Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Further Shenanigans of Cold Con

Right, by now we all know the news which many had suspected for some time....& if you don't know, I'm hoping the rock which you find yourself living under is a comfortable one...It was announced that this series of Merlin would be the last, why they had to do this a midnight I shall never know...although the subsequent Twitter meltdown viewing.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the magical hi-jinx  swashbuckling adventures & the general buffoonery which has been so brilliantly put together by the production team, crew & actors over the years...& I know these talents will go on to equally enjoyable projects in the future

That little bit of  maudlin news out of the way we can move on to #ColdCon 2012: The Afternoon Session....also know as The Further Shenanigans of an Englishman, an Irishman & a Welshman....

First, I must give a shout out to the uber talented Alan Rickard & Serenna Dundas, who kept the crowd entertained in between talks & during photo sessions with some fabulous acoustic songs & amazing voices.  Alan (also known as Evora Music) did the songs for the soundtrack of Cold & Serenna, who is a sweetheart, performed a selection of her own songs...go forth & YouTube these people, you won't be disappointed.

Right then, Tom started off the session by thanking the audience for showing up & supporting him & Eoin with the film project.  Eoin immediately kicks off with some snark-love 'I'll be honest with you, the morning session was really lovely & people were very pressure' he pulls a 'must try harder' face in the general direction of the current audience.

The guys start a discussion about Cold, Eoin taking the mic 'The film is about Tom Hopper'  (Good start, way to get the attention of the fangirls) 'And there's a lot of Tom Hopper, walking around a field, looking like a an Armarni suit' Tom smiles in agreement as the crowd show their appreciation of this image in the form of screams....Eoin continues 'I figure Tom is better while he is silent...when he talks...Urgh' Tom demonstrates these silent acting skills as he pulls a suitably frowny face followed by a 'thanks buddie' nod.

Tom went on to describe how the concept of Cold came about. 'One Winters morning...' Eoin interrupts 'That's a complete lie' Tom makes a correction to his opening monologue 'It was an Autumn morning' and checks for an affirming nod from Eoin before he continued.  On a train from Cardiff, Tom was talking about wanting a part which would challenge him more as an actor, as he seemed destined for muscle men roles such as Percival...cue more appreciative crowd 'wooping'...'Which apparently some people like....fair enough' His ideal role would be Lenny from Mice & Men...gaining a second and more subtle murmur of appreciation from the audience. Tom looked very pleased with this 'Got the same reaction this morning' Eoin shakes his head at the pantomime effect Tom was milking.  Tom ignores Eoins mutterings regarding his delivery of the tale being 'word for word' from the earlier session continuing with 'And Eoin said...I'll write you a story' imagine the latter half of the sentence being delivered in something like an Irish lilt.

Eoin snatches the mic away from Tom (presumably to halt any further Father Ted impressions) 'The delivery of that was much better this morning' he then adds his own (colourful) interpretation of the origins of Cold  'Basically, Tom was moaning he didn't like any of the parts he was getting as an actor' Tom pulls a hilarious 'hang on a minute' expression, stating 'I think it was better when I was telling the story' Eoin points to the fact he has the microphone and follows up with comments about Tom becoming so bored with the parts he was playing he was going to give up acting.  Tom's opened mouthed & scrunchy faced expression suggests Eoin was being a little over dramatic. 'So basically I wrote the film for Tom' The subsequent 'awws' from the audience driving a finger pointy, arm wavy exasperating bout of theatrics from Tom aimed at Eoin...who merely sniggered and insisted that was exactly how it happened. (I can honestly see these two as a future TV double act...Macken & Hopper!...Maybe they're the next Morecambe & Wise....well, more Cannon & Ball....then again Bevis & Butthead is probably more the level....though actually, thinking about it... Marley & Marley off of Muppets!)

Eoin continued with the whole 'So, I wrote it for Tom' spiel 'because he pulled a face'.  At this point Tom pulls an expression not unlike that of a sad puppy, which looked so adorably cute even Puss in Boots from Shrek would have backed away in defeat immediately in a cute-off competition (the ability Tom had to just switch on the 'face' suggested to me that this may have been mastered in his earliest of childhood years, for example while attempting to acquire from his parents, any kind of sweet food stuff...or the latest 'insert expensive toy here'at Christmas)  In Eoin's opinion, Tom had actually looked 'like a complete spastic' and things had become he wrote him the part.

