I have had the most awesome Ruperlicious day today! Rupert attended MCM Comic Con in London, along with Merlin castmate Alex Vlahos, on the Saturday and Sunday. They seemed to be having a fun time of it, and the fans certainly were, too.
I started off my Sunday with an autograph from Rupert. He was kind enough, as usual, to ask me what was happening with me, so I told him my big news – which is retiring from the day job, and being able to write full time. He was appropriately congratulatory in response!
It’s been far too long (for us fans, anyway!) since we saw him last in Wrexham, but he seems to have enjoyed taking some time out.
He seemed pretty impressed by my Sir Leon t-shirt, which is a Red Scharlach special, and he quizzed me about it at length. So (later in the day) I asked if we could take a ‘reaction shot’ for Red…
After my Rupert autograph, I went to seek one from Warwick Davis. He’s such a great guy with us fans, has the most gorgeous smile, and he’s just been in everything that’s anything – including Merlin, of course!
I had to ask them for a Merlin photo, as there weren’t any on display – but a very nice one was duly forthcoming, and I asked him to sign it with ‘Courage, Strength and Magic’. He is such a sweetheart. ♥
I also bought a copy of his book Size Matters Not, and he signed that for me, too.
Next up was a panel with Alex and Rupert, hosted by a woman who did an excellent job of it. Alas, I don’t think she introduced herself, so I’m not sure of her name. Or if she did, it was while Rupert and Alex were mucking around casting shadows on a back-lit screen, and making us all giggle.
I took notes, though as usual I am sure I didn’t catch everything. One tends to get caught up in the banter, and then entirely lose the thread.
Do you miss Merlin?
- Rupert: “… Yes. It was a fantastic show to be part of.”
Do you still all see each other? You’ve still got the banter.
- Rupert: “No. [indicates Alex] I didn’t even remember his name.”
- Alex: [flatly ironic] “No banter at all.”
- Rupert: “It’s like being at school. We were together for five years, we got to know each other and each other’s families.”
- Rupert said he still has his chain-mail.
And your sword?
- Rupert: “No!”
- Alex: “Eoin stole everything he could on the last day, including his sword, and props from Gaius’s room. He was walking around like this on the train home.”
- They both mimic Eoin walking and sitting with one leg held very stiff and unbending, because he had a sword stuck down his jeans.
Was the sword-fighting the best part?
- Rupert: “Yes. It was brilliant. Very real. Every boy’s dream.”
- Alex: “I only joined the show in the last season. My first rehearsals were at Pierrefonds – with Bradley, who was very good at it – and with not only the crew but 200 fans watching!”
- Alex described getting hurt during the fighting, and his finger swelling up.
- Rupert: [scolding] “I told you, if you put the work in, you don’t get hurt.”
- Alex: [impatiently] “All right, Dad!”
You seem to have a fan-base of all ages.
- Rupert: “Yes, we were just saying, Merlin was the last proper family show.”
- Alex: “Doctor Who is much darker now.”
- Rupert: “People are re-watching it, and remembering their childhood. New audiences are coming to it. And it’s huge world-wide. I was on holiday in Sri Lanka, and a little boy recognised me, and ran out to start a sword fight with me. Merlin is a classic story.”
Alex, you started as a fan of the show.
- Alex: “Yes, but I stopped watching when this character called Sir Leon came on. [seriously, though] It was that Saturday night slot, I used to watch Robin Hood, Doctor Who, and then there was Merlin.
- “I watched the first season – and I never thought I’d be an actor at that time. But I went and studied drama, and then my agent says there’s a call for an older version of Asa Butterfield. My agent looks at me and decides I’m ‘passable’. Huh. Thanks!
- “I was very nervous during the first read-through for that season. For everyone else it was like a family reunion, but I was the new kid. The line ‘Mordred?’ was going to be Arthur’s, and instead Bradley said, ‘Asa?’ So I knew how it would be. Life imitating art, with me getting hazed.
- “But I was a local in Cardiff, so I had all the insider knowledge, and that worked in my favour.”
Which of you is the better knight?
- Alex wordlessly indicates Rupert.
- Rupert: [very seriously] “I am better. Just look at the Top Trumps cards! [laughs at the bad timing] They came out before Alex was even in the show.
- “Leon was the archetypal perfect knight, and the only one – of substance – left alive at the end.”
