Merlin actor Alexander Vlahos shares his thoughts on the series finale, reflects on Mordred’s story, and talks about his role on the currently airing Privates series.
24-year-old Alexander Vlahos is perhaps best known to Hypable readers for his role as the conflicted character Mordred on BBC’s Merlin. The actor joined the show for its fifth and final series, replacing Asa Butterfield and aging up the character for the three-year time jump, and quickly won the hearts of the viewers.
You can currently catch Vlahos in the miniseries Privates, which airs every day this week on BBC One at 14:15. The series is set in 1960 and follows the last group of conscripts to join the National Service, and Vlahos stars as Private Keenan. The third episode of the series aired earlier today, and British viewers can catch up on BBC iPlayer.
In this interview, Vlahos shares his thoughts on the final episodes of Merlin (American readers, beware of spoilers!), and reflects on whether Mordred was really a bad person. He also addresses why Privates makes for such compelling viewing, and what roles he’s found most interesting in his career so far.
What first attracted you to Privates?
Alexander Vlahos: The script. It had everything that a good period drama should have, comedy, heartache, mystery and a lot of action. I only got episode 1 during the audition process, and the rest came later. [Writer] Damian Wayling is very experienced in writing for this sort of themed show, so I knew it was going to be good from draft 1 and couldn’t wait to play a character that was, in my view, so far from me. I’m indebted to Bryn Higgins, the director, for taking a risk with me, because it was and still is risky to have a Welsh boy playing a pacifist Northerner!
In terms of getting into the mindset of Keenan and making sure you did the situation the character found himself in justice, what did you do to prepare for the role?
AV: Keenan being who he is, I listened to a lot of Woody Guthrie and protest songs from the 50’s, read the famous poem ‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg, watched CND protester marches on YouTube and had many lengthy conversations with Bryn Higgins on what sort of person Keenan was. Like I said, he’s so far removed from me, his mindset and outlook on life, it took a lot of time for me to mentally prepare before filming to get in to that headspace. I kept having to remind myself about why Keenan was there.
The series has so far been received really well. What do you think it is about Privates that people respond to?
AV: The era, the setting, the clothes and the catchy music! I think we all like to take a trip down ‘nostalgia lane’ every once and a while – what Privates offers is seeing a part of Britain, a slice of history that is rarely shown. The production values on this show was the thing that most impressed me while filming. I also think having eight good looking lads as your leads will always help proceedings!
AV: My question back to you is why should Mordred redeem himself? I’ve always been 100% behind Mordred’s choices and why he did what he did. There’s cause to question Arthur and Merlin’s actions in that episode too, shouldn’t they redeem themselves? I’m sorry for playing devil’s advocate, but in that episode, Mordred appealed to Merlin and Arthur on many separate occasions, only to be rebuffed and mislead. We must always remember that fate plays a huge part in Merlin, and destiny is a word that is often used. The purpose of destiny, that is – I think Mordred’s fate was sealed the minute that little boy entered Camelot in series 1.
Tell us about your favourite memory from the Merlin set – do you have one particular scene or moment that stands out to you?
AV: I guess my favourite memory of my time on Merlin was my very first day. The turnaround from Privates to Merlin was crazy quick, my toes had barely touched the ground. Having just done Privates in a real life army base in a windswept Northern Ireland, I’m suddenly in mid-Wales, filming in a quarry which is covered in fake snow, running after Bradley [James] and Colin [Morgan] with a winter snood covering my army buzz cut! It was the surreality of the whole thing. I also enjoyed all of my time filming in the castle in France. That was a ‘pinch me is this real’ moment, looking up at the magnificent tower and filming at the Round Table in that beautiful throne room. I’ll always have the fondest memories of working on Merlin.
The series finale introduces the idea of reincarnation into BBC’s Merlin. If Mordred were reincarnated, what do you think he’d be doing in the present day?
AV: Ha! What a great question… Umm… Mordred would…. work at the circus, a gypsy traveller! Practicing voodoo and magic spells in the comfort of a big travelling circus. That would be a good spin off actually. I’d watch it.
(Sidenote: So would we! Mordred at the Circus. Make it happen, BBC!)
Turn to page 2 to find out what Vlahos thought about the Merlin series 5 finale, if he was satisfied with the way the show ended, and what role he has most connected to this far!