With my covering Vikings for the past four years, its evident the cast enjoys their annual visit to Comic Con. Their appearances have become one of my most anticipated events during the busy convention, and the entire cast takes the time to show their appreciation to their fans. This year, there wasn’t a formal press room but I had the opportunity to attend the panel. Here are my key highlights, and the session was so much fun that I nearly felt as if I was attending a celebration in Kattegat’s great hall.
After an epic season three ending in which the Northmen take over Paris, Clive Standen (Rollo), Travis Fimmel (Ragnar), Katherine Winnick (Lagertha), Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn), and show creator Michael Hirst greeted their fans in great spirits in Room 6A, and were ready to share what the Vikings have been up to.
The discussion started naturally with Fimmel whose character, King Ragnar, appeared to be at a very low point mentally and physically by the end of season three.
“He’s not afraid of death,” Fimmel revealed. “He’s very intrigued with death.”
Displaying yet again his character’s spontaneity, Fimmel shifted gears halfway through his answer to publicly congratulate his agent on his recent engagement. The entire room cheered and Fimmel then circled back to his question. He clarified that Ragnar’s fascination with death doesn’t make him more religious: “He’s got a lot of questions for every religion in regards to any faith….He questions all the gods…and even the Seer (John Kavanaugh), he questions the Seer a lot.”
I’m certainly looking forward to Ragnar’s discussions with the Seer next season; I love the cryptic nature of the reveals.
Standen was up next! As we discussed how Rollo endured some challenging moments after the death of Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), he explained that Rollo and Siggy started with a marriage of convenience but then it turned to more for him. With her gone, he’s completely distraught: “It’s tragic to him but he’s not someone who is going to share his emotional pain.”
Standen explained how his character might first hurt himself to mask his emotions and how he displaces his pain from the loss via his fierceness in the battlefield: “It’s always a form of self-harm. The only pain he really knows is the pain of the battlefield.”
Based on the season three finale, we can expect Rollo to spend quite a bit of time in France: “But moving on, in France, the biggest mountain to climb is Princess Gisla (Morgane Polanski),” Clive stated half seriously and half in jest. “You’ll have to see how he deals with that. She’s not coming easy yet.”
The fans loved his answers and when Moderator Kate Hahn encouraged Standen to showcase his “Pardon my French” t-shirt, he proudly displayed it. The crowd loudly approved of it.
Up next, Hahn confronted Hirst about killing so many characters during the last season. He confirmed he didn’t actually deliver the bad news and how that task falls on producer Keith Thompson. Hirst then quickly volunteered that thanks to this duty and in spite of being “the sweetest man,” Thompson has been dubbed by the cast as the “angel of death.”
However, killing some of these characters hasn’t come easy to Hirst: “It’s not always easy to kill a character, partly as I’ve lived in with these characters for many years now, and I’ve spent a lot of time in my study communing and thinking about them.”
Of all the characters, it’s not surprising to hear Hirst admit it was very hard to kill Athelstan (George Blagden). Although no longer around, fans can expect Athelstan to still remain front and center within the show:
“He lives obviously through the son he had, Alfred, and in many ways, he’ll always be part of the show,” Hirst volunteers. “Death is so much a part of Viking life and we know, in a strange way, the Vikings prepared and bury their dead and went to war with a happy heart.”
Fimmel supported Hirst’s sentiments on Athelstan: “He’s such a great character and we were lucky to have him.”
Hahn moved on to question Winnick and she shifted the panel back to Lagertha’s close call with Valhalla during the raid of Paris. During this raid and how, in spite of her toughness, Kalf (Ben Robson) saved her life. The question is where her relationship with Kalf is now and could they become a power couple?
“Kill him!” someone in the audience loudly proposed. Before Winnick could reply the entire room cheered – not a surprise, as Lagertha sure has a strong following.
“There’s a lot of history with Lagertha and Kalf because she helped groom him into this position of leadership, and when he overthrew her or usurped her, it was a big hit on her. But of course, they cast Ben Robson… a good looking guy so there is that chemistry between Lagertha and Kalf that is there,” Winnick stated. “The question is can she share power? I don’t know but Lagertha is definitely someone who is strong and might not necessarily know what the future will bring but also is looking forward. Will she be able to trust them again? I’m not sure.”
At that point, Winnick shared a very interesting factoid about that particular scene: “I was supposed to save his [Kalf’s] life, Michael, you remember that?” Winnick said.
“Sorry!,” Hirst replied, clearly kidding.
Winnick elaborated some more: “It’s great as sometimes as actors we get revisions, we switch up the day and it just makes the fun so much richer, and fun.”
Hahn asked a great follow up question that was probably on everyone’s mind: could this development help Lagertha trust him more since he saved her life?
“There’s definitely love from him and with Lagertha and Kalf, I think there’s a place in her heart he’s touched that she hasn’t necessarily…recently being touched….” Winnick said, laughing.
The room got louder with hard laughter and it got even louder as Fimmel playfully volunteered to help Lagertha with that need.
Hahn next asked Winnick to share which side of Lagertha can we expect to see next season: the lover or the fighter, or will we see an entirely new side of Lagertha?
