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Colin Morgan is a Northern Irish film, television, theatre and radio actor best known for playing the title character in the BBC fantasy series Merlin. Morgan portrays Leo Elster in AMC's Humans.

Early life and education Edit

Morgan was born in Armagh, Northern Ireland, the son of Bernard, a painter and decorator, and Bernadette, a nurse.[4] He is the younger of two brothers, and he and his brother Neil were raised as Roman Catholic.

His childhood was spent in the long shadow of deep, ingrained hatred and sectarian violence of "The Troubles," with experiences such as "being woken up in the middle of the night, and having to evacuate the family home immediately, because there was pipe bomb in the house next door and having to go into school with a note for his teacher to explain why he hadn’t done his homework." The social repercussion of Northern Ireland’s problems also meant that the consequences ran deeper, and were far more personal for Morgan. Despite his desire to explore his love of drama, there were virtually no opportunities for a young person to nurture, let alone study acting in the Province at that time. Fortunately, Morgan was not the type of character to admit defeat easily. "I found a way to get involved in drama in any way I could. I joined the local amateur dramatic society, and I still have such fond memories of those times."

His natural acting ability and ambition was evident from an early age -- he was only five years old when he made his acting debut, appearing in the chorus in a production ofCinderella and then Peter Pan, then going on to participate in various local amateur stage productions during his childhood. While he was attending Saints and Scholars Integrated Primary School, Morgan had a teacher named Harry McGee who was a tremendous inspiration to him and whose support and belief made a real difference in how he felt and gave him the real confidence to go on. According to Morgan, "He recognized something in me that... He would stay behind after class each day and he'd pull out a poem and he'd say, 'Let’s work on this,' and we'd just do it. He really believed in me and really fueled my passion. And that’s all it takes sometimes, I think, just one person to believe in you."

Morgan was inspired to become a professional actor. From the age of eleven, he studied in Integrated College Dungannon from 1997 until 2002, winning the 'Denis Rooney Associates Cup' for best overall student in Year 10. The school described him as a keen musician and budding actor, as he starred in several college productions including the renowned Surgical Sensations at St Senapods and Bad Day at Black Frog Creek. Morgan's drama teacher at the college, James McCoy, said this about him, "His potential to become a successful actor was evident from a young age here at ICD. He participated wholeheartedly in every Drama class, concert and production that the college was showcasing. He loved Drama and he was a pleasure to teach."

On 12 September 2002 (but with a broadcast date of 27 October 2002), at the age of 16, Morgan (among 100 other young contestants) auditioned at Belfast's Waterfront Hall for the You're A Star RTÉ One programme which was in search of star quality performers. The winner was to receive a record contract and also to represent Ireland at theEurovision Song Contest. He didn't make it but was quoted as saying, "I was turned down but it's not the end of the world. I'm going to try and make it on stage one day." Determined, he went on to study in Belfast, and every day for two years, he commuted between Armagh and Belfast for an hour and twenty minutes each way because it was the closest place that had a college that offered drama as a subject. There, he was awarded a National Diploma in Performing Arts from the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education in 2004. After winning a place in the prestigious yet tough drama school Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, he left Northern Ireland to attend the school for three years, graduating in 2007. In the final year of his undergraduate course, he was discovered by theatre director Rufus Norris and had to leave three-quarters of the way through to make his professional London West End theatre debut as the title character of Vernon God Little, a critically acclaimed role that was assessed for his final grade.

In November 2010, the Belfast Metropolitan College (formerly the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education) honoured Morgan with an Award of Distinction for his contribution to the Arts.

Career Edit

Theatre Edit

In 2007, while still in drama school, Morgan made a sensational professional stage debut in the West End as Vernon Little, the title role of the Young Vic's adaptation of DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little. As Vernon, a troubled Texan teenager on the run from cops, The Telegraph said that he "captures all the vulnerability, confusion and gallows humour of the adolescent hero who finds himself in no end of trouble... By the end you feel like cheering him on to a happy ending," while The Stage said this about his performance, "Full of restless energy and youthful charisma from start to finish, Morgan is an absolute delight and carries the weight of the production on his shoulders with ease and a certain swagger, in what is his major stage debut." In the same year, he played the role of Esteban, an aspiring teenage writer, in the Old Vic stage adaptation of Pedro Almodóvar's Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother) opposite Dame Diana Rigg, Lesley Manville, and Mark Gatiss. For both of these roles, Morgan was nominated asLondon Newcomer of the Year in Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards (2007).

Morgan appeared in the 2008 Young Vic production of Thomas Babe's A Prayer for My Daughter as Jimmy Rosario, a young Latino junkie being interrogated for a murder crime in a downtown New York Police station. For this role, in which he had a nude scene during a tense part of the interrogation, The Independent said that his portrayal of "the waif-like and wasted Jimmy, whose twisting, twitching mood-swings and mix of half-druggy cackling punk and half-angelic visionary [was] brought to life," while Variety also gave him excellent reviews for his "remarkable level of twitchy intensity."

