In anticipation of tonight's Vikings Season 2 Premiere on HISTORY, TV Fanatic had the opportunity to participate in a series of conference calls with members of the cast.
Below, you will find highlights of conversations with George Blagden (Athelstan), Alyssa Sutherland (Aslaug) and Travis Fimmel (Ragnar Lothbrok).
The actors discuss how their characters have changed, what it was like to get back into character after the hiatus, key moments from Season 2 and why modern audiences still find Vikings fascinating and more...
If you were one of the 4.3 million viewers that tuned in to Vikings Season 1, you’re no doubt aware that the show’s characters change dramatically over the course of nine episodes.
Our hero - Ragnar Lothbrok - starts off as a family man/farmer, becomes a warrior and eventually leader of his community as Earl.
Travis Fimmel, who portrays Ragnar, explained that getting back into character wasn’t difficult for him at all: “The sets and the costumes are so good, that they really help put you in that world again.”
It was a different experience for George Blagden, however. The young actor who plays monk-turned-Viking, Athelstan, struggled slipping back into his character’s shoes.
“I think the big thing for me was trying to pick up the character of Athelstan when he was in a way, halfway, over the hill on an arc that Michael [Hirst] had written for him," he said. "It was quite hard for me to kind of re-plot in my mind the arc that the character had been on and think… okay, here we are now."
Unfortunately, audiences didn’t get to spend much time with Aslaug. The Gotaland princess appeared in just a handful of scenes in the first season’s finale. However, her relationship with Ragnar has serious repercussions throughout Season 2.
Many fans of the show were quick to label Aslaug a homewrecker (or several other colorful words too nasty to print).
“It's a real testament to how invested [fans] are in Lagertha and Ragnar” said Alyssa Sutherland, who portrays Aslaug.
The actress is quick to come to her character’s defense, though, explaining that series creator Michael Hirst never discussed ulterior motives for Aslaug: “We were actually talking about Aslaug and Ragnar feeling like they were destined to be with one another and having this feeling that this is destiny and fate.”
Another interesting bit of information Sutherland dropped is that Aslaug believes herself to be a “seeress.” Therefore, aside from their initial attraction, the character honestly feels Ragnar is the man she’s destined to be with. She’s seen it.
When discussing Lagertha and Aslaug, Fimmel pointed out that Ragnar’s relationship is very different with both women this season.
“Lagertha seems to be chasing a bit more power now. She wants to be Earl and it's not about our community, she's had a bit of a taste of power and she's more about that now. Aslaug is more about our family and taking care of our four kids.”
It sounds to me like viewers may warm up to Aslaug this season, and perhaps look at Lagertha differently as well.
Athelstan and Ragnar’s relationship has also changed from a complex master/slave dynamic to more of a deep, trusting friendship. Athelstan has now fully integrated into Viking society; he is even training to raid England.
Blagden shared his thoughts on the evolution of this important relationship: “I think as we move through Season Two, you really do understand how much these two men are connected and how important they are for each other, and what choices they make to make sure that they are always a constant in each other's lives.”
Sutherland talked about how welcomed she felt coming on to the set last minute for her scenes. She also mentioned how great it is to work with both Katherine Winnick and Jessalyn Gilsig.
"They're both smart, funny women and I really respect that. It's awesome to be able to work with women that care so much about the show and for all of us to have that same purpose, to want the show to be such a success. I can't speak highly enough about them really.”
Last season, Lagertha and Siggy were both forced to deal with a very emotional moment of crisis. Sutherland assures us that Aslaug will have two stand-out moments herself this season, which are very relateable to audiences.
Speaking of emotional moments, Fimmel delivers an outstanding farewell monologue to his daughter Gyda.
“I think that's the best scene Michael Hirst wrote in the whole series. Every scene is great with Michael, but that one, Michael's got children and he really hit the nail on the head with that speech. It's more of the writing than me that made that work.”
Another wonderful scene in the premiere takes place when Ragnar asks son Bjorn where he learned the goal in life is to be happy. Again, Fimmel credits the show’s creator/writer Michael Hirst.
“Yeah, that's actually amazing writing. It's very true, in our life nobody says you have to be happy, you just try to be happy. Especially back then, it was a very difficult world. People died, you lost loved ones and I played that scene after my daughter dies. So I think Ragnar's very sad about that. His life hasn't worked out the way that he exactly planned it and he really misses his daughter.”
While that’s very unassuming and humble of Fimmel to say, it’s the actor’s delivery and performance that moves us to tears. Without the actor, those would simply be words on a page right? Let’s give credit where credit is due. Vikings is a show that does several things well, but the strength of its writing and acting towers above the rest.
The Viking Age and its famous warriors like Ragnar Lothbrok, and his son’s Björn Ironside, Ivar the Boneless, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye continue to fascinate us.
When asked why he thinks modern audiences are still so drawn to Vikings, Blagden said: “What Michael [Hirst]'s brilliantly done with the show is he's showed you the real human side to them [Vikings] and the family drama that we've created over the course of now two seasons....
"I think being able to show that to the public has kind of brought about an amazing response in people going, Oh my god, wow I never knew that sunstones existed, I never knew that's how they sailed west, I didn't know that women were regarded so highly in that culture.
"All of these things that Michael [Hirst] has been able to introduce is what keeps people coming back week after week. And of course, the complex relationships you develop throughout all of the characters. It's really exciting to be part of it as an actor. It's a real gift.”
Vikings Season 2 premieres tonight at 10/9c, exclusively on HISTORY. Please check back for my review of the premiere right after it airs.