Although Winnick is clearly passionate about the fighting scenes, her answer quickly turned into elaborating on her deep appreciation for playing a strong female character: “What’s so great about this role and how Michael writes it, there are so many layers in playing a strong woman. She can fight, defend herself and defend her own voice and what she believes in and still be a woman,” Winnick elaborated. “She can be feminine and she can be sexy and knows how to love and be in touch with her femininity. That balance is something that I find in a role that can complement both sides of that, and I have to thank Michael Hirst for writing such an amazing role for me to play.”
It was Ludwig’s turn to answer some questions. Hahn asked how fatherhood has changed Bjorn especially since his love, Porunn (Gaia Weiss), has left Kattegat.
Ludwig shared that during next season, Bjorn starts acting with more responsibility: “The third season that you have all just seen was all about him coming to his own, learning to be a leader.”
The scene in which Bjorn goes head to head with a grizzly bear in a teaser that was shown at the end of season three is brought up: “After the love of his life leaves and he’s distraught, he decides to figure out his life and go into the woods and just really find out what is a hardened man, and grow up,” Ludwig said. “He wants to prove to himself he can do it.”
Ludwig revealed Bjorn feels since he was brought up in this life where, in a way, things were hande to him thanks to who his mother and father are, and how Bjorn doesn’t want that: “He goes into the woods and this bears starts stalking him and there is this big battle. Ironically, the bear had a bigger resume than anyone else on set. It was the Anchorman bear. I was star struck!”
His answer drew more laughs from the crowd. The discussion moved on to discuss my absolute favorite scene of season three: the infamous scene in which Rollo climbs over a lethal wheel covered in spikes. “That was crazy!” Standen stated and added that filming it required a whole weekend, and how it felt like shooting a never ending scene: “That wheel was just as terrifying as it looked on screen. It had to have real spikes in it and rubber spikes. You needed real spikes to be able to grab on to stuff to climbing up there and you needed rubber spikes so the guys that were getting crushed really didn’t get hurt,” Clive pointed out. “But they also had a few stunt men who were hanging upside down for what seemed like five or six minutes at that time before we even started to tape because they were tied up to it.”
As expected, Hirst confirmed the Wessex intrigues will continue to go on: “King Ecbert (Linus Roache) is going to continue to pursue his own ambitions, which is to be king of kings. To me, he’s a fascinating character, a good foil indeed to Ragnar; but there are many things they have in common—which they recognize—and they might well ultimately get the chance to talk about some of the things they have in common and the things they no longer have in common. So, Wessex continues to be alive in the show.”
Personally, King Ecbert is my favorite villain and I can tell Hirst has fun writing him.
The following topic of discussion was a juicy one! Hahn brings up Ragnar’s new love interest during season four. Fimmel confirmed it’s a unique relationship.
Hirst jumped in: “It’s very unexpected,” he volunteered and revealed that when he first thought of it, he checked with an expert about a possible connection and character.
“She is a human,” Fimmel quickly pointed out.
As the audience laughed, Hirst elaborated further: “I think you’ll all be surprised; it’s a very different kind of relationship. It starts in a very different way, it’s an important relationship but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.”
“It’s the bear!” Ludwig facetiously added while the entire room burst into laughter yet again.
Hahn moved on to start up the audien Q&A portion of the panel. Here are some key answers from the cast:
- On the future of the show – “I always thought of this show, it’s just not Ragnar’s show. This is Ragnar and his sons. That’s how I always imagined it,” Hirst stated. “It allows me to look forward in time. Hopefully, we might go to Iceland and the Mediterranean. I always said I would like to finish when they find North America.”
- On Bjorn taking up many of Ragnar’s trademarks – With Bjorn being so close to his father, Ludwig explained that he would just naturally pick a lot of mannerisms that are similar. “I just wanted to show off. Bjorn was in that spot in his life; he’s figuring out who he is, him coming to his own, and finding his place. That was definitely strategic and we wanted to show that.”
- On where Lagertha is during season four – “She’s now trying to reassess things but I think with losing everything (in season one, she lost her husband. Even the second one, she had to take care of). I think she finds her inner strength, she didn’t have any before. She doesn’t have anything in the sense of materials things, or powers or earldom anymore; she has to find that strength within herself. I think you’re going to see that a lot in season four and I think you’ll be surprised where she’s going to head without giving so much away.”
At this point, we were close to the hour mark but before the session wrapped up, Clive had the entire room cheering “shield wall” to take a selfie, and after making a fan blush, Fimmel got off stage to hug her. But first, he pretended to hug a guy before her. What a fun, lively panel this was! It’s obvious the actors have great camaraderie and enjoy the rich canvas that Michael has developed in the Vikings mythology. It must be noted, Hahn did a great job balancing questions that elicited key teasers for season four, while leveraging the playful personalities of the cast.
From the details shared in the panel, it sure sounds like many changes are coming to Kattegat during season four. I can hardly wait!
Vikings is currently in production in Ireland and will return to the History Channel in 2016.
To keep up with show updates, please visit http://www.history.com/shows/vikings and follow @HistoryVikings. Like Vikings on Facebook. Follow the show on Twitter @HistoryVikings as well as some of the cast members—@gblagden, @KatherynWinnick, and @CliveStanden. Tweet usinghashtag #Vikings.
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