Colin Morgan, NBC's Merlin, on talking to dragons and casting spells

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Colin Morgan, who plays the title character in NBC's upcoming fantasy series Merlin, told reporters that a new Merlin also means a new Arthur, Guinevere and Morgana. The BBC-produced series portrays young Merlin learning to hone his magical talents and get along with prince Arthur to fulfill their roles as wizard and king.

"Of course I interact with the other characters within the show as well," Morgan said in a conference call last week. "Arthur being the arrogant [one] and the young prince, who you see over the series, actually, develops in surprising ways. You see he actually has a good heart and his intentions are in the right place. Also we see Morgana and how she develops, and Gwen, her relationship as we've never seen her before. We normally see Gwen as the future queen, whereas [now] we see her as a maiden next door. Everyone's character, we've all got something new to show."

Merlin arrives in Camelot just as King Uther (Anthony Head) reinforces his ban on all magic, thinking there is no good use of mystical powers. Still, Merlin manages to secretly display his talents, particularly in a fight scene with Arthur (Bradley James) in which Merlin's spells save him from Arthur's sword.

The following Q&A features edited excerpts of Morgan's interview. NBC will air Merlin on Sunday nights at 8 p.m., starting June 21.

So we're dealing with a world where magic is outlawed and magicians are persecuted. Is that a metaphor?

Morgan: I don't think [so]. I think it is very much contained within that world. I think when you see the show and you see the look of it and the feel of it, especially, being inside of the castle, you completely buy into that world. You believe everything in it. Magic is a thing that just is there and is accepted. I think you become enthralled with that without, I think, being caught up in any sort of metaphor. It is very much within that world, and I hope the audiences will be connected with Merlin and against the villains that come into play and try to overthrow Camelot.

In the first episode, in your fight with Arthur, that's Merlin using all his magic, but, as an actor, you don't really get to do anything. Can you talk about shooting that scene, waiting for post-production to make you look good?

Morgan: When it comes to special effects and things of that [nature] within the show, for me, it was very new and very different but also quite exciting, because you just get to use your imagination. You get a bit of free rein with it, although you have to be quite technical in terms of where you look and how you look and what way you do it. It's kind of limitless. It's great to just sort of experiment with that and to have a bit of fun.

But, yeah, speaking to the dragon voiced by John Hurt is like, you're speaking to a green screen but in a room that looks like a cave. You've got one idea in your head of what you shot, and then you see the final product, and it's something that really wouldn't be out of place in a film.

What turned you on to this role and this project? What was it that made you want to be part of it?

Morgan: One of the things is many of the guest artists that were part of the stories as shown in the stories and the script, because they're constantly changing and evolving. That's one of the things that really works about it, is the variety that the show presents, because when you think Arthurian legend and you think about Merlin and Arthur, you think ... about that period in history. What's great is just an idea started with that and twisted it and turned it on its head and made it into something completely new and different. So I think that's what was so exciting about it. Plus, I get to do magic every day and sort of go through adventures. You find yourself in different places all the time, seeing things that you would never see under any other circumstance. The challenge of playing such a historical character as Merlin presented in a way that we've never seen before, all those factors just made it a really exciting project to be a part of.

Were you also attracted to the show's irreverent humor?

Morgan: Yeah. That's one of the great things in it. As soon as you hear the name Merlin, the immediate sort of image that will pop into most people's heads is a little guy with a beard or a little serious guy. Then when you get the opportunity to play Merlin like it's never been seen before, with a quirkiness and a clumsiness, then it was a trip.