Interview with Vikings’ Katheryn Winnick

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The History Channel is about to premiere its first scripted drama, Vikings, this Sunday night. We had the opportunity to chat with the lovely Katheryn Winnick, who plays Lagertha in the show. Her character is a shieldmaiden and wife of Ragnar Lothbrok, the main protagonist.

John “Spartan” Nguyen: Hey Katheryn, how’s it going?

Katheryn Winnick: Good! How are you doing?

Great, great! I’m really excited about the show. Tell us about your character, Lagertha.

Sure! I play Lagertha, who’s a character that’s based on a real person. She is a famous shieldmaiden of the Dark Ages. She’s not only a young mother and a wife, but she also fights on the front line with the other Vikings and can hold her own.

Vikings is a very brutal show with a lot of taboo subject matter. Was this challenging for you?

Yes. I think one of the things that attracted me to this role was the fact that not many people know much about the Vikings and who they were in society. It was great working with Michael Hirst. I’ve been such a big fan of his when he did Tudors. Knowing how he writes and how he works with historians to get the right information, you do get a sense of who the Vikings were. It’s raw, authentic, and barbaric, but it’s amazing to see how they live their day-to-day lives as well.

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There aren’t that many historical females who can kick ass, so this must have been very interesting for you.

What’s great about Lagertha is that she is definitely a strong woman who can defend herself. She’s true and modern for her time. She’s very forward thinking and fierce. Woman in that era (the Dark Ages) were strong and powerful woman. She’s a great character to show that. I did my research on her and it was amazing to find out that women weren’t just farmers and mothers, but they were also warriors.

Do you see a bit of Lagertha in yourself?

[laughs] Very much so. I fell in love with Lagertha. There are obviously different aspects of her that are different from me, but the fact that she is a woman who sticks up for what she believes in and has a strong opinion was something that I connected with. Her relationship with Ragnar, her husband, was that of an equal. I admired that when I was doing my research.

I saw an episode where you’re dressed for battle, and I thought that was a really cool look.

Costume designer Joan Bergin (Tudors) is phenomenal. She wanted it to be authentic on what Vikings wore and how they used what they had as part of their warrior costume. We worked with different leathers to create more of a body armor. It took me half an hour to get into that warrior costume. They only had one or two article of clothing, and they would personalize their clothes. For example, her belt had a picture of a raven on top, and I think that it was a symbol of strength and a connection to the god Odin. I think that’s really important in understanding their mythology.

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You’re on a show with a bunch of Viking men. How was it like working with the cast and crew of mostly men?

I was the only girl in the first three months of shooting with 14 Viking men. It was such a treat to have a scene with Jessalyn Gilsig, who played Siggy. Even though I grew up being a tomboy and trained in martial arts [see martial arts reel below], it was still challenging. It was also a lot of fun. I had a good time, and they are such amazing cast members. Everybody is so talented, warm, and friendly. I made some great friends on the set. It was definitely a challenge being the only petite person, considering that all the Viking men were above 6 feet.

You mentioned in an interview that you’re a bit of a nerd. Explain yourself.

I love doing research for this. I found myself so enthralled in knowing how the Vikings lived and their mythology. Even the way Lagertha would tell the mythological stories to her children were fascinating. I found myself obsessed with the goddess Freyja and the god Odin. It was interesting to know that the Vikings were pagan, so they believed in many gods and believed the gods walked alongside them.

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