Our second interview during the set visit to Sins of the Father was with Angel Coulby, who came back to the set on her day off so as not to disappoint the young fans accompanying the more cynical older reporters who were looking forward to meeting Gwen…
Are you going to get together with Merlin?
No, I’m not unfortunately. That was a storyline at the beginning that’s faded away a little bit. Initially I had a bit of a crush on Merlin, and maybe he did have a bit of a crush on me, but it was never really made clear. We never talked about it, and now we’re just friends.
I might be getting together with someone, but it’s a very slow process. The relationship between me and Arthur begins to develop a little bit during this series.
Were there other things in the first series that started one way and then went differently?
That was probably the main thing in my storyline. Also my relationship with Arthur, there was nothing. It was to be expected that it was going to develop at some stage, but right at the beginning there was no relationship whatsoever. We barely spoke to each other – I don’t think we had any scenes together for ages. Then right at the end, we started to notice each other a little bit more. In episode 10, we all leave Camelot and are on more common ground, and at that point he begins to see Gwen’s bravery and stuff like that.
How much input have you had into Gwen’s development?
We have a good relationship with the producers and the writers. We don’t often get to see the writers, but we have a very honest relationship with the producers. and we’re quite often allowed to dispute things if we don’t agree with the way things are going. They don’t always listen to us, but sometimes they do.
In general, it’s nice to see they’re writing a bit more for me, now they’ve got to know me. Initially Gwen was queen of foot in mouth – she often said things she didn’t really mean to say and then get all embarrassed about it and flustered. She does that a bit less now; she’s a bit more controlled, which is a bit more me.
We’re waiting for an episode where they really develop our relationship. They’ve always been loyal friends, but there’s never been an episode where they concentrate on what’s been going on between us. I think Gwen has started to wonder what is going on with Morgana, because she’s having nightmares. Is she just going mad? Or maybe she does think there’s an element of magic in there but she would never voice that. It’s something underlying.
Which other character would you like to play?
It might be Morgana. I like the idea of being a witch. Although we can go where we want with the story to a certain extent, Gwen will probably never have magic. Morgana stands up to people where she needs to, and I probably would if I needed to. And she gets to wear really lovely clothes – that would be a factor.
What of yourself do you bring to Gwen?
Gwen has an inner nobility, and I like to think I have that. She’s quite gentle and kind, and I like to think I am those things. What is different between me and Gwen? I’m probably a bit stronger than her initially. She grows in strength in series one and onwards. She stands up to Arthur a lot more in series two, whereas in series one she lets him be his arrogant self. I think I would definitely have had something to say about it.
We find ourselves on more common ground more often in series two, so I feel like I’m able to say things. She does sometimes say things and then think she shouldn’t have said that. But it does tend to be quite beneficial with Arthur.
It hasn’t really felt like a huge challenge…
Ok, then what’s most excited you about playing Gwen?
The idea of being able to play Guinevere, a very famous character, but who isn’t really well known as a character. It’s not like Lady Macbeth, she’s not a set in stone character. Being able to play her from an early stage, where she’s humble and a lowly maid servant, all the way to her becoming queen. For an actor, to have a journey like that is quite exciting. You don’t know how she’s going to get from two opposite ends of the scale. That’s probably the most exciting thing.
Plus I hope to get some more stunts – that’s really exciting. I don’t often get to do some. I’ve had a few, and I’m hoping there’ll be a few more in the final episodes. I try as much as possible to do them myself – more this time round because they’ve been encouraging us to do lots of horseriding at the weekends. Last time we had doubles, but this time they’re using doubles a lot less: they like us to do them where we can because it looks a lot better on screen. We get stuntmen, who are brilliant, who train us for any kind of sword fighting, or even just running around in forests. They’re always there with the Health and Safety advice.
Is there any stunt you’ve really wanted to do?
Not so far. I’m sure there will be. There’s one stunt that Merlin got to do – he got zapped against a wall. That was great. They had a rope attached to his back and he got pulled back against a foam wall, rather than a brick wall!
A little bit – with things like Harry Potter, the fantasy drama genre is very popular. People like a bit of escapism, and it’s the ultimate escapism to have something magical where you can get lost in a different world. I knew these stories have always been popular and have stood the test of time. They’ve been recreated in various media, films and series, and they’ve always been popular. I expected that people would warm to it.
Also, the scripts are so good, the stories so exciting, you’ve got monsters and lots going on, you can’t fail to enjoy it.
How have you found the Merlin fanbase?
Generally people are really positive and supportive. Right at the beginning, there were some purists who were a bit disappointed to see we weren’t following the exact legend – but there isn’t an “exact legend” anyway, because it’s a legend! It’s been reinterpreted in various different ways. Although they were a bit scathing, they were still watching it, and now they’re enjoying it for what it is.
People are generally very nice but I try not to Google myself, because I don’t want to know what people have said. It might be bad, and even if everybody says something good and one person says something bad, that’s the person you’re going to be thinking about, and that can be damaging sometimes. Steer clear!
Have you started the convention round?
We went to our first one, which was an interesting experience. It was the first time we’d seen the response, and obviously all these people are completely obsessed with the show. We haven’t had that much contact with them because we’re working so much of the time. It was great to see they all love the show so much.
Any advice for young actors?
I think it’s important that if that’s what you want to do, you just have to head in that direction and be strong about it. It’s good to go to an after-school drama club and get involved from an early stage. It’s good to find the right one as well – I went to one that didn’t suit me. I was quite shy when I was younger and I went to one which was full of extroverted children. I faded into the background, until I went to another one, who taught me a lot about finding the truth of a character in whatever world you’re playing in. I was about 11 or 12 and then I followed that path. Sometimes it helps to be a bit mad – being able to detach yourself from reality a little bit.
Is there any magical power you’d really like to have?
To be able to disappear and reappear somewhere else, like a teleport, or flying…