On this season's Once Upon A Time, the citizens of Storybrooke have a new quest: they must save Emma from becoming the Dark One.

At the end of last season, the gang received the message that only one person could save them: the greatest sorcerer of all time, Merlin. In this season's premiere, the group traveled to Camelot but ran into one big hurdle: Merlin had disappeared.

Except that Merlin isn't really missing at all: instead, he's trapped inside an ancient magical tree. So now, the new savior, Regina, must figure out how she can unlock the magic of the tree and free Merlin from his prison so that he can help the residents of Storybrooke save Emma.

Elliot Knight, who appears as Merlin on the series, spoke with Tech Times about taking on the iconic role of the world's greatest sorcerer and dropped hints about how important Merlin is to this season of Once Upon A Time.

Something Once Upon A Time does well is take characters familiar to its viewers and change them up in unexpected ways. Merlin is no exception.

"That's something I love about the show," said Knight. "It's what makes it so interesting because everyone is already familiar with the classic fairy tale characters and characters from the Disney movies: we all know their stories in that they tend to be fantastic, romanticized versions of events, which is still entertaining to watch.

"But what is so great about the show is that the creators are giving us this opportunity to show the complexities of these characters — making them more human and less removed from normal everyday people, which is why I think it's one of the many reasons it's been so successful."

That's why Knight chose to study the series carefully in preparation for taking on the iconic role of Merlin.

"Before I made any plans on the character, I wanted to look at the show to understand what the world was like through the characters: what their journeys and stories are, what their relationships are with one another and then figure out how Merlin would fit into that context."

Knight feels that Once Upon A Time is good about touching upon themes of magic and what it feels like discovering that almost childlike wonder that magic brings.

"It was so much more about trying to remember how I felt as a child," said Knight. "Because when you watch the show, so much of the themes of magic and love and hope and everything that is so enjoyable about it: these are things that you would really experience when you're a kid, when you're young. And that whole world of imagination: I feel like that's something really important to access and remember. That's where the heart of it comes from.

"I remember when I met [executive producers] Eddie [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz], and they were telling me about the show because I hadn't seen it at that point. And they were saying, 'it's so amazing.' And it's really inspiring that there are grown-ups in the world who feel so in touch with their imagination and their passions for adventure and fantasy and really great storytelling that can appeal to someone of all ages, no matter where they're from or their experiences."

However, Knight also referred to his favorite depiction of Merlin from his childhood for inspiration: the 1998 mini-series Merlin that starred Sam Neill in the title role.

"You watched him: he was born and then he grew up. You saw him as a young boy and even the whole mythology and legend before he existed," said Knight. "Then, you saw a sort of interpretation of what happened with Queen Mab and the wars that were going on at the time: it was all steeped with wonder and history, and it was so magnificent, and the story was so epic and it went on for years and years and years."

For Knight, that mini-series' depiction of Merlin felt magical because it showed Merlin as he progressed through his life.

"I've always felt this connection to this higher story that doesn't show just this character, but shows a human on a journey," said Knight. "Yes, there is magic, and magic is fun. But he was in love and he went through pain and he went through happiness and went through loss. There are so many factors that made him the character that he was in that."

Knight states that this is how he feels about his own portrayal of the character and that the writers of Once Upon A Time understand the importance of that kind of storytelling.

"That's what I feel like the writers are doing and have done with the characters so far: they've made them more interesting and they've given them each a drive and something to fight for, which is, obviously, the overall theme of the show: having something to fight for, finding out what that is, and really making sure you stay on the path that you choose," said Knight.

So, does that mean we'll see Merlin's origin story on the series? According to Knight, it's likely, at least in part because every character on Once Upon A Time has a rich backstory.

"So, if we were to find Merlin, at whatever point he does pop up, I do think we'll get a lot of questions answered about him," said Knight. "I'm not going to say what, or how many, but I really enjoyed the material that I've been given to work with."

Knight has already appeared as Merlin in one scene during this season's premiere episode. In that scene, young Emma Swan is sitting in a movie theater with stolen candy. Merlin approaches her and tells her not to take the sword out of the stone, something that's already become Emma's goal as the Dark One this season. However, that scene is more pivotal than viewers even realize.

"It's not just a random moment in time," said Knight. They didn't show it for no reason. That scene may be even the heart of the events that are about to unfold. So, it's of crucial importance for fans of the show. And it might not be as obvious as they think."

Once Upon A Time airs on ABC on Sundays.

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