A Druid in distress prompts Merlin to hide the young girl, and finally reveal his true magical self, in an emotional, exciting episode of MERLIN entitled “The Lady of the Lake,” this week’s offering of the popular Syfy series premiering at 10 p.m. Friday, June 4.
When Merlin (Colin Morgan) discovers the beautiful Druid girl Freya (Laura Donnelly) trapped in a bounty hunter’s cage, he knows he must help her escape – despite warnings from his mentor, Gaius (Richard Wilson). But with the bounty hunter searching for his missing prize and a ferocious magical beast on the loose, she can’t stay hidden long. Merlin’s intense new friendship is tested to the limit and he is forced to make some heartbreaking decisions as he battles to keep Freya safe.
“The Lady of the Lake” offers another shining example of the incredible task young Colin Morgan has in the title role of Merlin. The episode is a tour-de-force of emotional piques ranging from heroic to deceptive to passionate, sometimes in the same scene. Donnelly’s character served as motivation for both Merlin and Morgan to be at their best. For Merlin, the druid girl Freya represented his first true romantic adventure, and a chance to find someone to whom he could truly reveal himself. For Morgan, it was a chance to peal back another layer of the title character’s psyche.
“I think Merlin really connects with Freya,” Morgan said. “She’s got a problem, she’s got a secret. He thinks it’s a magical secret, one that he can help her with, and he decides to show her the good side of magic. It’s one of the few times where he can go, ‘This is me, this is what I can do, and this is what we can be.’”
Said Donnelly: “They both have magical abilities, they both have secrets, and they both can’t really reveal their true selves to most of the people they are surrounded by.”
Executive producer Johnny Capps fully realizes the weight of the series rests on Morgan, and appreciates the actor’s sunny approach to his monumental task.
“It’s difficult for such a young actor to feel such a huge responsibility on his shoulders – in a way, he is like Merlin,” said Capps. “No matter how tired he is, whether he is up a hill on a horse, whether he’s in the water, whether he’s in a castile having to fight a monster on green screen – and that’s 10 months of green screen – no matter what we throw at him, he always gives us 100 percent.”
“At the end of the day, I couldn’t do what he does,” said Katie McGrath, who portrays Morgana in the series. “I mean, I’m in for more than one day and I’m already moaning, ‘I’m tired, I want to go home.’
But I’ve never seen Colin complain.”
Morgan has a simple, workmanlike devotion to his job. “I have this sort of idea that if I work like hell, and just put as much effort as I can, then it’ll be worth it. So I just put the head down and do it.
I figure that eight months is eight months, do the job and hopefully it’ll pay off. Plus I enjoy it and I love being kept busy.”
Busy? Yes. Soaked, cold and tired? Not so much. While viewers will not notice the inclement conditions, the cast and crew of Merlin endured brutal weather during some of the crucial, emotional scenes of the episode. Morgan was at the center of those scenes, attempting to bring forth a deeply touching performance in the midst of a chilly English downpour. He called it the most difficult scene to film for the series’ entire second season.
“When you have a hugely dramatic scene, something that requires a lot of focus and concentration, it helps sometimes to be in a more controlled environment,” Morgan explains. “It was already a difficult scene emotionally, but the weather made it even harder. It was not on our side. It was pouring rain, and I was kneeling by a wet Welsh lake for take after take – so it was extremely difficult to sustain emotional heights for that length of time. Having said that, the difficult scenes are often the most rewarding.”
Laura Donnelly believes that, while the degree of difficulty was high, Morgan both suffered through and benefited by the bad weather.
“I felt so sorry for Colin that day because he did have to continue that heightened emotion for so long, and while we were shooting his scenes that’s when the weather was absolutely at its worst,” Donnelly said. “When you’ve got an emotional scene and you’re supposed to be very upset, things like torrential rain can actually add to that feeling of doom and gloom and vulnerability. When you’re soaked through, you’re uncomfortable and cold and shivering – all of these things Colin had to contribute to (his mood). I thought he did quite well.”