Merlin: From nerve-wracking audition to series finale

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As the fourth series of Merlin draws to a close I find it hard to believe it's almost three years since I auditioned for the part of Sir Leon.

I had 24 hours' notice and I'd missed the first series as I was working when it came out. So I bought the DVD and watched as many episodes as I could in the hours leading up to the casting.

I instantly loved the show and really wanted to be a part of it which made the audition even more nerve wracking - partly because I might get to fulfil my childhood dream of being a knight!

Rupert as Sir Leon and Nathaniel Parker as Agravaine

Sir Leon started off as a very small role. I was only meant to be in one scene jousting Arthur, but at the read-through I was given a couple more lines. I arrived on the first day of filming series two, having learned my line for that day - "The King commands your presence immediately" - and when it came to my first take I fluffed it.

I managed to get it right the next take, despite my heart pounding and all colour draining from my face. There was no way I thought that two years later I would still be in the show.

I feel immensely lucky and grateful to the producers for making Sir Leon such an integral part of Camelot. I used to say Sir Leon was the Gunther of Camelot. Gunther worked at the coffee shop in Friends and would pop up sporadically in episodes like I did in series two and three. After series four I think I may have finally surpassed Gunther!

I'd describe Leon now as the rock of Arthur's Round Table of Knights, a real A* pupil of the Camelot School, a prefect - he does everything well and to the book.

He's diced with death on a number of occasions but he always manages to bounce back unscathed! I should probably thank the druids for letting him drink from the cup of life.

Leon's been wounded in many a battle, incinerated by the Great Dragon and has still managed to return to Camelot without so much as a scar. Thank goodness he's such an incredible fighter and that he has sleeves on his chain mail - if he was dressed like Percival he might not have been so lucky!

People always ask whether the chain mail we wear is heavy. It's lighter than it would have been hundreds of years ago, but it gets weighty by the end of the day.

Elyan (Adetomiwa Edun), Sir Leon (Rupert Young), Sir Percival (Tom Hopper), Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera) and Gwaine (Eoin Maken).

The most annoying thing is that it gets filthy so when you take it off, your neck is grey, as are your hands. I have so many books I've read on set which have grey hand marks all over them!

Chain mail also conducts heat and cold, so if it's a boiling day you roast and if it's freezing you freeze too - but we are Knights, after all, so I think we can live with it.

My favourite scenes to film are the big fight sequences.

Every move is carefully rehearsed and I trained in stage combat at drama school so I'm quick at picking up the routines. The stunt coordinators are fantastic, it's their expertise that makes us look so great on screen.

I remember filming the battle with the skeletons last year and having to learn a fight with the stunt coordinator. We were tussling together and then he stepped out and they filmed me fighting nobody, but pretending there was someone there.

I felt very stupid doing the moves and making all these battle cries against the thin air. I was convinced it was all a wind up to make me look silly but of course when the Bafta-winning special effects team put their magic to it I was fighting a skeleton and it looked incredible.

This Christmas I'll be celebrating with my family and, of course, will be tuning in to see the Merlin grand finale on Christmas Eve.

It is so exciting to be concluding the series the night before Christmas. My favourite episode to watch so far this series has been Lancelot du Lac as it was so exciting and dramatic but I have a feeling episode 13 is going to go out with a bang... I can't wait!

Rupert Young plays Sir Leon in Merlin.

Merlin continues on BBC One and BBC One HD on Saturday, 17 December at 8.05pm. It is repeated on CBBC, BBC Three and BBC HD. For all programme times, please see the upcoming episodes page.