Aw, c'mon...that face shouldn't be allowed...I mean, just look at it...
(also, note how Eoin holds up the mic to Tom...while he pulls a of silent expression...nice one Eoin)

Someone asked if the boys were planning on working on another project together. 'Let's finish working on this one first' Tom exclaims to a ripple of audience chuckles.  'Yes, is probably the answer...' Tom continues ' & Eoin...& I don't tell him this very often...' (Maybe it's the constant flow of coffee & Lucozade as the tone takes a turn for the 'schmaltzy') Eoin, raising an eyebrow to Tom's speech, encourages Alan (a-Dale) to strum a few appropriately atmospheric bars on the guitar. Tom continues to ham 'I said Eoin...I've really enjoyed these last few months working with you...' Eoin, smirks playing off Tom's sudden onset gooey sh...ow of emotion.  Tom descends to one knee 'Will you marry me'  ....There it is ladies (& gentleman)...& the room erupts with gales of laughter & applause (that small seismic activity you felt was all the Perwaine shippers going thud)

Tom brings it back to a more appreciative tone 'Um...but, seriously...we have... bizarrely...a pretty good working relationship, acting with each other...& as actor/director....he's a talented fella, this lad' (I'm expecting Michael Aspel to appear from behind a curtain any second with a big red book) 'And it's good to work with someone who believes in you...' Tom then develops a sudden case of  'Northern Bloke' (TM) 'What am I saying' He shakes his head as a smattering of 'Aws' are heard from the audience.

At this point Alex strolls back in the room, thus saving Tom from any further displays of spontaneous 'gooey-ness'.  He was asked how he coped taking over the role from Asa Butterfield. The question, and subsequent outbreak of laughter, had Alex taking on a mock 'shoulder slump of inadequacy' posture  'Right, thanks...bye' and pretending to walk away.....(actors!)...He commented that it was hard as Asa was 'well loved' & he had done plenty of research on how he had played the role and incorporated that into how he subsequently depicted Mordred.  This will later 'drift away' as the series continues & Mordred mannerisms change.

The follow up question was how he had felt coming into such an established show as Merlin, amongst all the other actors. Before Alex can answer...Tom, guns folded, cuts in 'Yeah....what was THAT like' After a nervous chuckle, Alex replied honestly 'the first month was difficult, because of the familiarity of everyone...they were all really close friends and the levels of banter were through the roof' Eoin & Tom nod with a knowing twinkle in their eye. 'I was a bit clueless & a bit scared' 'Plus we kept kicking his shins' Tom adds, with the visual accompaniment of miming kicking Alex.

Things had soon settled and become second nature which Alex hoped had shown on screen.  He mentioned that evenings episode and the humour among the Knights as Mordred goes on his first patrol.  Alex looks to Eoin, probably looking for some kind of conformation that he had the right episode in mind...what he got was 'blank face'...'Eoin has no idea' Alex laughs & Tom leaned across to Eoin.  The pair have a conflab as Alex gives a few hints on the episode 'It's the Disir, you know in episode know...banter' Eoin & Tom still have nothing, so Alex mutters to Tom, who again whispers to a live action Chinese whispers...with Knights of the Round Table...the final answer of which could have been actually anything. (answers on a post card)

Eoin, still looking rather clueless asks Alex for a synopsis....'It's Mordred's first patrol as a Knight and everything goes a bit....tits' (Not exactly how the Radio Times would have put it I'd wager) 'Nothing goes as planned....typical Merlin' Here Alex pretty much delivers a synopsis of every episode of Merlin.

Moving on, Alex talked about how he got into character and that there was a difference between Druid/Bandit Mordred & Knight Mordred. 'When I put on the chain-mail I felt incredibly young...especially next to these guys' gestures to Tom & Eoin, as Tom pulls a 'you know it' shrug. In that evenings episode Mordred would be less ambiguous, with less 'cold stares' At this point Eoin steps forward to take the mic 'I got none of this from your character the whole're doing a very good job of explaining it however' Tom grins and Alex rubs his hands together (in a Mordred like manner) prompting an 'I'm jesting' pat on the shoulder from Eoin. (presumably before Alex turns feral)

Now...during the next question, which had a lengthy pre-amble & was fairly involved, Eoin started to fiddle with a spoon....yes, I said spoon.  By the time he had twirled it, caressed his beard with it, scratched his eye with it & repeatedly tapped it on his chin the poor girl asking the question had lost all ability of cognitive thought (As had most of the room as a safe bet) she had 'umm'd' & 'ahh'd' a few times and eventually told Eoin that the spoon was really putting her off. (I can only imagine what Eoin is like holding a prop while filming a scene....outtakes please beeb)

Tom & Alex's heads flick round in unison to Eoin with a joint case of 'the confused' as the man himself promptly stuck the offending metal object in his mouth. Alex attempted to listen as the lady once again asked her question, while Tom remained slightly baffled as to where Eoin had obtained the spoon in the first place.  The spoon eventually ended up tucked neatly behind Eoins ear as the question was finally asked.

