthur] was saying you should make sure before you start a fight, that you’re not wearing your scabbard, as it gets in the way and you are always tripping over,. Things like that are good to know, otherwise you make a fool of yourself before you’ve even started.”
Is it fun doing an action role?
“It’s great. It’s so nice. Literally we just finished Silent Witness, so it came at a great moment to do something completely different.”
Is that what drew you to take the part?
“Yes. Definitely. I mean as soon as you finish a long series – seven months of playing the same character – it’s just so fulfilling to do something that’s totally opposite as possible. And I’ve always had this fascination and love of the Arthur legend. I think playing this character was so attractive because she’s not just this normal damsel in distress.”
Tell us more about the character
“Well she turns up and you have no idea who she is or what she’s doing there but she issues this challenge to Arthur to fight. When she wins she says to him to come to see her and that she will set him a challenge. He doesn’t know what it is but he has to accept it. She seems familiar to the elders of the court but no one can quite place her. Morgana seems to know her but doesn’t quite know why she knows her. She comes across all tough and challenging with Arthur and then you see this very gentle side with Morgana so you’re wondering what’s going on? And then you find out she’s accomplished with magic, but is she a sorceress with bad intentions? But that’s for us all to find out…”
Is there a chance she could return in future series?
“I’ve no idea… that’s secret! I thought Merlin and I could have a spell off… You know, like a Spelling Bee thing, except you have to stand there and spell out your spells and the one who makes a mistake loses.”
Have you had to learn any old English to do your spells?
“Yes, I’ve got a huge amount of it. It’s taken me back to my sort of Anglo Saxon days at University… Yeah I’ll have to get my head round a few of those once we get back to Cardiff…”
How much physical stuff did you do?
“Sadly, I only had my first sword lesson yesterday so not much, but these guys must have a great time, I mean you really do get to learn. I mean watching Bradley [James] he’s like, well he seems very accomplished and relaxed and doing sword tricks. I’d love to do more of it, and actually, my character is in the series a little more so maybe they’ll train me up a little bit more when I come back. It’s a timing thing. Andreas [the stuntman] will be doing all the dispatching and then it’s just a clever cut so you see me doing the end of the movement so it seems seamless.”
Couldn’t they find a stunt woman to double for you?
“You know what, they’re all busy. We tried to get a stunt woman but Nottingham is being filmed at the moment, and a couple of other films which are demanding all of our stunt women. But it is perfect with Andreas because we are similar slight builds.”
Had you watched Merlin beforehand?
“I didn’t know Merlin at all, I was so involved in the world of pathology. I just got the script and I loved the story and I loved the character, and I though ‘It’s perfect.’ Plus I got to have long blond locks. They are extensions and they are troublesome under a helmet, but I get to do that thing where I go full shampoo advert ‘because I’m worth it…’ moment.”
Do you get to wear nice gowns later on?
“Yeah, I hope so because I wanted her to turn up not looking like just any old knight who had just come off the field. And then I want it to be a complete flip, so that when you see her once she’s lured him into the court, you see this incredibly feminine gentlewoman. And sort of beguiling, so that we’re not sure whether she’s good or bad. And also I wanted her to be blonde, because I think when you first see that image of a knight with all the blond hair coming, and Bradley being blond, you’re not sure quite what their relationship is, whether they’re related. "
How much detail did you know of the legend?
“When I was at university we had to do Morte d’Arthur by Mallory. My god, I remember slogging through volumes of that… The story that you’re brought up on as a kid is very different, much more the Camelot story of the older King and his beautiful wife who falls for Lancelot. So that was my last sort of real study of it, when I was at University I did English But with this sort of combination of Mallory and Anglo Saxon, I feel I’m back.”
Do you like what they’re doing with the legend?
“It depends whose version of the Arthurian legend you are looking at. I mean, there are so many versions of the legend aren’t there? So it’s never going to be true to one is it? I mean, it’s not the Mallory version of the Arthurian legend. For a start, Arthur’s much younger in this version. And that story has been adapted by so many people so there’s absolute freedom to do it on this in whatever way you want to do it, I think, in whatever way will entertain people over however many episodes and series there are. And it’s a tricky thing, isn’t it? You have to keep that relationship going between Guinevere and Arthur and stretch that out over a much longer time however many episodes rather than the short time that you would in a simple story.”
Meanwhile, a BBC press release issued today also confirms that Georgia Moffett (The Bill, Doctor Who "The Doctor’s Daughter") and Joseph Mawle (Red Riding, The Passion) are amongst the nother guest stars in the second half of the season.
Georgia Moffett is Lady Vivian, the spoilt daughter of the overprotective King Olaf (Mark Lewis Jones) - and woe betides any man whose gaze lingers on his pride and joy. But with magic in the mix it appears that Prince Arthur may not be safe from her charms…
Joseph Mawle plays Alvarr, the charismatic but ruthless leader who plans to overthrow Camelot and will use anyone, no matter how noble, to help him achieve his goal.
Actor and comedian Kevin Eldon (Dead Set, Hot Fuzz), David Schofield (Pirates Of The Caribbean) and John Lynch (The Passion, Bleak House) will also appear as guest-stars, and Asa Butterfield (The Boy in Striped Pyjamas) will return as the young Mordred.