Clive Standen (Rollo) talks about Season 2, Rollo’s journey and why he loves filming on the Viking ships.
Question: Being a trained swordsman, do you ever bring sword elements to Rollo’s fighting style?
Clive Standen: Well this season is about Rollo’s redemption and everything is changing within his personality just as much as his fighting style as well. As the Vikings start their raiding they realize that the Saxons’ swords steel is stronger and a lot of us now have started using swords in combat, which is what naturally happened in the time period. Vikings were farmers and grew up with their axes as part of their daily life and work. So, the sword is coming back into it, yeah, and I’ve done lots of sword training, so it’s quite nice to get a sword back in hand. It’s a very different fighting style to an ax.
Question: How was your first experience of San Diego Comic-Con? What did you make of the huge reception you got from fans?
CS: It’s been phenomenal! I’ve always wanted to go to Comic-Con because I’m a big geek at heart! The fans were fantastic and it’s great to see people who are that invested in the show. They’re really in it for the long haul.
Question: Any crazy fan stories from San Diego?
CS: There’s nothing too crazy when you invest in a character like Rollo. You have to expect the good and the bad. Someone might want to come up to you on the street and try to pick a fight. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Just as many people hate Rollo as much as people love to hate him.
Question: You always say the scenes where you’re out on the long ships are your favorite. What is it about them that you love so much when they’re so difficult to shoot?
CS: I think because you have to be on your game when you’re out on the boats. The old cliché is never work with animals or children, like, whenever you’ve done a period drama you know how hard it is working with horses. Horses don’t necessarily stand where you want them to stand for the camera—it can be frustrating and the day gets away from you. It’s just the same with the boats. If the current’s too strong or if the weather is different or if the sails are up or down, you have to be able to adapt and overcome those problems. And it’s just being out on the ocean and being able to get to grips with the new technique. They were great at teaching us how to be sailors—to man the rigging, to work the sail, to row the boats. I think we all got a great sense of achievement out of that. So every time we have to go out on the boats, we take it very seriously and we want to get it right.
Question: Does shooting on the long ships make it difficult to record dialogue?
CS: We always try to record as much dialogue on the day as we can but sometimes when the weather is bad, there’s going to be some dialogue recorded in ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement]. The only time it really becomes a problem is when were out on the Gimble. The Gimble is the hydraulic boat. The noise from the mechanics of the boat moving around can drown out some of the dialogue and you have wind machines to simulate the wind in the sail, so undoubtedly there’s going to be some dialogue lost and we’ll go and redo the dialogue again.
Question: If you could change one thing about your character, what would it be?
CS: The best drama is never giving the character what he really wants because that’s what creates the conflict. I think Rollo needs to have recognition and admiration in his life. He needs to feel needed and wanted and as long as he doesn’t get that he’s capable of doing the most outrageous things. I’d like to be able to give him the acknowledgment to say, “You know you are capable of being a great man,” but unfortunately, the way the series has gone in Season 1, he’s never been able to prove himself because he’s always in his brother’s shadow.
Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn) talks about playing a historical figure, filming battle scenes and his time in Ireland.
Question: People who watch the show and who know a lot about the Viking Age will be well aware of Bjorn Ironside. Is there less creative freedom and more pressure playing a historical figure?
Alexander Ludwig: Not really pressure—it’s more exciting because you hear about all these incredible things that these people did and you get to play these people. I just can’t wait to keep telling this amazing story. I’m a huge history buff. I love history and the Viking [age] is such a cool time that doesn’t often get depicted on screen. It’s very exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens next, but at the same time you know the general idea of what’s going to happen to your character.
Question: So you’ve read up on Bjorn?
AL: Oh yeah, it’s incredible. He was one of the greatest Vikings that ever lived and being able to play him is incredible and sitting down with Michael Hirst is amazing. I could listen to him for hours.
Question: You’re no stranger to action films and stunts, but how does the fight scenes in Vikings compare? Do you do all your own stunts?