The moment Eoin realises he (& his spoon) have just become an internet MEME

(In a nutshell & Potential major spoiler alert from this point on

How would their characters react to discovering Merlin has magic?

Alex responds with a knowing wink 'Oh, I know' and then poses the question to Tom.  He ponders for a moment and I was expecting your typical Percival gruff grunt of acknowledgement...what we got however was....'Oh, right' delivered with the highest arched eyebrows of campness I have ever seen on a bloke from Leicestershire...followed by a matter of fact 'Fair enough'

As the crowd descends into fits of giggles, Alex doubles over laughing &  Eoin concedes he's 'got nothing'  as his shoulders actually bounce from the chuckles caused by Tom's perfect delivery. Tom simply stood, arms folded, taking in the atmosphere which he had caused and looked very pleased with himself. Alex followed with a equally hilarious impression of Tom who uttered 'They should've given me that line'  Before the sentence had a chance to sink in, Alex moved on to the next question.

A girl asked about Mordred and how Arthur had made him a Knight even though he is a Druid. Tom takes on a 'damn, those meddling kids' posture, as Eoin grabs the mic from Alex. 'You are banned from asking questions' in the tone of 'frustrated politician' pointing at the girl in question 'I know where you are...I know where you're sitting' before adding a slightly more desperate sounding 'Karen...can we get rid of her...she's being really awkward' finishing the mock rant with a childlike whinge.

Alex took on the challenge of answering the question, stating that he had asked a similar thing to TPTB and was told that 'Although Arthur knows he's a Druid, it doesn't necessarily mean he knows he has magic' Alex pulled a face which suggested that he wasn't completely convinced by this himself. 'That's how they got away with it...'he pauses 'yeah, you can roll you eyes...I was rolling my eyes too' (Bless the highly complicated world  of a fantasy reality like's all well and good until an eagle-eyed uber-fan starts to nit-pick the continuity...All I will say is...Talking Dragon!...your argument is invalid)

And speaking of eagle-eyed (or in this case eagle-eared) uber-fans, Tom's earlier 'Should've given me that line' comment had not gone unnoticed and someone asked if he had been referring to the 'reveal' of Merlin's magic in this series.  Cue three slightly concerned actors...who in unison started shaking their heads and making lots of noises not unlike that of the Churchill Dog. 'Oh, no, no, no'

Alex, who was unfortunate enough to be holding the mic at the time, 'Oh,' and shakes his head, followed by a very 'uh-oh' sounding 'hmmmmm' He continues bravely with 'I know the reveal is what everyone has been waiting for since...episode one, series one...but um...we can't give anything away about that' He looks to Tom & Eoin for back-up 'Can we boys?' Eoin, with a nonchalant wave of his hand 'I don't remember anyway' his talent in obfuscation is second to none and with a final ' useless' from Alex, we are quickly moved on to the next question.

(To be fair the lads could have told us all the finale plot in detail while Eoin was doing this & not a single fan girl would have remembered a thing)

How familiar were they with the legend of King Arthur/Knights of the Round Table etc.

Alex leads with a succinct and thoughtful answer, saying that he was given some back story on his character and knew about the Battle of Camelot & how things end, but not necessarily the parts in between.  Tom's turn 'I watched a cartoon....' (This should surprise doesn't) '....called King Arthur & the Knights of Justice' There was little surprise on his face when it appeared he had been the only viewer of this particular cartoon. (More of a Legend of Prince Valiant girl myself back in the day) He also researched 'One Wikipedia page' (with these insights I am guessing there could have been a version where Sir Percival was portrayed as lightsaber welding alien, on a hover-board with a holographic side kick...although, spin off potential?)  He went on to describe his character as 'Percival the strong' from one description he read and immediately thought ' would be cool if I had no sleeves' (Looks like someone from costume read the same wiki page)

Eoin 'I clearly did copious mounts of research' He shakes his head in a manner which suggest that previous statement had been untrue. (shocked face) 'I knew about it because I'm much more well educated...& I read books and stuff' Tom & Alex share a look which again suggests Eoin to be in obfuscation mode as the crowd happily chortles at the antics.  Eoin admits that he would have played Gwaine differently had he read about the character beforehand. (But then I'm guessing we would have never enjoyed 'cheesy apple pie' moments & other such buffoonery)

