After a wildly successful debut this year, The History Channel’s Emmy-nominated series Vikings made its triumph return to Comic-Con with the cast and creator: Travis Fimmel (“Ragnar Lothbrok”), Katheryn Winnick (“Lagertha Lothbrok”), Clive Standen (“Rollo”), George Blagden (“Athelstan”), Gustaf Skarsgard (“Floki”), and Michael Hirst (writer/creator). The historical drama, inspired by real events and people, follows the life of Ragnar Lodbrok a young warrior whose rise to power made him one of the most legendary Vikings in history, and whose legacy ushered in the Viking Age.
Although we will have to wait until 2014 to see the aftermath of its dramatic season finale, we sat down with Skarsgard and Blagden to discuss the fate of the show’s characters as well as the experience of making season one of Vikings.
What kind of research did you do for Floki in order to play the role?
GUSTAF SKARSGARD: I read some books, but one in particular called “Old Norse Religion,” which is one thick academic book…it’s really interesting, and I realize there are so many misconceptions. So we don’t really know (exactly) how they lived and dressed. It’s all speculative. Any sort of historical fiction like it (Vikings) will always be an interpretation.
Because the series is filmed in a remote location, does that make you all closer?
GUSTAF SKARSGARD: Yeah we are really close, we’re away from our homes, we’re covered in blood and mud every day, getting physically exhausted every day. So we formed a tight bond.
Was there a scene, or particular moments, while filming season one you enjoyed the most?
GEORGE BLAGDEN: I had a serious one this week (for Season 2) which I can’t really tell you about…in season one there were quite a few. Last year was a life changing year for me in that I got to work in two projects that epitomize everything I love about this craft and being an actor. I remember as a teenager watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” and thinking, ‘My God, if I ever got to that or to be in something like that then I know I’ve made it.’ The first time we went out to the ships last year…I got dragged onto a pier by a pile of Vikings with a rope around my neck…it probably wasn’t as cool as Orlando Bloom in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” (laughs)
GUSTAF SKARSGARD: (laughs) You are way sharper than Orlando Bloom, in anything.
GUSTAF SKARSGARD: Like, always, when I get onto horseback, I’m kind of terrified of being up there. But once they call action, I really get into it and I’m not afraid. There’s this one scene where we’re riding into this courtyard in England, it’s not a spectacular scene, but you have that scene coming into the courtyard and having all the people look at us as these Vikings up on these horses. You know, It’s just you get so close to that fictional situation that’s it’s so real. Adventure wise, those are the peaks, and the action scenes. Acting wise, I think it was the storm scene I had on the ship where I’m praising the gods for letting my boat survive the storm.
Where does your fear of horse come from?
GUSTAF SKARSGARD: I got thrown off a few times (when) I was a kid. Also, I’ve also worked a lot of historical stuff back in Sweden and there’s always conflict with horses. I get a bit paranoid when I’m on them, and they can sense that and they get a bit paranoid. It ends up in this bad spiral where I don’t want to be on them, and they don’t want me on their backs. But now? It’s been good, and Tony our horse guy has been great.
Your character (Althelstan) had the most life changing scenes, how was that for you?
GEORGE BLAGDEN: The best characters to play are the ones who have deep internal conflict. It would be boring if Athelstan and Ragnar are mates on a Viking voyage because that wouldn’t be a deep conflict going…his journey only gets more dramatic. Some of the things Michael (Hirst) is making me do as an actor with a character, I can’t think of another character on a show I’ve watched go through such a change. It’s like Shakespeare under extraordinary circumstances.
Do you think Althestan will want to go back, back to the life?
GEORGE BLAGDEN: It depends when you ask him. In the end of season one, I don’t think he wants to go home. I think he likes where he is.
So what about Season Two? Will Floki be in it, and how far advance do you know your scenes?
GUSTAF SKARSGARD: I’m in the first episode, I guarantee it. No, I don’t know (how far in advance,) that’s what makes it so scary. It’s like wrapped Christmas gifts, but there could also be a bomb in there. Whenever you read a new script you’re like, ‘Ok, am I going to die in this episode? What’s going on and what’s going to happen? I’m always wishing for more intrigue and meaty stuff to do as an actor. Sometimes you’re disappointed, and sometimes you’re excited. It’s scary to not know, where a character is going to go, and that’s closer to life.
Floki is a little strange, was he written like this in a script or was that a part of your interpretation?
GUSTAF SKARSGARD: Well, everything he says is written in the script. So whatever quirkiness he has is a lot already in it, and that is what suggested my performance to me. Then I brought myself to the table, so to speak. I felt like it’s a character you can’t play straight and plain. It’s has to be high wire and eccentric somehow. But strange, strange is good.