“Vikings” tells the story of legendary warrior Ragnar Lothbrok and the people who surrounded him. The Carroll News spoke with Katheryn Winnick, who plays Ragnar’s wife, Lagertha, and Clive Standen, who portrays Ragnar’s brother, Rollo. Season two of “Vikings” premieres Thursday, Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. Catch up on episodes from season one at history.com.
The Carroll News: What made you want to be a part of the show?
Clive Standen: The question is why wouldn’t I want to be a part of the show? I’ve done a couple of period dramas before this. I did “Robin Hood” and “Camelot”… as much as I enjoyed doing those shows, I feel like those were just a warm-up for the main event because “Vikings” is what I was really looking for in a period drama. It just seemed to be the package I was waiting for. Michael [Hirst] is a formidable writer and he really does satisfy my thirst for knowledge in that era. “Pride & Prejudice,” “Downton Abbey” … that’s what people think of when they hear period drama and they’re fantastic. But I think with “Vikings,” it’s really encapsulated a younger demographic that have been drawn into it. It’s almost fantastical. It’s nothing like a show like “Game of Thrones” but with these gods and these monsters and their belief system, it almost does verge on that realm. And I think it’s really captured the imaginations of the younger audience that didn’t think historical dramas were accessible to them before. It’s got action, it’s got adventure; why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that? I’m having a blast and I want it to go on for season after season.
Question: How do you think the show maintains such a realistic feel yet still makes these gods feel as important as they are to the characters themselves?
CS: This period of time has never really been explored before and I think when any actor approaches a character, especially like Rollo who is worthy of the history books, you have to take great dedication into trying to get it right. These people really did believe in these gods, they believed in this world. It was a harsh climate where it was kill or be killed. I take great pride in trying to immerse myself into believing in these pagan rituals, even when it comes to the human sacrifices – you have to find some kind of humanity into why these people believed this was necessary. I think it does parallel certain religions and … outlooks on life in modern society as well.
Question: Have you ever had any accidents where a cast member gets carried away in battle?
CS: All the time … the idea is you put extra moments in it. I know that someone is [going to] come at me from behind with an axe, but I’m taking out some guy in front of me and I see him in the corner of my eye and just at the last minute, I turn my back and I deflect his moves … Sometimes that goes wrong … This season I got a metal spear … straight through my shoulder … You get shields in the face all the time … All the stunt men I’m fighting against have loads of pads and things hidden underneath their costumes but when we clash … that is what you see. We run at full pelt and we smash into these wooden shields and metal swords … I ended up with cuts and bruises all over me, but you just don’t feel it when you’re filming … the adrenaline just keeps you going. We all are very good with just getting on with it and then picking each other up afterwards … it’s nice to go for a pint after a battle scene and discuss war wounds.
CN: As you said earlier, your character [Lagertha] is based on the historical and somewhat legendary figure of the same name. So how similar is the character you portray to the legend?
Katheryn Winnick: How similar — well, we know few facts. We know that she was the wife of Ragnar Lothbrok. We know that she had a son with Ragnar. We know that she was a shield maiden. And she eventually left her husband. That’s all in the sagas. So there’s stories of how they got together and there’s legends that she saved his life. That’s out there on the Internet and that’s part of the stories that are told about Lagertha. And that she had a very strong will and a fighting spirit, that she was courageous as any man. I think that all those qualities I try to bring in creating Lagertha on screen.
Question: So we noticed in season 1 that you were amazing in the battle scenes, even with just your shield. Was there any training or preparation for you?
KW: Great question. I have a martial art background. I’m a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do, second-degree black belt in karate, licensed bodyguard. I started a school when I was 16, a martial arts school called Win Kai Martial Arts. I started teaching actors and actresses martial arts on movie sets before I was an actress. So I had the physical training of it, but picking up a sword and a shield was all very new to me. And I got cast pretty late in the game in Season 1. I think I got cast a week before I had to go to Ireland. So I didn’t have that much prep time in the first season. This season was a little different because now I had the time to learn how to try different weapons and how to get more skillful in the sword and the shield. But as well as horseback riding training, that’s always a lot of fun as well. And I’m actually right now prepping, even though it hasn’t been officially ordered, I’m actually working with a fight coordinator just to fine-tune all of my stick fighting, so just to work on some cool moves. But we don’t work with a stunt double, we do all our own stunts, at least I do. And I take pride in that. You kind of have to do that, because it’s believable and it’s part of the character. So, that’s my favorite part.
Question: What are the greatest moments you’ve ever experienced on the set of Vikings with the cast and crew that you currently work with?
KW: The greatest moments (laughs) there’s so many of them I can’t even think. You know, truthfully, when we’re shooting up in these mountains and dealing with the Ireland weather—which is very temperamental, to say the least. We’re dealing with bright sunshine to rain to possibly hail and bright sunshine all within 45 minutes. And so a lot of times we’re stuck in these heating tents with one heater when all the cast mates come together and we have no cell phone receptions or Internet. And we sit there and we just have to tell stories or play games and entertain ourselves and really get to know each other. And that’s what makes the show also really special because all the cast mates really established a strong bond with each other. I would say we’re like family over there. We’ve relocated in Ireland, at least I have for six months, and some of the other cast members, for six months. So it’s our extended family when we get there and we hang out as much as we can and try to enjoy each other’s company. Which, that’s my favorite part because I can’t imagine being stuck in the mountains with anyone else.
–Interview by Katherine Oltmanns and Madeline Smanik