History’s hit drama series Vikings is back for a 10-episode third season that promises to be bigger and even more epic than ever. With Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) as King and the promise of new land from the English, the former farmer leads his people to an uncertain fate on the shores of Wessex. As Ragnar and his band of Norsemen come together to break down the walls of the mythical city of Paris, the family saga that also includes Rollo (Clive Standen), Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) continues as alliances are questioned and relationships are strained.
During this interview with press to promote the new season, actor Alexander Ludwig (who plays Bjorn Lothbrok, the warrior son of Ragnar and Lagertha) talked about how he came to be a part of Vikings, what Bjorn’s ultimate goal is, the lengths his character will go to, to regain his father’s trust, what his character still needs to learn, family relationships, the kind of warrior Bjorn will be, and what his favorite weapon is to use on the show. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: How did you come to this show, and what was it that attracted you to this role?
ALEXANDER LUDWIG: It’s funny how this actually came about. One of the executive producers on the show had seen me in The Hunger Games and had seen that I had a strong resemblance to Nathan [O’Toole], who played the original Bjorn, and that I resembled Travis [Fimmel], as well. She contacted my team and brought up this show and said, “Is Alexander doing anything?” I had just finished Lone Survivor, at that time. We had a talk. I’d never thought I would ever do a TV show. It was just when TV was starting to have some really great content. I hadn’t actually seen Vikings yet, so I started watching the show. I called some of my friends and told them what was happening, and they were like, “You would be an idiot not to go on the show!,” because they were already huge fans of it. So, I went in and met with the president of MGM Television, and everybody who’s involved with Vikings, including Travis and Katheryn [Winnick]. Then, I did a reading with Travis and Katheryn. The next thing I knew, I was up for the role. I’ve learned so much, working with such great actors. It has been the creative experience of my life, thus far.
What is Bjorn’s ultimate goal, at this point? Does he have a bigger plan?
LUDWIG: Yes. I think that he’s truly been inspired by what his father’s been able to accomplish. Like any son of a father, they want to make their father proud. Especially amongst this family, there is a certain amount of aspiration to not only fulfill what his father has accomplished, but to accomplish even more than what his father ever could. That’s one thing that they really pride themselves on. That was how their legend lived on.
Ragnar has not approved of Bjorn’s choice of mate, and has stated his disappointment. What lengths do you think Bjorn will go to redeem himself, in his father’s eyes, and do you think he actually needs to?
LUDWIG: I think that he does know that he did something wrong, and he would go to the end of the Earth to regain his father’s trust. I think you can look forward to seeing that. He was so focused on the goal that the family has to colonize Paris and he forgot about the more important thing, which is family.
The two prominent male figures in Bjorn’s life betrayed the family, in one way or the other. Do you think that affected who he is now?
LUDWIG: Absolutely, yes! That’s a great question. He’s found a certain ruthlessness, but has been able to keep a poise and confidence in his own judgment that was lacking amongst these influential people in his life. In a way, I think Bjorn has become the perfect mix, but as he will soon realize, to be powerful and to command a presence amongst such ruthless people, you have to have a certain ruthlessness, yourself. I think he’s really become his own man. He’s about to learn a very valuable lesson, but he’s very smart and I think that’s why, at such a young age, people had already looked up to him.
What do you think your character needs to learn, this season?
LUDWIG: Great question. I think he needs to learn that, to be a leader, you have to encompass a certain sense of ruthlessness. Right now, he is encompassing a confidence in himself, yet also keeping the poise. At one point, he will come to realize that, to be a leader, you have to make decisions that want to draw waves in everyone’s best favor.
How would you define Bjorn’s relationship with Lagertha, at this point?
LUDWIG: You can look for more of a camaraderie amongst those two, as opposed to a mother and son relationship. This season is a very, very big one for my character, in that his parents are going to him for advice. They realize that he’s always been a bit of a wise soul. He’s very intelligent, in that he speaks only when he needs to, but he’s a very good listener and he’s very intelligent and calculating. You’ll see, down the road, that his father and mother will both seek his help. And you will see him really coming into his own then, especially towards the end of this season, like you’ve never seen before.
How will Bjorn’s relationship with Porunn (Gaia Weiss) evolve?
