Merlin has been found on ABC’s Once Upon A Time, but he’s unlike any Merlin you’ve ever seen before. Up and coming actor Elliot Knight has given the classic sorcerer his own unique spin, and become one of the most pleasant surprises in Season 5. LA Fan Cultures Examiner conducted a phone interview with Elliot last week to discuss what it’s been like for him to step into Merlin’s magical powers and his own sense of adventure.
For Elliot, the excitement of playing Merlin started as soon as he was cast. “They announced it on my birthday, so I was already like ‘This is the best day ever,’ because I’m that kind of person,” he told us. “Then I got that news and I was like, oh wow, this is great. It’s awesome…It’s just been great and really fun.”
With the rest of Once‘s main characters looking to the sorcerer to save Emma Swan, that means Elliot automatically gets to take center stage. “It’s really cool to be so central to the events that are happening,” he continued. “It’s nice because you get to interact with a lot of the characters and explore different relationships, which is awesome, so I’ve been having so much fun with what the writers have been given us to play around with and investigate.”
“You learn a lot this season,” he added. “In terms of the world of magic, you’re meeting the most powerful sorcerer in all of the realm so obviously we’re going to learn a few other things as well about magic. That’s been really fun. Even for me, as a fan of the show and as a fan of just the world of magic and adventure, this is a really great start to Season 5 with what’s happened and what’s coming up.”
What are some of those things that are coming up?
“We’re going to find out more about Merlin soon and that I’m really looking forward to,” Elliot said, “just because I’ve said so many times before when Merlin is found a lot of stuff goes down, and it’s so true. When he appears there’s always big things happening, and of course he’s going to be out of this tree now so he’s going to be around for a bit.
“There’s definitely going to be a lot of adventure happening and people are going to learn a lot about the entire world of magic, not just this story that’s happening right now necessarily.”
He came to Once Upon A Time off of a two-episode role on network sibling How to Get Away with Murder, where he played the character of Aiden Walker. That’s not his only connection to ABC either. “I’ve done Once, How to Get Away with Murder, and also two pilots that weren’t picked up that were ABC, so I don’t know what it is,” he laughed. “I think ABC is great and has some wonderful shows. I don’t know what’s happening! But if it keeps happening, I’m happy.”
To go back even further, he also got himself arrested in an episode of ITV’s great procedural Law & Order: UK. That means he’s played a criminal suspect, the fiancee of a character involved in a huge mystery, and now a sorcerer who could be very dangerous – all characters either near trouble or in trouble. Given that, how would Elliot describe himself? Is he like his characters and always in the center of the action?
“I’m definitely not the guy that stays around trouble,” he told us. “I have learned to become more adventurous and I always have been – especially growing up it’s about letting go of fear and not worrying so much. That definitely comes with the more things you do and the more experience that you have. Nowadays, my perspective on life has always been to not sweat the small stuff. There’s so much in terms of the experiences you have, what you take out of them, how you deal with different situations and issues that come up in your life.
“Perspective can be your most powerful tool, so I always try and have the perspective that every day can be an adventure, I’m willing to have it and embrace anything that comes. You can always make the good out of a situation,” he continued. “That approach has led me to be a little more adventurous, doing things at the last minute and doing things I wouldn’t normally do. I haven’t always been that way and I do have my moments. Like don’t ask me to jump off the top of a cliff into the ocean, that won’t happen!”
Maybe he’ll leave the big adventuring to his fictional alter-ego, but with his outgoing personality and natural charisma, Elliot has certainly been a positive addition to the Once Upon A Time cast. He also told us about a big positive from his point of view – the reception that he’s gotten from the show’s passionate fans.
“A couple of people have asked me about the diverse casting of Merlin and I do find that interesting, only because people’s reactions can be so different,” he reflected. “I have to say, in terms of the fans when I was announced to be playing him, there was really no attention that was brought to the fact that I wasn’t a typical Merlin, that I was black and not white and no Merlin before has been. I really like that. I can’t speak universally for every person who said anything, but from whatever I saw, no one ever said oh, that’s strange. They were more supportive.
“I have to thank people for having that attitude, because I find it very inspiring and encouraging when you’re the actor playing that role,” Elliot continued. “It’s nice to feel like people have your back and are genuinely interested in the character that you’re playing and the heart of that character that makes them who they are. I feel like I should give a shout out to all the fans, all the Oncers who have been so supportive up to this point. I appreciate their open mindness and their focus is in the right place as far as I’m concerned, and that’s a wonderful place to be.”
For more with Elliot, you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.