People often ask me what inspired me to become an actor, and the truth is I can’t answer that. For me, it was always more like a natural instinct. Every part, every performance I have ever taken has just been about feeding that desire to act.
I think it is very important to conserve and protect the natural world. I’ve just come back from Costa Rica and they are really big on eco tourism. They have lots of reserves, and they are really into protecting wildlife. I visited a reserve called Cabo Blanco. You walk into the reserve and there are capucine monkeys swinging from the trees and sloths. I am big into nature, and seeing animals in their natural habitats. I love it.
Yoga is phenomenal! It’s brilliant. I like the breathing, and the focus that it brings. But I can be quite energetic if I am doing a play. You will often find me running along the corridors, to let off steam, and being quite bouncy before going on stage.
I enjoy cooking. I think if you are vegetarian, and you can’t have dairy in your diet, like me, you have to be able to cook! You have to learn, big time! And now I am based in London, which I love, I am looking forward to exploring some local farmers markets. I’m very interested in where food comes from. I think supporting farmers, and buying real, good food from farmers markets is really important. I think a lot of the health problems people face now are as a result of what they are eating. And I don’t just mean junk food. I’m talking about eating food where you don’t know where it has come from. I am careful about what I eat, and I also like really good food.
Little did I think that when I visited Madame Tussauds as a kid that I would have the honour of having the same fantastic team making a wax figure of myself. It’s truly amazing and I can’t praise their hard work enough in creating such a brilliant life-like me.
We had classes with Iain Heggie in which he got us to set up an obstacle course in a room. We had benches up on top of pianos and tunnels. We went into pairs and blindfolded one who was then directed and shouted at by their partner, so you had all these people shouting at the top of their voices. It was fun at the time, but looking back it had a weird kind of parallel to how you felt going to drama school; it was disorienting, but it opened everybody up.
My favourite production was the panto. We did Jack and the Beanstalk with a superhero theme. My character was Archie but his superhero alter ego was Marble Archie. It’s such ridiculous fun and unique because no other drama school would do panto. Technically and physically it is one of the most challenging things to do; to compete with an audience who are very much encouraged to shout at you, and to do three shows a day. We loved it. It is so far removed from Brecht and the other darker things that we do. The variety was the great thing.
The big difference I think between TV and stage is definitely the immediate buzz that you get. And that’s not just as an actor, as an audience member you’re getting the chance to have this kind of two-way process where the actors and the audience are experiencing the same thing. With TV you often have to wait months and months down the line to actually get the pay-off. Whereas with theatre it’s a very immediate thing.
Probably my first memory of theatre, the first one I guess that had an impact on me was when I saw my very first panto with my Primary School. I think just going there and experience that for the first time, being so young, it’s something that’s actually stuck with me right up until now. And to think back and to sort of remember that magic and that first little hint of it was brilliant.
I was using my own accent for all the auditions and at the last stage they were like, ‘Well, we want to try you with an English accent’. And I think it was a good decision in the end, because I think it’s quite a bold decision already to do a show about a young Merlin, and a young Arthur, so making Merlin from Northern Ireland as well was probably pushing the boat out a bit far.
I haven’t been back home for a while but after Merlin is finished filming in three weeks time I intend to come over to see my family. The great thing about the people back home is that you’ll never get above yourself. Not when you have people shouting ‘Merlin, tell us your secret’ at you in the street.
I think Merlin is so popular because it mixes humour and charm. The kids like the slapstick, while the darker undercurrents appeal to the adults. There are also a lot of morals in there too about friendship and loyalty.
Mackenzie was brilliant to work with. When we were filming our close-ups, he would throw in a few things that he hadn’t done before, just to get me more annoyed with his character.
We’re delighted to be back, bigger and bolder than before. This series we have some great guest stars and the special effects are pretty amazing too. And yes, there is a love interest for Merlin, which is about time too, but that’s all I can say. I can’t give too much away about it, but there is some romance in line for him.
During filming I was asked to do some pretty outrageous stuff. Last week, for instance, I had to run full pelt into a freezing cold lake to rescue Arthur in the rain.
When he [Merlin] first enters Camelot, Merlin is a loose cannon. He has this natural ability which he is aware of. He has the ability to do magic but he can’t control it, it just happens. He believes he will be quite safe in that environment, that he will able to use his powers in a free way. But when he enters Camelot he sees someone die for using magic so it becomes clear that using his God-given gift is a no go. And that’s a big shock to him. A lot of the story deals with Merlin keeping his power a secret, even as he uses it to deal with situations.
From when I was really young one of the first things I did was to perform and do shows. It was like a natural instinct.
I was turned down but it’s not the end of the world. I’m going to try and make it on stage one day.
When they told me I’d been cast I was ridiculously delighted. I ran around my flat screaming.
I was planning on travelling but all of my friends were auditioning for something so I thought I’d do it for the experience.
I love that entertainment scene. You can do anything in this city. You can’t get bored. I don’t like the crowds though. I get really frustrated with them. But the stupid thing is, everyone in the crowd is frustrated.
Even when I was really young I wanted to perform and do shows. I also had this fascination with magic. I was doing magic tricks when I was three. If I ever saw magic on television I would say: ‘I want that. That’s what I want from Santa Claus’. So the cupboard in my bedroom was full of boxes of magic tricks, cups and balls, cards and foam rabbits, all sorts of stuff.
I think when we started, I knew as much about the legend as anybody. The basic sword-and-stone story, stuff like that, and of course everyone has this image of Merlin being this old guy with a beard! I’ve since been reading up quite a lot on Arthurian legend and there’s quite a big gap missing in Merlin’s life, the time when he was growing up. Why wasn’t that documented? This show explores one possibility.
I’m extremely enthusiastic and Merlin is like that. He gets involved in every challenge and always gives 100 percent.
I also tend to look for the funnier, lighter side of things that Merlin does. At the same time I am serious when I need to be, which is something Merlin also is when he slips into action hero mode.
One of the most important things is to remind yourself of where you are from and be thankful. I don’t for a second take anything for granted. That’s a good way to start your day.
Screen work is more unnerving, because the end result is so far down the line; you’re never quite sure you’ve got it completely right.
I’d like to see what it’s like to be inside the head of Tim Burton. The guy just fascinates me. I’m a fan of most of his films and also his book, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy. He has such an interesting perspective on things.
My dad always says be nice to the people on the way up because you’ll need them on the way down.