Colin Morgan

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Colin Morgan
SDCC10 - Colin Morgan - Standing.jpg
Colin Morgan promoting BBC TV series Merlin at 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International
Born (1986-01-01) 1 January 1986 (age 28)
Armagh, Northern Ireland, UK
Education Integrated College Dungannon
Belfast Institute for Further and Higher Education
Alma mater
Occupation Actor
Years active 2007–present

Colin Morgan (born 1 January 1986) is a Northern Irish film, television and theatre actor best known for playing the title character in the BBC TV series Merlin. He made his West End theatre acting debut in 2007 as Vernon Little in DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little, followed by his role as Esteban in Pedro Almodóvar's Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother). Since then, he has been in the London theatre productions Thomas Babe's A Prayer for My Daughter (2008), Pedro Miguel Rozo's Our Private Life (2011), Step in Time at The Old Vic 24 Hour Musicals Celebrity Gala (2012), Shakespeare's The Tempest (2013), and Jez Butterworth's Mojo (2013–14). His first main part on television was as the title character in the BBC TV series Merlin (2008–12). He is a recent addition to the second series of award-winning Northern Ireland television crime drama The Fall (2014) as Tom Anderson. His film roles include Parked (2010) and Island (2011). His current film projects Testament of Youth and Legend are scheduled for release in 2015.

For his performance in Merlin, he has received the Outstanding Newcomer award from Variety Club Showbiz Awards (2008), nominations for Outstanding Actor (Drama) in the Monte Carlo TV Festival Awards (2009, 2010, 2011), the Best Actor award in Virgin Media TV Awards (2012), and the prestigious Best Actor in Drama Performance: Male award in National Television Awards (2013). He also won Best Featured Actor in a New Production of a Play as Ariel in the Sheakespeare play, The Tempest, in Broadway World West End Awards (2013). On October 2013, he was in the number one spot in BuzzFeed's "The 17 Rising British Actors Most Likely To Do A Cumberbatch."[1] And on April 2014, The Daily Edge included him in their list of "8 young Irish actors who could be on the brink of global stardom."[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Morgan was born in Armagh, Northern Ireland, the son of a painter and a nurse.[3] He is the youngest of two brothers and was raised as a Roman Catholic during "The Troubles," a period of political, ethnic, and sectarian violence where the threat of bombings and shootings became a normal part of growing up.[4] Despite limited opportunities due to the turmoil surrounding him, 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 of Cinderella and then Peter Pan, then going on to participate in various local amateur stage productions during his childhood.[4]

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.[5] 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."[6] 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 the Eurovision 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."[7] 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.[4] There, he was awarded a National Diploma in Performing Arts from the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education in 2004. After leaving Northern Ireland, he attended the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, where he graduated in 2007. In the final year of his under-graduate 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 role that was assessed for his final grade.[3][8]

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.[9]

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.[8] 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,"[10] 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."[11] 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.

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,"[12] while Variety also gave him excellent reviews for his "remarkable level of twitchy intensity."[13]

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 may have been molested by his father as a child.[14][15] 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.[16]

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,[17] and with a subsequent DVD release in July 2014.[18][19] 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.[20] 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,"[21] 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."[22]

From 2013–14, 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.[23] Mojo received good reviews[24] and the London production was extended for two weeks, finishing on 8 February 2014.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27]

Television[edit]

2007–08: 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."

2008–12: Merlin[edit]

A promotional photo of BBC's Merlin with Morgan taking on the award-winning lead role.

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, Anthony Head, and Nathaniel Parker.[28] 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. 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.[29] 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.[30][7]

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.'"[31]

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.[32]

2014 onwards[edit]

Morgan appeared 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).[33]

On April 2014, it was announced that he will take on the role of Tom Anderson, a Detective Sergeant, joining Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan as one of the lead characters in the second series of award-winning BBC Two and RTÉ One drama serial The Fall.[34]

Film[edit]

Morgan on the filming set of Testament of Youth, Oxford, England, 9 April 2014

In film, Morgan portrayed the role of 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.[35][36][37] 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.[37][38][39][40] 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.[41][42]

Morgan's current film projects include a portrayal of 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 of World War I.[43][44] Victor was a member of the Officers' Training Corps at Uppingham School and was intending to study medicine at Emmanuel College Cambridge when the Great War broke out. Instead he volunteered for service, joining the 4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment as a Lieutenant before getting attached to the 9th King's Royal Rifle Corps where he fought at the Battle of Arras in France on 9 April 1917.[45] 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.[46] Both films are scheduled for release in 2015, with Testament of Youth having a UK premiere of 2 January 2015 though there’s also been some talk of having a special gala for it at the British Film Institute London Film Festival on October 2014.[47][48]

Radio[edit]