In 2011, he performed in the Royal Court Theatre production of Colombian dramaturg Pedro Miguel Rozo's play Our Private Life to favourable reviews as Carlos, a gay, unhappy "bipolar compulsive fantasist," who thinks he might have been molested by his father as a child. On 9 December 2012, Morgan performed in Step in Time at The Old Vic 24 Hour Musicals Celebrity Gala in aid of The Old Vic Trust as Gary, a flamboyant dance instructor trying to win the heart of one of his students.

He played the nimble and fey spirit Ariel opposite Roger Allam's Prospero in the 2013 Globe Theatre production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, which was later broadcast to cinemas as a part of Globe On Screen in May 2014, getting good reviews, and with a subsequent DVD release in July 2014. For this role, he gave his portrayal of Ariel a unique and memorable take, as he combined the pale, ethereal stillness with acrobatic precision that he learned from parkour trainer, Chris Rowat. Peter Marks, a theatre critic for the Washington Post, said that Morgan was a "terrific young actor," that he "can't remember a better Ariel," and that Morgan's portrayal was "mysterious, in a way [he's] never quite experienced before -- also wonderfully vulnerable," while Birmingham Post's review of the play that was screened live from Globe Theatre Malvern Festival Theatres said that, "...the quality of the acting surpassed everything and Colin Morgan’s Ariel is arguably the best to date. Morgan has an athlete’s build and the poise of a fine actor. Add to this a sense of restraint and otherworldliness and you can see why Prospero views him with a touch of unease." For this role, Morgan won Best Featured Actor in a New Production of a Play in Broadway World West End Awards (2013).

From 2013 to 2014, he took on the role of Skinny Luke with an ensemble cast including Brendan Coyle, Ben Whishaw, Rupert Grint and Daniel Mays in Jez Butterworth's dark comedy Mojo, set during the fledgling rock 'n' roll scene of 50s Soho, and performed in the Harold Pinter Theatre. Mojo received good reviews and the London production was extended for two weeks, finishing on 8 February 2014. Radio Times described his performance as "an accomplished study in human weakness as Skinny, his eventual fate played with precision and pathos" and in his final scene, Morgan impressed viewers and critics alike. The Daily Express's Simon Edge said that Morgan "does one of the best death scenes [he's] ever seen," possibly setting a new precedent in on-stage death scenes.

On 19 April 2015, Morgan appeared at the Old Vic Theatre with other great music and stage legends for an exclusive, highly-anticipated one night theatre event called, A Gala in Honour of Kevin Spacey.

Television Edit

2007-2008: Early years Edit

In television, Morgan first appeared as embarrassed gay son John Leary in sketches on The Catherine Tate Show episode "Christmas Special" in 2007. In 2008, he portrayed the conflicted emo space boy Jethro Cane opposite David Tennant in the fan-favourite Doctor Who episode "Midnight."

2008-2012: Merlin Edit

Morgan is best known for playing the title role in BBC TV series Merlin from 2008 to 2012 with a main cast including Bradley James,Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, Richard Wilson, John Hurt, and Anthony Head. Merlin, a young warlock who was Arthur's servant and Gaius' ward, must secretly develop his magical gifts under the gaze of kings Uther and Arthur, both of whom despise the art. The show was loosely based on the Arthurian legends of the young wizard Merlin and his relationship with King Arthur but differs from traditional versions. It was broadcast on BBC One from 20 September 2008 to 24 December 2012 with 65 episodes. The series was also popular worldwide, broadcast in 183 countries, giving Morgan international stardom and shooting him to instant fame. For this role, Morgan won multiple awards and nominations, including the Caron Keating Outstanding Newcomer Award in the 56th annual Variety Club Showbiz Award ceremony on 16 November 2008 at the start of the series and the Best Actor in Drama Performance: Male award in the 2013 National Television Awards at the conclusion of the series. Before auditioning for the role of Merlin, Morgan got the script for Prince Arthur by mistake. He only had five minutes before auditioning to read over his part of Merlin.

The role of Merlin was the most difficult to cast, according to Merlin co-creator and executive producer Johnny Capps. He said: "We had to find an actor who has a broad playing range, someone with the lightness of touch who will be able to deal with action and magic. There's a lot of green-screen work. We were looking for all of those qualities or the potential of those qualities, and the other important thing for Merlin was likeability. If the audience didn't like Merlin then we might as well go home. We had an instinct about Colin. At first we weren't sure about him but then saw him again and again and we watched back his final auditions and said, 'He's perfect for the part.'"

