Having wrapped up its second season and being well into production on the third, cast and creators from History Channel’s historical drama Vikings took time out of slamming each other with swords and shields to visit Comic-Con to host a panel for the fans and hint at what’s coming up for Season 3. During the Con I was able to attend a roundtable interview with show creator Michael Hirst to discuss what is in store for the upcoming season. During the interview Hirst discussed the role of strong female characters in the show, how religion and mysticism are treated and used in the show, what is in store for Ragnar now that he’s come into his own power and the struggles of keeping the show as historically accurate as they can.
Hit the jump for our Vikings Season 3 Comic-Con interview with Michael Hirst.
MICHAEL HIRST: Travis was actually asked in the panel what he was thinking about, and what he was thinking about, he said, was what it meant to have power and that most powerful people are either corrupt anyway or are corrupted with power. Ragnar’s been on a journey from the beginning in which he didn’t ever want to be an earl or a king, he just had other desires, to travel, he was curious about the world. And these desires were always frustrated by the powers that be. So by default he had to take them on. So in his own mind he’s now struggling with this idea about, what is power? What is it going to do to me? What am I going to tell my son about what power is and what responsibility is and everything? So as usual, and the wonderful thing is, we don’t have a show that’s about oh, you have to get the throne, because that’s the only important thing. Getting the throne isn’t the only important thing, it’s what you do when you are king or what it’s taken you to get there. It sets up the season very well because a lot of the season is about the cost of power, the price you pay for getting to the top.
Are we gonna have a time jump?
HIRST: No, not in this season.
HIRST: Yeah, and I’m enormously proud of that. I did my PhD at Oxford in the short stories of Henry James, and Henry James enjoyed writing about female characters more than male characters. And in some ways I suppose do too. He said female characters are far more complex and far more interesting for a novelist, and I wasn’t really conscious of making Lagertha almost unique as a leading female character in a TV show, but I think she is unique, and I think she is a mother and a wife and she kicks ass. And she’s a wonderful role model, absolutely, but unfortunately as a writer I have to punish her again and again, so she’s always losing everything. And I think for women that’s often the price, especially for a powerful woman, that’s the price they pay for achieving anything. So every time you think she’s actually achieved something, risen to the top, and you think, oh things are going to be easy now, they’re not. They never are, for women, then and now, the Dark Ages or now, there are just more problems. More issues, more things to solve. More complications to life. So I don’t write the women differently, but I write them in the same way, so the women are as interesting as the men and they don’t just decorate the show. For example, this show is late to air in Ireland, but very few women are watching it in Ireland at the moment and it’s so sad, because they don’t realize that it’s as much about the women characters as about the male characters.
HIRST: It’s very important. The reality of the show is something I’m very proud of, it’s based on research. Of course it’s the Dark Ages, we know very little about the Vikings in the sense that they didn’t write anything down, and what was written down about them was written by their enemies. I don’t take huge license, I never depart too much from what is known. I’m very proud of the fact that it’s a show that is real, and it’s real in the sense it’s based on real people, on real things, but we shoot it in a real way, so all the actors, they fight, they row, they ride. If you look at Thor, the film Thor, all the battles, all the fights are CGI. It’s pathetic! Our guys actually fight, they get dirty, and they get hurt.
How is Ragnar becoming king going to affect the conflict that’s growing in England at the end of the season? They left them with a bunch of Vikings…how is him being king going to, are you going to go over that?
HIRST: We go over that certainly in Season 3, and one of the reasons is because Linus Roache is king at Ecbert, it’s such a great character that you would not want to leave him, you want to go back and find out what he’s up to and how the settlement works. And remember, right from the start of Season 1 this is one of Ragnar’s dreams, is to start settlements elsewhere, where there’s good soil. He was a farmer, Ragnar, Scandinavia’s very poor soil, it was overpopulated at the time, not enough farming land, he knew that they had to expand, and that’s one of the reasons they exploded out of Scandinavia in the 8th century. So what happened to the settlement is hugely important to Ragnar, and it’s a huge part of the narrative of Season 3. But I can’t tell you what happens.
HIRST: I’m on record as saying that I don’t like fantasy, and I prefer things to be based on some kind of reality. The seer is described in the Icelandic sagas as someone who is sort of undead, who lives in the ground, and comes up whenever anyone goes to visit them. The word “seers” in most villages, most towns, of course we have no idea what they looked like. No one left a description of a seer. We know that there were seers, we have some of their pronouncements, it was a seer who told the god Odin that his son was going to be killed. So we had to imagine what a guy might have looked like who lives in the ground, is buried in the ground and complains about the wetness of the ground all the time and has perhaps been around for hundreds of years. So we came up with a design. So for me that’s not fantasy, because that’s based on—and it’s not fantasy either, the Vikings see the gods sometimes, in different shapes, maybe as an animal. Because, again, in the sagas, we know that they did see the gods. I always give this example: if you were making a show about Jesus Christ and you had a scene in the cave after his crucifixion where he was dead and got up again, is that fantasy? To Christians it’s the truth; from a Christian point of view, it’s not fantasy. It’s the truth. So I’m doing things from a Viking point of view for the first time, and so these things are real to the Vikings.