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Camelots Merlin Has A Major Makeover

Former Torchwood showrunner Chris Chibnall talks about how one of the most pivotal characters in his new US series, Camelot , will be portrayed

Camelot is the new mega-budgeted adaptation of Britain’s greatest legend that’s being made by the US Starz network (home of Spartacus: Blood And Sand and the new series of Torchwood ). Starring Joseph Fiennes, Eva Green and – as the once-and-future king – Jamie Campbell Bower, its showrunner is none other than Torchwood ’s former script overseer Chris Chibnall. SFX has a major interview with him about Camelot in the new issue (#207) but here’s a teaser for you, where he talks about the character of Merlin:

Arthur’s journey begins when he’s dragged out of his family hovel and set on his path to Camelot by his future consigliere, Merlin. “If Joe Fiennes with a shaved head and a warrior-monk attitude storms into your house and says, ‘Come,’ you’re going to go,” says Chibnall.

The archetype for every great wizard from Gandalf to Obi-Wan, it’s Merlin who gets Camelot ’s biggest makeover. Gone is the old goat with the beard and staff, replaced with a slap-headed mischief-maker with a nimble way with the art of manipulation. What he isn’t – yet – is a wizard. “Merlin’s not entirely comfortable with his powers. He has certain visions and powers and doesn’t quite know what to so with them. So it’s a Merlin who’s slightly busking, which he hides with a Donald Rumsfeld attitude, which is ‘You just do as I say’. But magic for Merlin becomes almost like an addiction, in both good ways and bad ways. It’s both joyous and very dangerous. It’s all I’m going to say.”

Is there not the danger of all this magic ruining that authentic Dark Ages vibe? “Oh I think that’s the joy of it! You’re making the world emotionally real for the audience so that it feels contemporary. It should be immediate. But then there should be that exciting moment when you see the magic come. This isn’t Harry Potter magic with wands and spells. This is more elemental and again it comes out of the environment we set the show in.”

Read the full interview in SFX 207, on sale Wednesday 9 March.