On Saturday three of the main stars dropped by WonderCon to discuss History Channel’s new hit show, Vikings. The show follows the exploits of Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking warrior who invests in a new and faster boat that will be able to take him across the open ocean to find new land and treasure. I was able to sit down with Travis Fimmel, who plays Ragnar, at a roundtable interview to talk about what is to come for the second part of the season. Fimmel told us about what is was like to shoot the battle scenes in all kinds of weather, what’s in story for his character’s future, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say. Vikings airs on the History Channel Sundays at 10pm.
Travis Fimmel: Yeah. When I first did it my hair was only like an inch and they put extensions on the top and it was so annoying.
So we talked for the first half of the season and now we’re coming up on the second half? How is your conflict with the Earl going to evolve?
Fimmel: I’m not sure. You’ll have to- As I’ve said, it gets so much better. Like I’ve said up there before, all the favorite scenes are all at the end. I was so happy, I was glad we got past these ones, I felt like the other ones were so much better. So, me and the Earl really get into it. Yeah, it’s a great climax.
Is there another expedition coming up?
Fimmel: Yeah, there’s a lot. And [episode] 7 is my favorite.
Fimmel: Yeah it’s got everything in it. There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of boat stuff.
Any boat battles coming?
Fimmel: No, not yet, maybe next year. But I’d love to do some boat battles. So expensive though.
So in episode 7, have the English figured out that you’re coming back? Are they preparing?
Fimmel: Yeah, they’re a lot better prepared for us this time.
Bigger battle sequence?
Fimmel: Yeah, there’s a lot of fighting. There’s a lot of mind games and a chess game between King Aelle and Ragnar. And a lot of horse stuff; lot of horses and bigger armies.
Was it fun learning all the Viking fighting tactics?
Fimmel: Yeah, it was great fun. I didn’t have that much time to prepare but it’s great fun. I hate learning lines, so the fight stuff’s always my favorite. But we did it in any condition, like weather conditions. It was pissing down rain and we did it.
Fimmel: Oh, it’s great. I’m a farm-boy so I think all the other stuff’s bullshit, you know? All the fancy stuff. No it’s great, mate, just the weather in Ireland is so, so weird. We hardly got a sunny day. But it makes the show look so good. Even the very first fight that we did on the pilot was all just pouring down rain the whole day. And the crew did such an amazing job, all going up hills and that with the equipment. But they cut it together to make it look a lot nicer then what it was. I must have fallen over 50 times that day.
I keep looking for the foreboding that comes with your first name, because it’s the short form of Ragnarök, the end of all things.
Fimmel: Yeah, there’s actually an episode where Ragnarök is explained. I think it’s in 6 and 8 where they talk about Ragnarök.
The coming of the beginning of the end?
Fimmel: Yeah, it’s actually a great scene, sort of played out by some of the Vikings. Like entertainment for the Viking world; they didn’t have TV so some of the Vikings put on a little show, playing the end of the world.
So Ragnar figured that there was something west before he had Athelstan, but going back a second time Athelstan really gave him a lot of information about his enemy. Will Ragnar ever appreciate Athelstan enough that he might give him his freedom?
Fimmel: I think he’s always going to mess with his head: if he’s a free man or not. I got to always act like a boss, be the professional, and I can’t get drunk with the help. No, but our relationship really develops. One of my favorite relationships in the show; between me and him. He’s such a great actor.
Ragnar does seem to be kind of kind to him, even though he’s going and killing all his people. You’re treating him like a person. It’s an interesting dynamic you two are playing off of.
Fimmel: Yeah, I’m going to kill him softly, for sure. No, yeah, there’s always conflict between us, but I really respect him. My character really respects him.
In the beginning you character seemed to be more interested in the adventure of going west, the discovery and the treasure, but with the events of episodes 4, 5, and 6, it’s really set him on a course against the Chieftain. Can you talk a little bit about that conflict?