Morgan has taken part in one BBC Radio play, Cry Babies by Kim Newman, on BBC Radio 4 (March 2009), playing the part of Roger.[49]

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.[50]

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.[51][52]

Video games[edit]

Morgan voiced the game sequences in Merlin: The Game (2012), playing as Merlin.[53][54]

Personal life[edit]

Morgan with a Koala in Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane, Australia on 7 November 2011

Morgan prefers not to discuss his personal life, saying:

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.[55]

Morgan feeding a Kangaroo in Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane, Australia on 7 November 2011

Among the few definite things that are known about him is the fact that, being a vegetarian because of his allergies and lactose intolerance, he can cook.[7] He loves farmers' markets as well as Thai food.[7] And he said, "I’m very interested in where food comes from. I think a lot of the health problems people face now are as a result of what they are eating. And I don’t just mean junk food. I’m talking about eating food where you don’t know where it has come from."[56] His other great passion is the natural world, and he is always hungry for new experiences. He considers Sir David Attenborough, who is the face and voice of natural history programmes, as his hero. The conservation and protection of the natural world is very important to him, especially seeing animals in their natural habitats.[56] He is into yoga, and says, "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."[56] He is also into Anime, escapism, and rollercoasters. His favourite animated film is Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle. Additionally, he is an avid reader, known to research a lot about his acting roles by reading as much as possible. His favourite books are those by Terry Pratchett, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Yann Martel's Life Of Pi and the Bone comic book series. He is also a big fan of directors Tim Burton and Sam Mendes, as well as the band Death Cab for Cutie.[7]

Morgan is an accomplished Bodhrán (Irish drum) player, a strong swimmer, and has a BAF 1 Star Stage Combat Certificate. He also has a great ear for accents. Apart from his native Northern Irish one, he can do RP English, Scottish, Dublin Irish, London Cockney, and American English.[57] The biggest telltale sign of this talent is when he used RP English for five years in Merlin, and during his acceptance speech for Best Drama Performance: Actor in the 2013 National Television Awards, he caused bewildered spectators who had no idea he was from Northern Ireland to trend "Merlin is Irish" on Twitter.[58]

Charity and social action[edit]

From October 2009 until its conclusion on March 2011, Morgan was an official ambassador for the A Night Less Ordinary scheme which Arts Council England, in association with Metro, offered free theatre tickets to anyone under 26 years old.[59][60][61] In 2010, he contributed several signed pictures to the 2010 Wamcare (Worldwide Association for ME/CFS Awareness and Research) charity auction, whose profits are destined for top quality biomedical research, including a large share to the Whittemore Peterson Institute and ME Research UK.[62] He also donated his signature to StarCards (both individually and together with Bradley James) to support the 2010 Christmas auction, the funds to be donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.[63][7] Additionally, he contributed a painting from the Merlin: Colin and Bradley Quest series to the 2010 BBC Children in Need official auction. It was sold for £620.00.[7]

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.[7] 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.[64] On 9 December 2012, he was a part of the 24 Hour Musicals at the Old Vic Theatre, a glamorous, adrenaline-fuelled event that brought together more than 30 celebrated actors, directors, writers and composers to create four short musicals in just 24 hours. Everyone gathered the evening prior to prepare for an exhilarating, collaborative process, culminating in four world premieres presented to an audience of more than 1000. The evening raised a remarkable £182,000.00 towards the work that they do with emerging talent, schools and the community.[65]

Exhibitions[edit]

"Merlin: The Dragon Tower" at Warwick Castle[edit]

In 2011, Morgan was immortalised as the wax sculpture of his iconic character Merlin. At Warwick Castle, an attraction has been created entitled Merlin: The Dragon Tower, in which visitors are, "transported to the heart of Camelot to discover the secrets that are hidden deep inside the Tower before your ultimate encounter with the Great Dragon himself."[66] People can meet Merlin (from the BBC TV Series Merlin) himself – or at least a true-to-life wax model, which was created with over 300 measurements and a catalogue of reference shots of Colin Morgan himself.[66]

Upon seeing his wax work, Morgan said: "Little did I think that when I visited Madame Tussauds as a kid that I would have the honour of having the same fantastic team making a wax figure of myself. It’s truly amazing and I can’t praise their hard work enough in creating such a brilliant life-like me."[66]

The wax model cost £150,000.00 and the entire castle experience is a £3 mil. investment by the Merlin Entertainment Group to promote the show.[67]

Works[edit]

Theatre[edit]

Morgan at the premiere of the film Island, Glasgow, Scotland, 20 February 2011
Year Title Role Company
2007 Vernon God Little Vernon Little Young Vic Theatre
2007 All About My Mother Esteban Old Vic Theatre
2008 Prayer for My Daughter, AA Prayer for My Daughter Jimmy Rosario Young Vic Theatre
2011 Our Private Life Carlos Royal Court Theatre
2012 The 24 Hour Musicals Celebrity Gala Gary Old Vic Theatre
2013 The Tempest Ariel Shakespeare's Globe
2013–14 Mojo Skinny Luke Harold Pinter Theatre

