History’s Vikings returns for the second half of Season 4 on November 30, and the “soul” of the show — as creator Michael Hirst described her to Monsters & Critics — is still Lagertha, played by Ukrainian-Canadian actor Katheryn Winnick.
Winnick is stunning and athletic, and gives her Norse shieldmaiden warrior an incredible presence on screen.
She’s also a fighter who began martial arts training as a young teen, and all that training is serving her well on the Vikings set where she says that the blood you see on camera is likely the actors’ own.
Yesterday Winnick spoke to reporters and answered questions that have all fans on the edge of their seats for the coming Season 4B.
One of the main ones involved a twist in her love life.
In Vikings, Winnick’s character is maternal, both to her children (her daughter Gyda died in Season 1) and to the people of Kattegat and Hedeby where she lives.
This proud mother said no to her husband Ragnar Lothbrook when he proposed she be a second wife to Aslaug, who in later seasons allowed Lagertha’s granddaughter Siggy to perish by drowning.
Now in the second half of Season 4 it’s been some time since she has seen Ragnar, and her love life has gotten a bit fluid. An older Lagertha now has a young shieldmaiden to keep her warm, called Astrid (played by Josefin Asplund).
Winnick said she didn’t think their relationship meant Lagertha was a lesbian, and that theirs was more an “emotional” bond. But she added: “She did find a love with her [Astrid] that other men have never been able to give her.”
Lagertha is multi-dimensional, but she has suffered and fans feel it. She has gone on a life-threatening and heartbreaking journey from a farmer’s wife being cheated on, to being humiliated, losing a child then leaving and finding herself in a horrid abusive marriage only to fight her way back each time.
She always restores the power taken away from her; she is the epitome of resilience, instinct and the bravest character of the lot.
Winnick said: “Lagertha has been betrayed by so many men throughout her life, like Ragnar cheating on her and asking her to be a second wife. Then her second husband was abusive and then Kalf, who she groomed, usurped her…her relationship with men will never change. I’m not sure she’ll ever trust a man again.”
Winnick’s face has suffered photo-aging from exposure in the season return, but she still looks great in the opening episode.
And there is also a May-December aspect to her new lover.
Winnick said: “Josefin has a lot of humor and wit — and that’s in her character. Her sense of style, and the way she feels with Lagertha, is unique. I think that you’re going to like that relationship.
“Lagertha definitely grooms her to the warrior that she is. And it’s nice to see something where it’s not necessarily ‘oh here’s two women in bed together’, but a strong bond is cast…this is more an emotional bond.”
Astrid is not being used by Lagertha in some sort of end game, and is more a “comforting” relationship, with Lagertha still quite guarded about going all in for any relationship of the heart. Sex and companionship is another matter.
Of where her heart truly lies, that’s less clear — as witnessed by a poignant exchange between Lagertha and Ragnar in Kattegat where they embrace and kiss, with Ragnar expressing regrets. “Lagertha is still finding her own path in life,” Winnick admits.
Asked about her granddaughter Siggy, who perished under Aslaug’s carelessness, Winnick said: “Lagertha is a warrior and she understands that Bjorn has ambitions past necessarily just being a father.
“She knows the time…it’s not uncommon for the warriors to go out to different lands and really raid and pillage. Was it comfortable to leave her granddaughter to Aslaug? Not necessarily…that was a bad situation.
“What she does understand is Bjorn is Bjorn Ironside, and she really wants the best for him — life and being a famous powerful warrior, and he needs to do what he needs to do.
“It may be different where we look at now in our society to be a great father. But those days it was having or making a name for yourself and teaching your children to be good warriors and to be able to find your own path. It really ruled them and definitely it’s what drives Lagertha.”
Winnick also talked about her martial arts background with relation to coming epic battle scenes that will likely reunite Rollo, Floki and Ragnar, either on land or sea.
She said: “We are shooting right now…there is a very big battle coming up in [episode] four. It’s going to be over the course of several episodes. It is in the history books, something you wouldn’t expect, and definitely epic.
“It’s powerful, a battle, and you will see an unexpected death, and challenges within the fight.
“You will see personal relationships getting tested when they confront their enemies on the battlefield, and of course as an actor those scenes are, [well]…you can be prepared as much as you can by knowing your fight choreography.
“[But] shooting in those elements in the rain in Ireland with mud, horses, axes, blood and dirt…you kind of have to expect the unexpected. Sometimes you find the real magic in those moments when you slip and fall and pick up someone else’s axe.”
As for the effects, Winnick confirmed there’s a lot of cinema verite going on.
Winnick says: “You can’t walk away from our set without getting banged up. You can’t walk away without being black and blue and full of cuts. It’s just part of the job.
“This job isn’t for everyone, this job is not for the divas or the actors who are gonna be in the trailers, this is a really brutal gorilla shoot in a lot of ways and you need a thick skin and you need to just go for it. And I think that’s what makes this job so special.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s what makes me love being a Viking — because it’s raw and it’s real and some of those cuts you see on camera are actually your real blood!”
And count on Aslaug answering for Siggy’s death. You can be sure of that!
The second part of Vikings Season 4 returns with Episode 11, The Outsider, on Wednesday, November 30 at 9pm ET/PT on History Channel.