The History’s Vikings Panel at San Diego Comic Con 2018 on Friday featured Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha), Clive Standen (Rollo), Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn), Alex Hogh Andersen (Ivar), Georgia Hirst (Torvi), and Michael Hirst (creator/writer).
Season five so far has had an interesting story structure, with many flashbacks, and Hirst said that they try very hard to make every battle different and innovative, which influenced Hirst. He tries to stage battles in as truthful a way as possible, and many times it takes a while to work that out. They are collective endeavors, as battles, but each warrior or shield maiden has different experiences. He chose five or six major players and presented the battle from their individual viewpoints in that “space between life and death”.
There were many emotional conflicts involved, Hirst said, so it made sense to make the battle subjective. The scripts for episode 10 surprised the executives, who when printing it, thought there was a mistake since it kept going back to the beginning.
Winnick was asked about Lagertha’s attraction to her new lover, the Bishop Hakmon. At the season break, Lagertha’s hair actually went grey from shock, so she’s going to have a new look in the rest of the season. The Bishop is someone she’s both attracted to and respects, who shares a philosophical worldview, which is something Lagertha is looking for at this stage in her life. She’s been through so much, from losing children, to being betrayed, and facing off against Ivar, but she’s still going to challenge the world.
Hirst said that relationship with the Bishop is dangerous, but it’s not something she can walk away from, and would you really expect Lagertha to do so?
Standen was asked about Rollo’s return and his loyalty. Standen says that Rollo usually does the opposite of whatever he’s expected to do. He’s also back “for team Rollo”, rather than really being on any side. He has his own kingdom and people, and will put that first, Standen said. Ivar promised him something, and whether he delivers will affect things.
Ludwig’s character Bjorn has lost so much recently, including his second wife, and was asked where he’ll go from there. Ludwig says you’ll see a “huge shift” coming up, including a dark side, but he’s also going to become a leader in many ways. Asked what stands out for him on Bjorn’s journey this season, he said that it has been a fun season, including filming in Morocco.
Hirst said that for this show, you don’t have to make things up because the reality is “extraordinary enough”.
Georgia Hirst was asked about Torvi’s reaction to being dumped by Bjorn, she pointed out that Torvi’s now dating his brother. Torvi never felt like she was enough for Bjorn, and now has found genuine love, Georgia Hirst said.
Alex Andersen said that Ivar’s in a good place, with Kattegat, but it’s going to go “very well” for a guy who can’t control himself and now has to control a population, he joked. Then there’s the Bishop being stolen by Lagertha, so Ivar’s really mad, Andersen pointed out.
Asked about the acting challenge of playing Ivar, Andersen he thought things would be easier once he could stand up, but the crutches and braces are incredibly heavy and he has to wear then for 10 hours at a time, unable to bend his legs.
Winnick said that Andersen has a lot of physicality he has to bring to the role, but he’s a “trooper” and very professional about it, with a smile on his face, to applause.
As weird as it sounds, it’s fun to “crawl through horseshit” instead of just sitting and talking, Andersen said. He asked audiences not to be “too hard” on Ivar with what’s coming up.
Hirst was asked about Floki’s decision to go to Iceland, and he said that Floki had lost everything and was fed up with the compromises people were being forced to make in order to survive as a “pagan fundamentalist”. He wanted to find a holy and spiritual place, and submitted to the gods. He didn’t deliberately take people somewhere horrible, but somewhere he thinks they can live free spiritual lives.
Winnick has been working on the “other side of the camera” this season, and has directed an upcoming episode. She’s had a great time working with Hirst and see things from a new point of view, telling a story. This was the most challenging thing she’s ever done, yet the most rewarding. Her fellow co-stars are her friends, and getting a chance to ask them what they want to bring to their character, collaborating with the actors, has created a rewarding environment.
She was nervous, of course, shooting in the middle of winter, with only 8 hours of daylight, with rain, sun, and both multiple times a day.
Alexander said the crew is very male dominated, so it was very inspiring to see Winnick direct that episode, and it was an honor to be part of it, to applause.
Standen was asked it’s good for Rollo to get back into battle scenes. He pointed out that Rollo is older now, and there’s a feeling of missing being a warrior. He has just as many things in life tearing him apart, but different than physical battles. Rollo is now thinking about death, and with Ragnar gone, he has unfinished business with his family. Rollo didn’t kill his brother, unlike some other characters, so there’s still emotion there. It’s another “reinvention” of the character for Rollo, another chance for him.
Asked about Rollo’s loyalties, Hirst confirmed that Rollo still does love Lagertha, but he’s in a different place now governing a “nascent kingdom”. And people make choices in those situations that “cut across” what they formerly believed. But being in Kattegat gives him a chance to talk to the people he needs to talk to in order to address loose threads in his life.
Asked if they know what they are saying when speaking Old Norse lines, Winnick said that it’s very important to get things right, especially with many fans who know every word’s meaning. Repetition eventually leads to nailing the lines. Ludwig said that if you don’t know what the lines mean, it’s impossible to convey the emotion needed.
Hirst works with professors on the language, and it’s very important to the show and him. They go to France and learn how the Franks used to speak. He contacts historical advisors, who have a bank of academics, who spend a long time researching and building up languages that may not have been heard for hundreds of years. They argue about regional distinctions, particularly for Anglo-Saxon. Recently, Hirst wanted a character to speak words that were the “basis of all language” and some academics worked on this. They worked out what the “mother of all languages was” and recorded some words in that language. Hearing those words made the “hairs on the back of his neck stand up” for Hirst. That’s the depths they go to on the show to “get it right”. It’s a very exciting part of the show.
Asked how the role of Lagertha has inspired her as an actress, Winnick said that she’s been a big part of her life for six years now, living in Ireland, and digging into the character. She’s taught Winnick many things, including how to be a “fighter”, both physically and emotionally. She’s “fierce”, Winnick said, to applause. In the time that we’re living in, with the “Time’s Up” movement, she couldn’t be prouder to portray this character. She knows people around the world have looked up to Lagertha, and she hopes the character inspires young girls to “fight for what they believe in and go after what they want”.
Asked about the way in which the show pushes for gender equality, and how that bleeds into their off-screen lives, Winnick said that they love to portray the characters, but they also have so much fun doing it. They also go out and relax, creating a balance on set, so they are not always living in their character. Friendship helps do that, on screen and off.
Hirst said that the stereotypes for Vikings was only a starting point, and his research led to discovering just how enlightened they were in regard to women’s roles, even more than we are now in some ways. Those were lost later when Scandinavia became Christianized. We need to revise our attitudes toward Vikings, and their “independence of spirit” and “respect for one another” is “basic to the culture and basic to the show”.
There’s been a big acting challenge for how many years have passed on the show versus the shorter time it’s been in the real world. Actors are challenged to play older characters, and don’t have to be replaced by other actors, Standen said.
Winnick said that it’s hard to let go and allow herself to be an older character, and coming up she’s spent three hours in prosthetics a day to accomplish it, but she’s gotten there. Their hair and makeup team have been Emmy nominated recently for their amazing work, Winnick reminded.
Asked about the history behind the show, and whether Ivar’s character is going to found Dublin, Hirst said he wouldn’t tell. But like most of these characters who emerge from myth and history, and there’s always a suggestion they might not have been real. But Hirst believes there is evidence, but that there’s contradictory evidence about what happens to them. Ragnar, for instance, had dozens of adopted sons of nobles whose fathers had been killed, for instance. Hirst likes playing around with the possibilities.