AL: Yeah, I always do my own stunts. Well, at least I’ll try to as much as I can and as much as they’ll let me, but even if they don’t let me, I’ll still try to do it! This series is more demanding and more exciting than anything I’ve ever done. In The Hunger Games, I learned a lot, more than I ever learnt fighting-wise, but on this show they like to keep the fighting very raw. Vikings aren’t into Kung fu. They’re not these fancy fighters; they’re just going to think of the quickest and easiest way to butcher you. It’s physically demanding carrying the shields and wearing the armor, but there’s endless possibilities to what you can do, as there’s no structure to the way they fight.
Question: Have you picked up any Irish phrases since you’ve been in Ireland?
AL: I’ve started saying “Thanks a million.” “That’s brilliant,” I say a ton. “It’s grand,” I’ve been saying a little bit, too!
Question: If you could play any other character on the show, who would it be?
AL: I’d want to be Ragnar. The way Travis portrays him is exceptional and he’s been a great mentor to me.
Question: Who would win in a fight, Bjorn or Ragnar?
AL: Right now, Ragnar. But when he’s trained and he gets older, Bjorn Ironside would definitely win.
With Vikings set to return Thursday, February 27, at 10/9c, we check in with dialogue coach Poll Moussoulides to discuss the art of perfecting what the Norse raiders would have sounded like.
Question: How did you get involved with working on Vikings?
Poll Moussoulides: I’ve been a voice and dialogue coach for 25 years and have worked on over 52 feature films and TV series, some previously with the producers of Vikings. So, I was delighted to be invited to take responsibility for the actors’ vocal performances.
Q: No one knows what the Vikings actually sounded like. How did you decide what accent to go with?
PM: We know from many sources that Icelandic is the closest existing language we have to Old Norse. There are some similarities to contemporary Norwegian, Swedish and Danish, but not as many as you’d think. For a show that will be watched all over the world we had to find a balance that ensures as much authenticity as possible, but without losing vocal clarity for an English speaking global audience.
Q: How did you manage to coordinate the accent with so many actors from so many different countries?
PM: One of the biggest mistakes when teaching an accent to a group of performers is to assume that everyone must sound exactly the same. There is no one singular American, German or Irish accent so why would Vikings from different regions and backgrounds sound the same? I chose several vowel and consonant sounds that give a solid foundation to the accent, and then worked with principal cast to help them find their own character’s voice around these sounds. It is vital to be respectful to each actor’s creative process and I do whatever it takes to help them achieve a vocal performance that doesn’t interfere with the believability of the character that audiences see and hear on screen.
Q: Occasionally, characters speak in Old Norse or Anglo-Saxon, what is the process for ensuring that the actors speak these ancient languages correctly?
PM: We are fortunate to have two leading experts–historian Justin Pollard and ancient language specialist Erika Sigurdson who provide us with the Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon translations. I then coach the actors as far ahead of shooting as possible. It’s a lot of fun and adds to the historical precision of the series.
Q: Typically, we associate deep voices with leadership, but Ragnar’s voice has a higher pitch to it. Was this decision made to make Ragnar stand out more or is it just the combination of Travis’ native Australian and Old Norse accent?
PM: Actually it’s none of these. I believe that Travis has made some really intelligent choices with his voice to reflect the complexity of Ragnar’s character. Audiences are mesmerized by Ragnar because he always keeps you guessing. Just when you think you know how he will react, he surprises us with an alternate decision. Travis and Michael Hirst have created a character that is curious, playful, cunning, loving and ruthlessly violent, yet always believable and engaging. When an actor inhabits their lines with a congruence of vocality and physicality that enhances our viewing experience, it is hard not to be impressed. It has been a joy for me to work with Travis and observe how he has wholeheartedly invested so much thought and skill into bringing Ragnar to life.
From Ragnar killing Earl Haraldson to his betrayal of Lagertha in the season finale, Season 1 of Vikings was filled with drama. Check out the Season 1 Infographic to take a close look at all of last year’s key moments.
In the video above, Katheryn Winnick answers a fan’s question and describes training for her role as shield-maiden Lagertha.
In the very first episode of Season 1, Lagertha is already in fighting form, defending herself from two men who invaded her home. Relive the moment in the video recap of “Rites of Passage,” the series premiere of Vikings:
Get more Lagertha:
Who doesn’t enjoy seeing Floki’s beautiful ships out on the water as Ragnar and his fellow Vikings set sail? As we get ready for Season 2, premiering February 27 at 10/9c, let’s take a look behind the scenes of filming with the Vikings’ boats.