The television series usually filmed eight months of the year in Wales and France. In between filming, Morgan had various projects ranging from film, theatre, and documentaries for the series. He, and co-star Bradley James, travelled on an exploration of Arthurian legends for BBC Wales, The Real Merlin & Arthur, in 2009. In the same year, he and the rest of the cast also did a behind the scenes special for Merlin called Merlin: Secrets and Magic for BBC.

2014 onwards Edit

After spending 2013 in back-to-back West End stage plays, Morgan reappeared on television as ambitious journalist Jimmy Minor in 1950s Irish Crime Drama Quirke episode "Elegy for April" (2014), based on the books by John Banville (written under the pseudonym Benjamin Black).

Later that year, he took on the role of Tom Anderson, a skillful Detective Sergeant with high career aspirations, joining Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan as one of the main characters in the second series of award-winning Northern Irish BBC Two and RTÉ One drama serial The Fall. Morgan, like his character in The Fall, was approached to come on board; he met with writer Allan Cubitt and lead actress Gillian Anderson in London to discuss his involvement. To prepare for the role of the ambitious young cop, Morgan read up on police procedures and spoke to the set's police advisor. He said: "One of the things that was important for me to understand was procedure, particularly investigative interviewing techniques. I looked a lot into that, how things can be worded and presented, even down to things like the layout of a room or a crime scene... As much as you can act, it's better to have an understanding of what you're doing." He even did an impromptu interview of two police officers he saw in the street in London. The Fall marks the first time that Morgan was able to use his regular Northern Irish accent in his acting career.

From June 2015 onwards, Morgan plays the role of mysterious fugitive Leo Elster in Humans, the British-American AMC/Channel 4 eight part sci-fi drama that deals with eerily human-like robots called "Synths" in parallel-present London. The series, which is an adaptation of the Swedish series Real Humans, has become Channel 4's highest rated drama since the 1992 programme The Camomile Lawn. It has been described as having "universal appeal" and as being "one of 2015's dramatic hits." The series has also received critical acclaim for the cast's strong performances, including Morgan who has been described as one who "always rises to strong material, and [whose] performance has become increasingly engaging as the series has progressed."

Morgan will be teaming up with actress Charlotte Spencer in BBC One show The Living And The Dead, about a West Country couple in 1888 who live in a haunted house plagued by poltergeists and other spectral gate-crashers. The six-hour drama, set in Somerset, England, has been written by Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham, the team behind Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. Director Alice Troughton begins filming early August 2015.

Film Edit

In film, Morgan portrayed the homeless, drug-addict Cathal O'Regan opposite Colm Meaney in the 2010 independent Irish film Parked, where he employed method acting as he spent a good few weeks in Dublin in various locations such as the Aids Alliance to research meticulously about drug addiction and homelessness before starting the film, took up smoking for a month, and used a local Dublin accent. The film has received multiple awards in various Film Festivals around the world, and his performance has been well-praised by the director Darragh Byrne as well as multiple critics.

In 2011, Morgan appeared in the film Island, an independent film adaptation of Jane Rogers' novel Island, as the slow, almost childlike (but with violent tendencies) Calum MacLeod, using a Scottish accent for the role.

Morgan portrayed WWI British soldier Victor Richardson, a school friend of Vera Brittain's brother Edward, in a BBC Films and Heyday Films feature adaptation of her first World War I memoir Testament of Youth, a film made in commemoration of the 100th anniversary ofWorld War I. To prepare for the role, Morgan read the World War I books by Vera Brittain as well as the letters exchanged between Vera, Victor, and their other friends. He also contacted a Blind Veterans Charity in Brighton, going down there and interviewing someone who was older who had lost their sight in the Second World War, as well as someone younger whose blindness was more recent. He got both perspectives, but he also got to experience blindness using a blindfold and becoming a resident for five or six hours. Reviews for the film has been excellent, and there has been a lot of praise for Morgan's portrayal. British Film Institute's brochure said, "Shining brightly and lingering long in the mind afterwards, are the performances of three rising British stars – Kit Harington, Taron Egerton and Colin Morgan – who do collective justice to the memory of the ordinary heroes they portray,” while Screen Relish said this about Morgan: "Colin Morgan as Victor Richardson is the best of the boys, perfectly cast for his take-him-home-to-mother-him childlike face, which Morgan fantastically merges with the sweet but pitiable Victor, who hardens as the war worsens." Rosie Alison, a producer at Heyday Films, said this about Morgan: "a brilliantly subtle, searching actor – and I was in tears even at his audition as Victor, when he returns from the Front blind. In his performance as Victor, who carries a candle for Vera, he offers a wonderfully poignant tenderness."

Additionally, Morgan will feature as Frankie Shea, the brother-in-law of Tom Hardy's Reggie Kray, in the 1960s London gangster film Legend based on the book "The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins" by John Pearson. Legend is scheduled for release on 18 Sept 2015 in the UK and 2 Oct 2015 in the US.

