By David Hennessy
Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick plays Lagertha, Ragnar’s wife. However, Ragnar was unfaithful to his wife and season two sees the arrival of a pregnant princess. Shield maiden Lagertha who always displayed strong will feels she has to leave, taking son Bjorn with her. Although Bjorn does initially choose his father for the sake of his destiny, he changes his mind and it is just as well as the opposite would have been too much for Lagertha to take: “The fact that she has already lost two kids in series one, she miscarried and lost Ragnar’s daughter Gyda to the plague and now her only son, her only legacy is Bjorn and having him choose between the mother and the father is nobody’s wish, I think she would have had a very hard time if she lost her son as well.
“It’s hard for any woman. You ask yourself where do you fit in: Do you rebuild the relationship, do you ever trust again? It’s different when there’s a kid on the way especially in the Viking years and Ragnar’s legacy is also his son’s so it’s of big importance for him to breed.”
Ragnar does suggest a great compromise (for him, at least) of a cosy threesome of himself, Lagertha and the other woman, Aslaug: “Of course, why don’t we all live together? Legertha has too much pride and too much dignity to put herself in a situation where she is humiliated. She is a very strong willed personality and will do what is best for herself and her son.
London-based George Blagden plays Athelstan who is held captive and becomes Ragnar’s slave after their first raid to England. However, he soon began to identify with his captors who treated him well, even leaving behind his religious beliefs. Series two sees him fully adjusted to Viking society and even ready to raid with Ragnar: “I think this amazing relationship that Michael sets up between Ragnar and Athelstan, it’s so complex in that right at the start of series one, Athelstan is Ragnar’s slave and you have that very, very complex combination of master-slave relationship that then develops into being friends. Very early on in the story you see these two characters realise they’re actually two men who need each other. Athelstan would simply not survive in cath in Scandinavia without Ragnar, he would be an outsider and would probably be hung up like all his other brethren monks, so whilst Ragnar is his captor, he is his saviour. And Ragnar needs Athelstan to function in terms of going forward and raiding west again and he’s a very useful source of information so I think once Michael had established that complex relationship, it was inevitable really that Athelstan would grow his hair.”
With Rollo isolated and Athelstan now earning respect among his new clan by training in combat, is Athelstan more like Ragnar’s brother now? “I think you’re right, I feel as though the brother connection is very much still there between Rollo and Ragnar so Athelstan is maybe, I dunno, a lieutenant, he’s his best friend. Ragnar described Athelstan as one of the few people he could talk to honestly and I think that sums up that relationship: The person he trusts the most.”
Won’t there be divided loyalties when George’s character returns home to England but as an invading warrior? “There certainly are and I hope in the way we developed Athelstan’s character, we have shown that effectively and the real conflict that it causes in his own self when he lands in England again as someone completely changed.”
Vikings depicts a world where mere survival is a battle. How do Katheryn and George think they would survive in such a harsh reality? “Wow, as in if we were just thrown right now in Kattegat, could we make it?” Katheryn asks. “I hope so.”
George points to the martial arts trained actress beside him: “I would cling to this one as if my life depended it.”
Katheryn concludes: “I could protect, as long as you could cook.”
Of course, Vikings is not the only epic show coming out of Ireland. Who would come out on top if Ragnar and his warriors set sail from Wicklow to Belfast to take on one of Game of Thrones’ seven kingdoms? “Vikings, of course,” Katheryn says without a second’s hesitation. “We got the axes, the swords, the army…”
George adds: “(We’ve got) long hair. They’ve got dragons and magic and fantasy but we’ve got shield maidens.”
Katheryn continues: “I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones, I love Game of Thrones. They’re up in Belfast, we’re shooting in Wicklow, a couple of times I’ve bumped into some of the other actors.”
George has an idea: “We should definitely do that, combine behind the scenes, just get all the cast from both shows and meet halfway for a big battle a in afield with axes and swords, no dragons. Totally have them.”
Tell the Lannisters the gauntlet has been thrown.
To read the full interview, see the February 22 Irish World.