Meet Merlin's Knights: Camelot's 'ultimate kick-ass fighting force'

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Dec 16, 2012, 12:07 PM EST

Something new is brewing on Syfy's Merlin this season. The knights of the Round Table have come to life on the BBC series, and the four actors who play them—Eoin Macken (Sir Gwaine), Rupert Young (Sir Leon), Tom Hopper (Sir Percival) and Adetomiwa Edun (Sir Elyan)—are thrilled to be a part of the iconic group, the actors said in our exclusive interview.

"We are meant to be the ultimate kick-ass fighting force of Camelot, which is really true," said Macken, whose Sir Gwaine is a bit of a rabble-rouser. "But it's great, because our relationships between each other and with Arthur and with Merlin are really at the forefront of development."

In past seasons, the knights often were the "Red Shirts" of Merlin, showing up mostly to be killed off, leaving Arthur and Merlin on their own to save the day. Things have changed, said the actors.

The knights emerged as Arthur's allies in last season's two-parter, "The Coming of Arthur." "I thought I was dead at the end of series two, so I'm very, very excited to still be there," said Young, whose Sir Leon has been a loyal knight of Camelot the longest. "It's amazing. It's nice that we are normally the ones who come in and talk about the other knights who have been killed, and we manage to stay alive. I think because we are made to be the ultimate fighters. It makes us feel quite tough. It makes you walk with your head held high."

This season "you'll see the knights develop at Arthur's side," said Hopper, whose Sir Percival is gifted with great courage and strength. "You've already started to see how we come together as a group. There's an episode later on in the series, episode eight I believe, where we are at the forefront of the storyline and you see a little bit of conflict between the knights through supernatural problems and things like that. Through to the end of the series, you start to see how we really look after each other, and if we get separated, we'll always look out for each other. So it's good to see that progression."

Merlin's knights of the Round Table "were thrown together by chance, by circumstance, coming together and forming quite a tight, close-knit group, developing some good strong bonds," said Edun, whose Sir Elyan is Gwen's brother and was a blacksmith before he became a knight. "I think for Elyan in particular, for my character, you see at some points a pull between familial loyalties to family and loyalties to Arthur, his new friends, the realm. And I think also you see the strain as it goes on. You see the strain on these new relationships as outside forces...Morgana threatening Camelot. You see the strain that those outside pressures put on these quite new relationships."

One bit of strain came with the loss of Sir Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera), who sacrificed himself to save Merlin and Arthur.

"What happened with Lancelot was he just wasn't as good a knight as the rest of us," joked Macken. "Nah, Santiago's brilliant. I think the wonderful thing about the show is there's so many legends associated with Arthur and Camelot that they do have a certain free rein to take stories and interpret them how they want to, because there are so many different interpretations of the myth and legends. And having us knights there does let them develop the framework of the story and of the myth and of the legend and allow them to take it to different places. So Santiago, while he may have disappeared for a while, he is coming back."

According to Young, "He's a good character to have around, but when he goes off, we kind of come into our own, and obviously when he returns, it shakes things up again."

The return of Lancelot will certainly shake up things big-time, considering the seeds have already been planted for the famous King Arthur/Guinevere/Sir Lancelot love triangle.

"Obviously, having such a broad and varied mythological base to draw on, there's a lot of scope for reinterpretation, and I think that's one of the things that has made this series so successful is the novel reinterpretation of the stories that people think they know or know bits of and love. And obviously with all the magic flying about, there's endless opportunity for something a little bit different," said Edun.

"In season four we, as a group, we were finding our feet on the show," said Young. "You just see that relationship grow and blossom and fall out. We are like a group of brothers, in a way, who can irritate each other, but we're always there for each other. In terms of the characters, it's interesting to see how each one deals with the fact that there are another three around. I know Sir Leon at first finds it a little odd having three other, to quote Eoin, 'kick-ass' men around him. But then you see that group working together, which is quite exciting. We just grow and grow."

Here's a look at tonight's episode:

Merlin airs on Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.