We are now only a couple of days away from the anticipated release of one of the year’s biggest sequels – Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Director Matthew Vaughn’s follow-up to 2014’s enormously successful original is bigger in every way, whether that’s the action, the cast or the story and is set to be just as big at the box office. And to continue our coverage of the film, we sat down with Mark Strong, who plays Merlin in the film, to chat about returning to the world’s most famous tailors.

While his co-star Colin Firth admits he knew the first film was going to be a success, Strong admits he wasn’t really sure whether or not the film would become a hit but says that he’s sure the creators did, saying:

“Honestly I wasn’t aware, I’m sure Matthew and Jane and Mark Miller (Kingsman creator) were aware of the potential because it comes from a comic originally and comic-books and spawning film after film at the moment so I’m sure they were aware of it but I hadn’t really considered that. But it’s been fantastic that there is a sequel.”

Speaking of sequels, Strong too maintains that its a tough gig getting a follow-up film to be as worthy (or perhaps even more worthy) than its predecessor and takes a lot of know-how. But he believes that Vaughn and co have done just that, building on the world they have created while also giving the characters new and interesting challenges – including meeting their American counterparts, saying:

“The fact that he (Matthew) has come back with something that ticks all the boxes of the first one, which you have to do for a sequel, but takes it all somewhere else is really clever because often sequels are disappointing aren’t they? The surprise factor that you get from the first one is great – no-one really knew who Kingsman was when they saw it but now they do so now they’re expecting something so you have to take it to another level and he does that. And I think the introduction of all the American characters and meeting the Statesman is a stroke of genius.”

So where do we find Merlin in the first film? After Harry’s apparent death, he becomes the surrogate father to Eggsy (Taron Egerton) in many ways – the “Alfred” to his “Bruce Wayne” – and helps him maintain the Kingsman’s operation. But had director Vaughn been a little kinder in the edit, Merlin may have had his own love story – with Halle Berry.  Strong explains:

“It was brilliant. Turning up on set everyday with Halle and doing all of of that stuff was great – in the original cut, which was about 4 hours long or something ridiculous, there was more of a kind of love interest between the two of them, they bonded over John Denver and The Muppets, bizarrely, but that had to go I think in favour of keeping the film lean and moving along but it did mean that i got to come to work everyday and be in love with Halle Berry which is not so bad.”

Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens on September 20th.