By David Hennessy
Series one of Vikings, now available on Lovefilm, sees Rollo, played by Clive Standen, explore and conquer the foreign land of England with the Vikings who are led by his own brother, Ragnar. While Rollo’s greatness as a warrior is doubted by none, it is his character as a man that doesn’t impress so universally. Always played with simmering aggression, Rollo’s jealousy of his brother’s fame has always been hinted at but the soon to be filmed second series of the historical drama promises to throw up a battle where the brothers are, for the first time, on opposite sides.
Clive’s previous roles include playing Archer in BBC’s Robin Hood and the warrior Gawain in Camelot which was also created by Michael Hirst who brought us Vikings. Shot in Wicklow, the cast of Vikings includes many other Irish faces including Gabriel Byrne who plays Earl Haraldson in series one.
The Irish World caught up with Irish born Clive as the cast read through the second series of History Channel’s new hit show just ahead of returning to Ireland to start pre-production. What can we expect in the forthcoming second instalment? “It’s gonna be a Rollo-coaster. It’s amazing. We got the first few episodes through and we’ve been talking to Michael Hirst a lot about what happens in three, four, five and six and onwards but the first episode is a cracker. It really is. Most series go out on a big battle but we set up so many cliff hangers and things that we were able to go straight into the second series with a bang. It really does exceed expectations, I think.
“If you liked the long boat stuff, you haven’t seen anything yet. We’ve got more boats being built right now, it’s the start of the golden age of the Vikings so there’s gonna be a lot of boats on the sea. There’s some massive action sequences already just in the first few episodes that I’ve read and as far as Ragnar and Rollo’s journey goes: It’s a car crash waiting to happen. They are also going to make a casting announcement soon, there are some exciting new actors joining the show.”
While Rollo does betray his brother at the very end of series one, Clive’s character has also shown his brother great loyalty: Something he still bears scars for. In fact, you could say Ragnar owes Rollo far more. While fame comes Ragnar’s way following his foreign adventures, one has to ask would he have dared sail into the open sea without his big brother? “Not at all,” Clive says certainly. “I think the brothers have grown up doing everything together: Sharing girls together and going on every adventure having each other’s back. Rollo is one of those people who may be a bit dangerous and mercurial. You don’t really know what is going on in his head and you’re not sure if you quite trust him but you definitely don’t want to fight against him. You want him in your corner and I think it’s always been that way with the brothers. This is what is so awful and terrible but exciting from an audience’s point of view, that in series two for the first time, they’re having to think about going their separate ways.”
When confronted by an English army in one episode, Rollo asks few questions before suggesting killing them. Clive looked to Irish actor Michael Fassbender for inspiration for his unstable warrior: “We were talking about sociopaths and how sometimes you can be impulsive and hedonistic and you can do things spontaneously. It doesn’t mean as soon as you’ve done those things, you regret them instantly. Things eat you up and you sometimes can paint yourself and go: ‘Well, I’ve made my bed so I’m gonna live in it and I’m gonna continue to do that’ or sometimes you wanna change. I believe that some people are capable of changing more in one day than others in a lifetime and that’s what I held onto with Rollo. We started looking at films like Bullhead and Shame and just that impulsive nature, someone who’s dead behind the eyes and disgusted with themselves but deep down there’s a loneliness there and vulnerability and it’s about taking away those layers and building a really multi-faceted character.”
With the story firmly based in history, Clive did much research on the real Viking he plays: “A lot of Rollo’s documentation comes from the history books because he was the great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror and the Duke of Normandy. The real Rollo ended up being quite a good leader, he was an expert navigator of the season but whether we take him that way, we’ll have to leave that up to Michael but there’s so much research I can do on Rollo so it gives me such a good platform to take him in different directions.”
For the full interview, see the June 22 print edition of The Irish World.