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Anthony Head

Anthony Head - "Merlin" Tv Series - Totalscifionline.com Interview

Wednesday 9 December 2009, by Webmaster

Merlin’s second season has seen Bradley James’s Prince Arthur begin to question some of the decisions made by his father, King Uther, played by genre veteran Anthony Head. Taking a break from filming their climactic fight sequence in the eighth episode, Sins of the Father, the affection between the two is evident – even if, as Head points out, they’ll shortly "need to get back to beating each other into a pulp..." Words: Paul Simpson

This fight scene has taken nearly a whole day to film – is it usual to spend such a long time on a single scene?

Anthony Head: We’re covering the whole room, so it takes a while to relight. Each section we have to shoot both ways. We’re looking at both sides of the chamber, and from both ends.

Bradley James: Normally the fighting’s outdoors as well, so the camerawork isn’t as difficult. Here, the set is prohibiting.

It’s obviously heavily choreographed – does that take a long time to pick up?

Head: Nah, we just started bashing each other!

James: I do this a lot, so it doesn’t take me as long to pick up a routine any more, whereas Anthony hasn’t done any of this before...

Head: What do you mean? "Haven’t done any of this before?"

James: ...but I don’t think you can tell, because he’s picked it up very quickly. It means I can go for it, rather than have to hold back, which I do if it’s someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Head: Contrary to what my "son" says, I have done a lot of fight scenes before – cheeky beggar!

Were you surprised when you found out why Uther has such a hatred of magic, or did you know his backstory when you began filming the first series?

Head: No, I didn’t know. I found out as we went along. It was always known that he has got a bit of a shady past. But I still maintain it’s more about the truth as you perceive it.

We’ve tweaked a few things as we’ve gone along because Uther was just pure villain to start with. He’s not just an out-and-out villain who’s used magic and lied about it. He’s used magic and lied about it for the right reasons!

Do you know where Uther’s path is taking him, or is it a question of his sins eventually finding him out?

Head: The old adage of "oh what a tangled web we weave" applies – he has led a life of deception but that’s not necessarily his prime concern. That is keeping the lid on this little hotpot of a kingdom that has marauders at every border and has got people who would like to usurp his throne.

He lives in troubled times. And in trying to keep his position, he has manipulated things, and has played with fire at times, so I think things will catch him up. There’s an awful lot of stuff in his past that he would probably like to stay in his past.

Merlin’s actions have helped to keep things more hidden as well, such as in episode eight where he persuades Arthur not to kill Uther...

Head: That is a pivotal moment for Merlin. He knows that Morgause is a sorcerer and what she told Arthur about Uther very likely is true, but he knows that Arthur would never forgive himself and he would be a changed man if he kills his father. There are lots of balls in the air, and lots of moral dilemmas. The good thing about someone like Uther is that he does create a lot of conflict, and conflict does make for good drama.

Is the relationship going to change between Merlin and Arthur? There are occasional hints of a friendship developing…

James: No, I will never be nice to Merlin… and I will do it with the gusto I’ve been doing it so far! He tries to overstep his mark quite a lot, and I have to keep him down a peg or two. The dynamic isn’t going to change too much.

Some of the scenes almost appear adlibbed...

James: That’s a compliment to the scriptwriters. Any time we seem to go too far off script, there’s a quick phone call to the producers’ office to see if it’s alright. I don’t think there’s too much adlibbing in there. There may be bits and pieces but nothing that sticks out in the memory.

Colin and myself have quite a lot of fun when we get together to film those scenes, so I think when you have that relationship, it makes it easier to play off each other and have fun. The scenes seem a lot more alive like that.

Head: There’s just constant banter on set. The two of them find each other, go to a corner, and just... banter!

What do you both think of the costumes for the show?

Head: They’re hot! They’re beautiful costumes, and they have developed this season. They have got more high concept. Certainly Uther’s stuff is the business. I’m just waiting – we’ve had the 1970s and the 1980s... I’m waiting to go back to medieval now. We should go out draped like this.

James: The novelty’s worn off for me – wearing this chainmail is ridiculous. Don’t get me started on the chaps! The next job I do I do not want to go anywhere near chainmail or armour. I want to be a surfer who wears shorts, and that’s about it, on a beach.

Head: I’m very glad I’ve not had the chainmail experience too much this year.

James: But the costumes do look good – the wardrobe team has done an excellent job.

After playing Giles on Buffy for seven years, did you have any qualms about going onto another show that has the potential to go the same sort of length?

Head: No! To be honest, I don’t know how much of it Uther will be around for. I think his days are numbered at the moment! No, the bottom line is that one always wants to be part of a successful show. It’s very pleasant to have some longevity to your character that means you can work through story arcs, and have somewhere to go with it. It hasn’t stopped me from doing other things as well.

It’s nice to be part of something that has got such great production values and is building up an extraordinary following. I thought Buffy might be a one-off experience. But it’s not, it seems.

Bradley, you were voted "Hump Day Hottie" by MTV in America in July after the show started airing on NBC – what do you feel about that sort of attention?

James: It’s had very little effect on my life – in fact, it hasn’t had any effect whatsoever.

Head: It must be flattering though?

James: Yes, it is flattering. I look like my mum, so I told her, "There you go, the gene pool has come up trumps." But it’s not something that really has materialised itself into whatever it could materialise into.

How much do you resemble Arthur in real life?

James: I’m nowhere near as brave – but some would say I’m a lot more intelligent!

What do you like and dislike about your characters?

James: I dislike his dress sense! But I do like the sporting side of Arthur.

Head: My costumes are great. I love the role that I play on the show. I don’t think I’ve got any dislikes about Uther, to be honest, he’s a really interesting character.

How are you both finding the fan attention?

James: There’s lots of post! Other than that, life is normal.

Head: The internet fandom is the most extraordinarily powerful tool, and it’s good to know there are people out there. For my money, Buffy was one of the forerunners of this.

Whether Fox renewed Joss Whedon’s show Dollhouse was swayed by the power of the internet, and that is a great thing to know. You know that a show like Merlin has an incredible fandom on the internet. You feel very well supported.

Merlin is currently airing on Saturday nights on BBC One.