Fimmel: Well the Chieftain, he owns everything. I want more boats to go west and do the same stuff. I want to be able to have the money to do all that, that’s his main conflict with the Chieftain. And if he’s lucky enough to become Earl, he’ll have that power to get more boats built and use all the money that they make, all the plunder, use that money, all that gold, to make new boats. I want to go over there with lots of boats.
Fimmel: Well I think that was one of the smaller boats, the dowry, I think.
I thought it was your boat.
Fimmel: No, there’s a few that look like they’re more like for the inlets and the bay area or whatever, they’ve got smaller boats. I remember there was always smaller boats around set, they all look like the same design, the Viking design. I don’t think they use our big one. If that big one was sit next to that boat you’d notice the size difference. There’s some great scenes, especially in [episode] 7, coming up where we’re all rowing in three boats and the mist is coming up.
In HD it looks so cool.
Fimmel: Yeah it does. That was my favorite day of shooting actually.
Can you talk about the theme of trust as it goes on in the series; your relationship with Rollo who is betraying you, and Athelstan who you are confiding in, your wife Lagertha as well. Can you talk about how that evolves this season?
Fimmel: Well that’s actually why it’s such a special relationship with Athelstan, I feel like I can talk to him and tell him stuff that I can’t with other people, you know, show weaknesses. My characters confident, but he doesn’t always know he’s doing the right thing. And I feel like Athelstan gives him that outlet. And yeah, there’s a lot of complications in the last few episodes between me an Lagertha, between me and Rollo, and I’m not sure if it’s my character getting just so greedily once more, in a way. But it’s not about the treasure, it is to build the boats and that, but it’s more “I conquered this place, I conquered that place.”
But Rollo does surprise us, there’s a twist to what he was saying, so he’s smarter then we think he is, because it seems just like he wants to go around fighting and whoring.
Fimmel: No, he’s a great character. He’s a great guy, Clive [Standen], I wish he was here today, but he’s got three kids.
So in episode 5 Ragnar gets injured, what was it like to do those kinds of scenes where he’s no longer invincible, he’s injured going into this great battle, is he worried he’s not as fit as he used to be?
Fimmel: Well it’s good, you want us to be able to get hurt, it’s a bit super human not to get hurt. I mean in reality you’re just so lucky to survive one battle, but it’s a drama, so it’s good to see some of those Vikings get hurt.
But the thing that’s interesting about his escape is he’s really using his intellect more then just his physical stuff, can you talk a little about that?
Fimmel: It’s more to save his children, it helps get his children to safety, and then has to deal with the people himself, from which he doesn’t come off the best.
The show is interesting because it uses a lot of accurate portrayal of what the old languages were like. What was it like learning Old Norse and Saxon?
Fimmel: The language is difficult. Very difficult, you know, it’s so hard. I only speak Australian, so it was very difficult. It’s a great education, because nobody wrote or read back then, none of the Vikings at any rate, so we’re portrayed by people who we attacked. There’s a basic facts about Vikings, but nobody really, really knows exactly what it was like.
But your character shows that they are brilliant navigators.
Fimmel: That’s very true. They were amazing, courageous to do that. Imagine sailing out there. That’s why I respect my character the most, it’s just courageous to go straight over the ocean, not knowing if they were going to go back. Then I’m sure then thought there was a cliff over. There was the end to the world.
Even thought had a lot of oracles in the beginning, do you think he’s a man of faith, the faith to just go and trust your gut?
Fimmel: Well I think it’s the same courage to do something like that, to go off into no-man’s land and not knowing. It’s the same courage as it is to fight. So they all want to go to Valhalla, I’m sure Ragnar thinks that being so courageous to do this, these expeditions that he’s doing, will certainly get him into Valhalla, which is a whole Viking thing when I die a courageous death.
Well that’s very intriguing, we’re looking forward to the big battles coming up.
Fimmel: I hope you enjoy the show.