Eoin commented on the process of filming Merlin & that sometimes scripts for scenes will arrive the day before filming. 'Sometimes you wish they had a bit more of a plan....they really don't' and that things can change depending on the actors '...if I was crap, it would be cut out' (Say it ain't so) Alex alluding to the fact that this is the reason if he or other Knights are missing for a few episodes. Eoin continues 'They do let us develop the characters to a certain extent...but not that much...(And why is this Eoin?) '...because they're basically control freaks' (That awkward moment when you realise Sir Gwaine is likely to meet a gruesome, fiery end by Dragon) Realisation dawns 'This is going all over the internet, isn't it' (whistles innocently) he looks to Tom who shrugs, with a 'Keep talking' in the tone of 'I'll fetch you a spade to dig your hole with' Eoin quickly adds 'But I do love them dearly' (Good save Eoin)....Next Question....

Just so happens Eoin picked little 'ol me...probably in the hope of moving away from all the 'awkward' such luck...ahem...Have you had any awkward or embarrassing auditions?

Tom's immediate facial expression suggested he had plenty to choose from and was quickly trying to filter out one appropriate for a PG audience. Eoin volunteers his story first, since he was holding the mic.  Whereby, at a fairly recent audition, he chose to read a different scene than the one he was given...on the basis that he didn't think the scene they had given him was any good. 'I wasn't supposed to do that' Alex turns away shaking & rubbing his head with a smile '...and they made me do the scenes that I hadn't prepared, which I thought were crap...and I told them they were crap....and I didn't get that part'

Tom recalls an incident from one of his first auditions, for an advert which involved playing football. His talents as a goalkeeper proved challenging as he was asked to do twenty kick-ups by the casting director...a collective of 'Ooo's' from the audience as this point was a good indication of the level of difficultly we are talking about here...'So, I proceeded to do 1 and a half....and on my second, I basically booted the ball at the casting directors head' sniggering all round from the crowd 'And she had to dodge out of the way...and that was me...not getting the part' (A small part of me felt sorry for Tom and his was a very small part, as the imagery had me laughing way too hard)

And finally Alex.  He began to describe an audition for a car commercial, in which he was asked to play out various action scenarios, without any props or visual aids. 'I had to arrive on a in a car...' Eoin questioned 'What? the audition' 'well obviously's pretend' Alex continued to list the various ridiculous (and very 'Milk Tray' sounding) scenarios involving helicopters, boats & moving cars.  At which point Eoin mentioned that the audition sounded like an internet short called 'Firery Hawk'

Now, at this point Eoin & Tom decided it would be a fabulous idea to link 'Firery Hawk' onto the big screen and Rhys (aka #coollaptopguy ) was on standby to YouTube the clip.  Alex looked a little worried by this cunning plan and then the other boys remembered some of the more 'risque' content (Yes, I have seen it, Yes it is funny if you're not easily offended, no I bare no responsibility if you seek out the video without mind bleach on standby)

That awkward moment when you remember what is in the video you just told everyone in the room to watch

Alex, pulled things back by continuing with his own embarrassing tale of audition shenanigans, literally running through the sequence he had to perform with a myriad of accompanying movements.  Much to the hilarity of the audience, Tom & Eoin combined...Alex (bless his cottons) you'll be surprised to hear...also did not get the part.

Such was Alex's enthusiasm to convey his audition to the audience he damn near phased out of existence

Alex was then asked about Mordred..his motives etc (legend depicts bad times ahead for Arthur at Mordreds hand) 'Is he a bad guy?' Alex rather excellently ponders. The audience giving a range of 'Ooo's' to the shrewdness of his answer and earning a 'well done' from Tom & a high-5 from Eoin.  He went on to say that the ambiguous side of his character is over and that Mordred is 'loyal to Arthur' and now 'he is a Knight....a good Knight' Eoin at this point snatches away the mic 'He's not very good at being a Knight' he counters with Tom adding 'He'll never truly belong' (oh boys...why so mean) Poor Alex slumps his shoulders and he begins to trudge away as the audience participation cranks up the 'aws' once more.  Eoin, still on the mic 'And then a hawk flies down...' Tom, Alex & Eoin lol among themselves at the 'Firery Hawk' in joke

Before this entry descends into epic proportions, I'll shall end with a tease of one last post to come....Another guest...presented to us in pixel form, from a far off land....To Be Concluded