The final episode is on BBC One and BBC One HD on Saturday, 24 December at 8pm.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by Beata

    on 5 Feb 2012 20:22

    Me and my daughter love to watch Merlin together and we really enjoyed the final episode. My daughter is too young to leave a comment but she said " I love to watch merlin its fantastic and i've been watching it since the first episode.I loved the final episode but I just need to ask : Will there be a series 5 ? "

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by Angel

    on 31 Dec 2011 04:00

    My son first heard of Merlin the first of 2010, He told us about it and we set as a family and watched every episode. Its getting very popular in the US we have all our friends watching it and they are passing the show to their friends. We are so into this show I think we will honestly cry if ends. Please keep up the show I feel this could really be a long long running show. I just want to let you know how much we enjoy this show and to beg you to make many more years of it. Thank you for the work and the actors in the show as it really takes me back in time and seems it drags you into the show and you become part of it. Wonderful job please keep it coming Thank you Angel:)

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by kattale

    on 22 Dec 2011 19:15

    I have always thought that Sir Leon was akin to Jonathan on Buffy - he pops up here and there when the writers need a speaking part, and before you know it, he's a central character. Just like with Jonathan, it's been delightful fun to go back through the seasons looking for Leon's presence in a scene.

    Thanks so much for all that you put into this role, Rupert. You add something very special to an already fantastic show. It means so much more now to know how much you wanted this role, and how much of yourself and your boyhood dreams you put into the part.

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by godannotook

    on 21 Dec 2011 18:04

    Ahh Yes Sir Leon is considerable awesome, not only is he indeed Faithfulness personified he is immortal - as in unscathed by Dragon fire to say the least. He can also out run galloping horses - re-watch last year's series 3 finale and you'll see him do just that.

    This year Chrismas Eve is going to be more important than Christmas Day as it's Merlin Finale Day

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by Vicky

    on 21 Dec 2011 13:59

    I love watching Merlin and not just for the eye candy! ;-) i have watched it from the very start! i think all the characters are brilliantly cast and love the humorous banter between Arthur and Merlin. Keep up the good work guys! can't wait for the season finale!

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by Margaret

    on 21 Dec 2011 07:33

    Please, Please BBC can you let me know if there is going to ve another serues if MERLIN. It is someth8ng that is enjoyable and with it being fantasy takes your mind of very hum drum things. Surely this is not the end.

    Tilly

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by ArchAngel02

    on 21 Dec 2011 02:19

    Loved the series from the word go.

    Very good use of CGIs.

    Great to have John Hurt doing the voice of the dragon.



    I think next series should be in 3D - 3D as done by James Cameron for Avatar.


    Given how good Avatar was in 3D Merlin would be brilliant too - especially the dragon.

    Of course the writers et al will have to write, act, direct, film etc with 3D in mind.

    Future series finale episodes for Christmas should be 1:30-2:00hr long.

    By the way love the Merlin Home Page. However dissapointing that there was NO link to this blog but there were links to external blogs??!!!!

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by Twonko

    on 20 Dec 2011 20:54

    Camelot......Camelot......It's only a model.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by Sandy Notman

    on 19 Dec 2011 11:26

    I have watched "Merlin" since it began and now I am 70, I still watch and enjoy it. I enjoy fantasy! I would love to know where it is filmed as I live in France. Well done to all.

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by Sino

    on 18 Dec 2011 14:30

    Thank you Rupert. We experience different connection with people on screen, in person and in writing. You write simply yet thoughtfully; genuinely yet so carefully (well) - crafted. Not unlike the way you play Sir Leon – and exactly how you set out to achieve?! If Merlin is magic; Arthur, courage; Sir Leon, faithful though all knights are loyal. Yes, you have surpassed Gunther or whoever (not the ‘Friends’ generation) because you are the rock of Camelot, me think. My mother sensed the ‘authenticity search’ factor in you, in person when my family and I (the Eurasian boy) met you and the others in France, at the lobby, at breakfast and at Pierrefonds, albeit briefly. Yes, ‘Lancelot du Lac’ is also our favourite episode so far though I do hope to see Aithusa again and Merlin S4 grand finale concludes in the UK on Christmas Eve, my birthday so can’t wait! Hi to the others and looking forward to S5 too!

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