There was that romantic notion of the perfect knight…
- Rupert: “I was an Adonis. And I had to maintain that. It all started with one line, but my sheer charisma led to more. Who’d have thought then, that I would be huge in Sri Lanka and still doing Comic Cons four years later?”
- [I trust you’re all reading this with Rupert’s deliciously ironic tones!]
- Rupert: [seriously, though] Leon treats people with decency and respect, and we all want more of that in the world. Protecting people and being kind.”
Was he too good to be true? Was he jealous of Arthur?
- Rupert: “It was a pity that there was never the time to develop the knights’ storylines as much as they could have been.
- “He looked up to Arthur. I don’t think he was jealous. He was in awe of him.
- “It would have been an interesting twist if Morgana had turned Leon to the dark side.”
Mordred’s love dying turned him against Camelot.
- Alex: “The show was all about love, and trust. Kara was the tipping point. It was about sorcery vs love.
- “I was jumping for joy (not literally) that Mordred was the one who got to tell Arthur who Emrys was. I wanted to add, ‘How did you not know?'”
Katie has said she tends to be Morgana’d [made to look like Morgana] when doing period drama. Do you find that?
- Alex: “Mordred had three looks, so no. The Druid outfit with the big scarf, the chain-mail, and then the dark chain-mail.
- “It’s Philippe in Versailles that takes all the time – two hours just for his wig. And the heels! I have great calves now. But I really want to do a show in just jeans and a t-shirt. Anything. A horror film.”
- Rupert was also keen on the ‘jeans and a t-shirt’ idea. “It’s not just wearing the chain-mail, but running around while being chased by a horse, and so on. It’s hard work!”
- Alex: “And the thing with the chain-mail was that as soon as you sat down, even on a horse, the chain-mail would sag and give you a beer gut.”
We then moved to questions from the audience, though these were interspersed with questions from the host. I tried to keep track of who asked what, but didn’t manage every time.
Audience member: Do you ship Merthur?
- Alex did a greatly exaggerated “Merthur? Whatever is that?” routine. [seriously, though] “The show was a love story – but not in that way. I’ve got in trouble for commenting on this in the past, though, so I’m going to sit on the fence for this one.”
- Rupert: [very genuinely, bless him] “The beauty of the show and the relationship was that it was very touching, very moving, and they had genuine love for each other. It’s brilliant that people take different things from it. The love and respect between them, the vulnerability of Arthur [with Merlin], and Merlin constantly serving this guy he cares about. … I don’t ship it, but it’s OK that other people do.
- “Some of the fan fic is really full-on, though. Eye-opening!”
Audience member: Do you have any dreams not yet fulfilled? Not professional ones.
- Alex: “How long have you got?”
- Rupert: [firmly and decisively] “Yes.”
- They both wonder for a while how on earth to answer that…
- Alex: “But everyone does, don’t they? Everyone does.”
- Audience member: “I just meant, like, swimming with dolphins, things like that.”
- Both laugh, very relieved.
- Alex: “Oh, I thought you meant proper deep.”
- Audience member: “OK, I’ll ask you again next year.”
Host: Of course, you’ve eternally tainted Christmas…
- Rupert: “I think people knew it was coming. And it was a good ending for Leon! But it had to end dramatically. Some people are still so angry … People care about it.”
- At this point, Rupert genuinely freezes, staring towards the back of the room. “Is that Father Christmas? … Other people can see him, right?”
- It turns out to be a false alarm, but that was seriously weird for a moment!
Host: Have you thought about rebooting the show?
- Alex: “It’s not up to us.”
- Rupert: “We’d jump at the chance, of course, if everyone is available – but it’s not up to the actors. And we wouldn’t want to ruin it.”
Audience member: In the legends, Mordred is the son of Arthur. Alex, did you ever call Bradley ‘Daddy’?
- Alex: “No.” [thinks about it] [laughs drily] “No.”
How much research did you do about the Arthurian legends?
- Alex: “I knew a bit about the legends, but I like to just trust the script. Research can get in the way. You have to go with the show.”
- Rupert: “Leon was a fictitious character anyway. I’ve read bits – but you’re right, it depends on the project, but you can’t introduce things.”
- Alex: “They hire us to act, and we have to trust the writers. They’ve done their work; now we do ours.”
Host: Are there any skills you learned in Merlin that you’ve used since?