LUDWIG: In Season 2, there was a lot left unsaid about their relationship, and it was supposed to be vague. There was so little light shed on their relationship. In Season 3, you’re going to see that they have grown into something very, very special and loving and really deep. Bjorn gets some news that’s phenomenal. His family is going to grow, and that is very, very great news for him. But unfortunately, things take turns for the worse and something very severe happens, and you’re going to realize how deep their relationship really goes because a very big obstacle is put between them. It’s going to be very, very interesting for the fans to see how much they’re willing to overcome it.
Now that Bjorn is all grown up, he will be a challenge to Ragnar, as the story continues. Have you felt that shift in Bjorn’s and Ragnar’s relationship, from Season 2 to Season 3?
LUDWIG: Absolutely! I think there’s been a massive shift, and I’m very excited for the fans to see this season, definitely more so than the second. Obviously, I love the second season, just being a part of everything. But now, I really do see Bjorn as the idol he’s intended to be. He’s not a boy anymore. He’s really become a man. You’ll start seeing his father seek out his help, as opposed to the opposite way. You’ll start to see him take charge, in his own right, and be very much a part of the team, as opposed to the new rookie. So, it’s really just been a phenomenal experience, and I can’t wait for a chance to see this grow because he really does look to him. The end of this season is just insane, and I can’t wait to see everybody’s reaction.
How much do you think Rollo’s (Clive Standen) guidance makes an impact on Bjorn?
LUDWIG: Especially in the second season, when Ragnar was always busy with his own aspirations, Bjorn was very much in need of a father figure to coach him and welcome him, and Rollo really did take that on. In this season, you will see that, but in a total 180. You’ll see Bjorn always come to Rollo, and you’ll see Bjorn come to Ragnar’s aid. He’s very much his own man now. He’s learned all that he can and he still values everyone’s opinion, but at the same time, he knows that he has a voice now, and everybody else knows that his voice should be heard because he is very calculating and very smart.
What kind of warrior will Bjorn be when the Vikings go to France?
LUDWIG: He’ll be ruthless and calculated. I think that that’s what his father has always been, to an extent, but you’ll see a new side to Bjorn that I don’t think anybody had seen before. He’s not just fighting for himself anymore. He’s commanding more than just himself. He starts taking charge of other facets of the attack and has really just come into his own. You really do see Bjorn as a man now, which is how I always intended him to be. I can’t wait to see how the fans react to this.
What sort of antics did you guys end up involved in?
LUDWIG: Oh my gosh! So many that I can’t say in an interview. I’ll find a way to tackle Travis to the ground, and then he’ll end up throwing something at me. Every day, you have to be watching your back. One day, we had ice cream on set and I would took a cone and threw it in his face. It really just makes everything more exciting. I’m used to the crazy antics that we get into. When it comes to actually working, we are very professional. This has been the experience of my life, working with Travis. We love each other, and I love everybody I work with.
Out of all the weapons that you’ve been working with, what has been your favorite?
LUDWIG: I love the axe. It’s probably one of the hardest to fight with, but I always force myself to because I like how real it is and how different it is. It’s easy trying to work with a sword. The worst one is the shield. Whenever you’re in a fight, you always try to get rid of that first.
Is Bjorn going to have any interaction with Aslaug’s sons, or are they going to be perpetual children in this story?
LUDWIG: Yes. That is a phenomenal question, and only a really true fan would be able to ask that. Historically, they actually have a very close relationship. So much so that after their father passed, they teamed up and declared war on the world. Depending on how long this show will go for, that is something that all the fans can look forward to seeing, with this new bond. That’s really when the Vikings became well-known around the world. People knew this group of these brothers that had come for vengeance. So, you can absolutely look forward to that. What’s so funny is that those kids are like my little brothers, whenever I’m on set. I love them. I see them all time, whenever they’re on set. We always get to hang out, and they’re just the most adorable kids on the planet.
Is there going to be continued peace between Aslaug and Lagertha?
LUDWIG: Circumstantially, something happens that will deter from that entirely. However, when they are all back together, I don’t believe that there will be peace forever. I think something has to happen. I’m just as in the dark about that as you are, though.
Vikings airs on Thursday nights on History.