For two days in Blackpool, from 9 to 10 May 2015, Morgan filmed The Laughing King (2015), a short film by White No Sugar TV and Funky Films in support of the UK charityCampaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) plight of raising awareness for depression, mental illness and male suicide. It will be released in October 2015.

Morgan has also filmed Waiting for You from May to June 2015, portraying the role of Paul Ashton and co-starring with French actress Fanny Ardant. The story centres on Morgan's character, who investigates his late father’s increasingly disturbing past and becomes suspicious of the mysterious, melancholic and probably dangerous Madeleine(Ardant). The filming consisted of five weeks in Languedoc-Roussillon, France and one week in Ilford, England.

Morgan was announced to play the lead Seán Mac Diarmada (also known as Seán MacDermott), an Irish revolutionary in the bloody 1916 Irish Easter Rising, for the 100 year commemoration biopic film The Rising (2016), written and produced by Kevin McCann. The film is set to be released on St Patrick's Day, 2016.

Radio Edit

Morgan has taken part in BBC Radio play, Cry Babies by Kim Newman, on BBC Radio 4 (March 2009), playing the part of Roger. On December 2014, he starred as Newton Pulsifer in the first audio dramatisation of the popular book Good Omens, written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, directed and adapted by Dirk Maggs, and produced by Heather Larmour, on BBC Radio 4.

Narration Edit

For the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking in the North Atlantic on 14 April 2012, Morgan performed readings from survivor's accounts and testimonials during Titanic: A Commemoration in Music and Film, broadcast live on BBC2 from Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

On 27 Aug 2014, Morgan narrated Big Mountain Productions' Addicts Symphony on Channel 4. The one off documentary followed composer, musician and recovering alcoholic James McConnel who brought together ten classical musicians whose lives have been blighted by addiction for a spectacular concert.

Video games Edit

Morgan voiced the game sequences in Merlin: The Game (2012), playing as Merlin.

Personal life Edit

Morgan has stated about celebrity culture:

If I could change anything about the entertainment industry it would be the 'celebrity culture.' Something has been lost somewhere along the way with the craft of story-telling and I agree with Paul Newman when he said something along the lines of "people don't shoot movies now, they shoot schedules, they shoot budgets." There are of course exceptions but when the creativity is overshadowed by 'the business,' I often feel disappointed by that. We have some amazing film makers who are keeping the spirit of the craft alive and that's a hub of excitement I want to be in.

Morgan is a vegetarian, citing allergies and lactose intolerance, and has advocated ethical consumerism. He practises yoga; "Yoga is phenomenal. I like the breathing, and the focus that it brings. But I can be quite energetic if I’m doing a play. You will often find me running along the corridors to let off steam." He has noted admiration for Terry Pratchett, David Attenborough, Tim Burton and Sam Mendes, as well as the band Death Cab for Cutie.

Morgan is an accomplished Bodhrán (Irish drum) player and has a BAF 1 Star Stage Combat Certificate. Apart from his native Northern Irish one, he has performed with RP English, Scottish, Dublin Irish, London Cockney, and American English accents.

Charity and social actions Edit

From October 2009 until its conclusion on March 2011, Morgan was an official ambassador for the A Night Less Ordinary scheme in which Arts Council England, in association with Metro, offered free theatre tickets to anyone under 26 years old. In 2010, he contributed several signed pictures to the 2010 Wamcare (Worldwide Association forME/CFS Awareness and Research) charity auction, whose profits are destined for top quality biomedical research, including a large share to the Whittemore Peterson Instituteand ME Research UK. He also donated his signature to StarCards (both individually and together with Bradley James) to support the 2010 Christmas auction, the funds of which were donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. Additionally, he contributed a painting from the Merlin: Colin and Bradley Quest series to the 2010 BBC Children in Need official auction. It sold for £620.00.

On 9 April 2011, Morgan collected funds for the Great Ormond Street Hospital during the autograph signing session at the Kapow Comic Con Merlin panel in London. In 2012, he contributed a doodled and signed cotton handkerchief for the Celebrity Hanky Doodle Auction for the Silent Auction charity which benefit Godolphin and Latymer School. On 9 December 2012, he was a part of the 24 Hour Musicals at the Old Vic Theatre, an event that brought together more than 30 celebrated actors, directors, writers and composers to create four short musicals in just 24 hours. The process culminated in four world premieres presented to an audience of more than 1,000, and raised a remarkable £182,000.00 towards the work that the theatre does with emerging talent, schools and the community.

On 19 April 2015, Morgan was a part of A Gala in Honour of Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic Theatre. The evening raised funds for the Old Vic Endowment Fund, which Spacey founded with businessman Sir Michael Hintze to help secure the long-term future of the venue.

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