- Both: “Horse riding.”
- Alex: “I’d been terrified of horses for years. We have the same horse master for Versailles as for Merlin, and I had the same horse, too – Katie’s white horse.”
- Rupert: “We had the same horse master for The White Queen, too! You get close to the horses, and they remember you. They greet you when you come back again.”
- Alex: “You build a connection.”
Tell us about Bradley as a practical joker.
- Rupert: “It was mostly off the set.”
- Alex tells the story of how Tom Hopper loves Nature Valley health bars, and he had several boxes of them. Bradley broke into his trailer and – he didn’t eat them, but took off all the wrappers, and scattered them about the place. So Tom came in and was “Nooo…” thinking they were all gone.
- Alex: “Colin was the one for bloopers, like with the round glasses. It’s good not to take yourself too seriously.”
- Rupert: “But not while you’re on camera, when you’re wasting everyone’s time. It has to be really funny if you’re going to do that.
- “There was this awful thing where I would remember my lines when I was the one on camera – but when I was doing the lines while someone else was on camera, I’d forget them. And the stupid things that came out of my mouth! It looked like I was setting them up for a fall…”
If Mordred had lived, would he regret killing Arthur?
- Alex: “Probably, yeah. He’d be sitting there all alone, years later – no friends, the Druids would have left him – and he’d realise he’d made a huge mistake.
- “He’d been brainwashed by Morgana to do something he really didn’t want to do. I tried to show that regret with a smile at the end.”
Should Camelot have allowed magic?
- Alex: “For sure. For sure. Fooorrr suuurrre…”
If you could rewrite the ending, what would you change?
- Alex: “Mordred would live.”
- Rupert: “Nothing.”
What would be their future lives?
- Alex: “Mordred would be in a circus, or doing a magic show like Derren Brown.”
- Rupert: “Leon would be running a karaoke bar – or a healthy fast-food cafe called ‘Leon’.”
Audience member: Rupert, did you enjoy doing the Philly ad?
- Rupert: “Enjoy? Yeah. The DoP for that also did The Empire Strikes Back, so there was a lot of talent there. Also, they paid me a lot of money. … Unfortunately the product is no longer available.”
- Host: “You ruined Philadelphia!”
Audience member: Which show would you cross-over with Merlin?
- They both give this a lot of thought. Then Alex says, “Star Wars! Why not go for the best? Imagine Mordred and Chewbacca in a scene! [he does a good Wookie growl] Or Leon walking across a desert with R2-D2 and C-3PO. Or Arthur vs Han Solo.”
- Audience member: “Who’d win?”
- Alex: “Han Solo.”
Rupert’s nephew: Which was your favourite scene to film?
- Rupert: “All the sword-fights, the battles, the scene where the dragon is attacking the castle with fire. It was just amazing, even before they added the CGI dragon!”
- Alex: “My favourite was filming the battle of Camlan. The director, Justin Molotnikov, was filming with two cameras, both taking the same scene but one wide and the other tight in. It allowed him to do all kinds of things in the editing. Just amazing.”
What’s your favourite scene that you were both in together?
- Rupert: “The one where Mordred is riding backwards on the horse.”
Host: What are you each doing next?
- Alex: “I’ve just finished filming the third season of Versailles. I’m doing a feature film with [Merlin director] Declan O’Dwyer in December. Actually, that will be a jeans and t-shirt job! It’s about modern-day gangsters.”
- Rupert: “I’ve just done a little thing with ITV. I’ve had some time off this year, but I’m starting to audition again now.”
Rupert’s other, younger nephew: Who’s your favourite nephew?
- The audience cracks up badly.
- Rupert: “I love them all equally. Until Christmas, when it will depend on what presents you each give me.”
- Nephew: “We’ll give you equal presents!”
The host thanked Rupert and Alex very kindly for their time, and they left to much applause from a loving audience.
I had ‘official’ photos taken with Rupert and with Warwick. Who were both absolutely lovely about it.
And then!!! I had the privilege of interviewing Rupert and asking him lots of questions. He was very kind in response.
It will take me a little while to write that up, as the day after the con Mr B and I were off travelling for the week, but I promise to do it very soon.
In the meantime, thank you for reading this far! I hope you enjoyed the con, either in person or vicariously through this post and others. It’s been a real pleasure. ♥