Vikings have gotten a bad rap.
In this truly international production — which was shot in Ireland and Norway with actors representing the U.S., Canada, Ireland, the Czech Republic and Sweden (among others) — it is an Australian who leads the way. Fimmel supplies Ragnar with a menacing swagger that has him wearing a devilish grin whether he’s sailing to new worlds or swinging a sword. He is able to recruit so many to join his dangerous pursuits because of his undeniable charisma.
Fimmel — whom Hirst describes as “compulsively watchable” — shares this trait even during this brief interview, coming across as an engaging sort, happily talking about his experience with Vikings and casually providing massive spoilers (which won’t be revealed here). Like Ragnar, he is a farmer with larger goals in life. Fimmel was able to go beyond the hairstyles, the armor and massive amount of staged violence to find the real character within.
“Everybody relates to a person being human, while a lot of people don’t relate to all the sword fighting and ax fighting,” Fimmel says. “You just play it like a normal human being with feelings, who loves his family and wants to do well in his life. Ragnar was a pretty ambitious guy, more ambitious than the typical Viking, and he’s pretty prepared to sacrifice everything to get notoriety and just for the exploration of it all and the experience. Just to be a different man.”
In addition to all the intellectual curiosity on display, Norse society also was far more progressive and democratic than many might think. Women, for instance, could not only fight alongside the men, but they could also own land and divorce their husbands. Ragnar’s wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), is a fine example of this — a ferocious shield maiden who is just as dangerous as any man. And while Siggy may play a more traditional role in helping carry out her husband’s plots, she is one of the more powerful and determined characters in the story.
Gilsig says she and Byrne saw their characters in the mold of other historical rulers whose positions of power seemed as natural as breathing air.
“How do you understand the Ceaucescus or these dictators who feel not only entitled but actually can’t understand why their people don’t love them anymore?” she says. “You think of Imelda Marcos, and she’s like, ‘Why don’t you love me? I’m your mother.’ They consider themselves something on the level of gods. Every time the earl executes someone, it feels like it’s our only choice, and surely if people could only understand what it’s like to sit in our position, they would know that this is just part of what we have to do in order to maintain the society as we see it. That’s a real justification that’s airtight for us, but is horrific from the outside.”
Photo/Video credit: History Channel