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2007 Catherine Tate Show, TheThe Catherine Tate Show John Leary Episode: "Christmas Special"
2008 Doctor Who Jethro Cane Series 4, Episode 10: "Midnight"
2008–12 Merlin Merlin Series 1-5: 65 Episodes (Main Role)
2009 Merlin: Secrets and Magic Himself TV Documentary: 14 Episodes
2009 The Real Merlin and Arthur Himself TV Documentary co-starring Bradley James
2014 Quirke Jimmy Minor Episode 3: "Elegy for April"
2014 The Fall Tom Anderson Post Production

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2010 Parked Cathal O'Regan
2011 Island Calum MacLeod
2015 Testament of Youth Victor Richardson Post Production
2015 Legend Frankie Shea Post Production

Radio[edit]

Year Title Role Company
2009 Cry Babies Roger BBC Radio 4

Narration[edit]

Year Title Notes
2012 Titanic: A Commemoration in Music and Film Documentary
2014 Addicts Symphony Documentary

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2012 Merlin: The Game Merlin Voice

Other works[edit]

Title Role Company
Jack and the Beanstalk Archie RSAMD
Caucasian Chalk Circle, TheThe Caucasian Chalk Circle Singer (Arkadi Tsheidse) RSAMD
Tempest, TheThe Tempest Ferdinand RSAMD
Plasticine Groom/Grandmother RSAMD
Last Supper Young Man/Chorus RSAMD
Vassa Semyon RSAMD
God the Game Show Stewart RSAMD
Bite of the Night First Youth/Chorus RSAMD

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Role Result
2008 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards[68] DEWYNTERS London Newcomer of the Year Vernon Little in Vernon God Little, Esteban in All About My Mother Nominated
Variety Club Showbiz Awards[30] Caron Keating Outstanding Newcomer Merlin in Merlin Won
2009 Seoul International Drama Awards[69] Best Actor Nominated
Monte Carlo TV Festival Awards[70] Outstanding Actor (Drama) Nominated
2010 Monte Carlo TV Festival Awards[71] Outstanding Actor (Drama) Nominated
2011 Monte Carlo TV Festival Awards[72] Outstanding Actor (Drama) Nominated
TV Quick Awards[73] Best Actor Nominated
2012 TV Quick Awards[73] Best Actor Nominated
Virgin Media TV Awards[74] Best Actor Won
2013 SFX Awards[73] Best Actor Won
National Television Awards[75] Drama Performance: Male Won
Broadway World West End Awards[76] Best Featured Actor in a New Production of a Play Ariel in The Tempest Won

References[edit]

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  2. ^ DailyEdge.ie. "8 young Irish actors who could be on the brink of global stardom". Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
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  41. ^ Finite Films. "Island". Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
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  44. ^ "Up&Comers". Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
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  46. ^ upandcomers.net. "First Look at Emily Browning and Colin Morgan on London set of ‘Legend’". Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  47. ^ BAZ BAMIGBOYE. "BAZ BAMIGBOYE: A hundred years on, Brittain's got talent". Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  48. ^ Edward Davis. "Indiewire: Watch: First Trailer For 'Testament Of Youth'". Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  49. ^ "The Kim Newman Web Site". Retrieved 23 January 2009. 
  50. ^ "Titanic Stories". Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  51. ^ "United Voices: Addicts Symphony". Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
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  60. ^ "Gealach Ros". Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  61. ^ "Arts Council England". Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  62. ^ "WAMCARE Charity Auction". Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  63. ^ "Starcards". Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  64. ^ "The Godolphin and Latymer School Foundation". Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  65. ^ "The Old Vic Annual 2012/13". Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  66. ^ a b c "Merlin: The Dragon Tower". warwick-castle.com. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  67. ^ "The Warwick Courier". Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  68. ^ What's On Stage Theatregoers' Choice Nominees
  69. ^ 2009 Seoul Drama Awards Festival
  70. ^ "49th Monte-Carlo TV Festival Drama TV Series – Outstanding Actor". Retrieved 22 April 2010. 
  71. ^ "Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo – 50 – Nominees for Outstanding Actor – Drama TV Series". Retrieved 22 April 2010. 
  72. ^ "Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo – 51 – Nominees for Outstanding Actor – Drama TV Series". Retrieved 13 January 2012. 
  73. ^ a b c "IMDB: Colin Morgan Awards". Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  74. ^ "Virgin Media TV Awards". Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  75. ^ "National TV Awards". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  76. ^ "Broadway World West End Awards". Retrieved 25 November 2013. 

External links[edit]