Camera on the dock:
In front of the green screen:
Setting up the camera:
In Season 1, we took a look behind the scenes at how the Vikings’ ship was conceptualized:
Until then, let’s take a look at behind the scenes of battle on the set of Vikings.
The field before the battle begins:
Setting up the cameras:
Perfecting the blood placement:
Shields on break:
See the Vikings in battle in Season 1:
Ragnar took Athelstan as his slave after the Vikings raided Lindisfarne, but the Christian monk ended up becoming part of the Lothbrok family and even saved Ragnar’s life. Watch the video above to see what Season 1 of Vikings would look like as a buddy movie featuring the pair.
Not every moment of Season 1 was so nice, though, as the Vikings were well known for their battle skills. Check out the bloodiest moments:
Ragnar told Bjorn he would not see Princess Aslaug again. Earl Haraldson insisted there were no lands to the west. Ragnar assured Rollo they would always be equals. There were quite a few lies told in Season 1 of Vikings. Watch the video above to see them all.
Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha) talks about getting ready for Season 2, her martial arts background and Lagertha being seen as a female role model.
Question: How does it feel to be back for Season 2? Is there more pressure to deliver or is it more relaxed having done another season already?
Katheryn Winnick: [Laughs] I’ve never even thought about it that it might be more pressure! It definitely seems more relaxed, I think. Everyone already knows how to work with each other because it’s the same people as last year in terms of the cast and crew. At this point, I feel like I already know Lagertha and who she is. And the accent is definitely a lot easier this year in the sense that it’s more ingrained into my muscle memory.
Q: Lagertha is seen as a strong female role model. How important is it to have a character like that on television today?
KW: I think it’s really important, but I think its also important to note that, she’s not based on any comic book or any cartoon. She is based on a real shield-maiden, a real warrior who was married to Ragnar Lothbrok, who had her own power and strength in her own right. It is really nice and refreshing to see the amount of female viewers that respond to her and the unbelievable amount of support Lagertha has gotten from young girls to mothers and even boyfriends. I like it. I’m definitely proud to play her.
Q: How alike are you and Lagertha?
KW: I think there are things that are similar and there are definitely things that are different. I’d like to consider myself strong-willed. I have a martial arts background. I grew up as a fighter, so I have that history that Lagertha does.
I’m used to also being surrounded by “lads” all the time. Growing up, I’d consider myself a tomboy. I’ve been in a martial arts gym since I was seven! Our spirit of combat is quite similar, but as a shield-maiden I can’t really pull out a roundhouse kick!
Q: I heard a rumor that when you were about 13 years old, you got kicked out of summer camp, which sounds like something that would have happened to a young modern day Lagertha!
KW: [Laughs] Yes. Yes. I was definitely a huge troublemaker at camp! My friends and I used to always come up with different ways to prank the counselors. [Laughs] We were just pain in the butts. But the summer camp prank went a little further than it should have. I won’t give you all the details on that!
Q: Did you read up on the history of Lagertha prior to shooting?
KW: I definitely tried to get as much information as I could. Michael Hirst gave me some books on her. There’s very little about her out there. It’s really hard to find stuff about her. But you develop the character as you go and you learn more about Lagertha as the series goes on. I’m still discovering more things about her as Michael Hirst keeps writing more things! But I have a good idea of where she comes from and who she is.
Q: What has the fan reaction to Lagertha and the show been like? How was the experience at San Diego Comic-Con?
KW: It’s absolutely amazing to see everyone’s positive responses to the show. It’s a little surreal. Sometimes they know these characters and the world more than us, so I learn a lot from them! When you’re filming over in Ireland you think no one’s really seen the show, but when you go over to an event like Comic-Con, you see the fans’ reactions and it’s amazing!
As we covered a few weeks ago, Vikings like to eat. So, a food-focused holiday like Thanksgiving would probably have their approval.
In honor of the big day, check out the video above to see some of our favorite food-related moments from Season 1.