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Interview: Travis Fimmel of “Vikings”

Travis during pressroom interviews at WonderCon 2013

Travis during pressroom interviews at WonderCon 2013


Travis Fimmel plays protaganist Lord Ragnar Lothbrook on History Channel’s hit series Vikings, which returns for it’s second season on February 27th.   This interview contains spoilers.  We were lucky enough to get the chance  to sit in some round robin interview sessions with Travis, George Blagden (Athelstan the Priest) and Alyssa Sutherland (Princess Aslaug).   Fun fact:  there is a time jump between S2:1 and S2:2 of four years.  All the questions asked by other outlets will be listed as “Q”, while the ComicsOnline specific question will be listed as “CO”.  Everyone on this particular press junket call (as well as the other two) have all been treated with screener copies of the first four episodes of season two, presented in a BEAUTIFUL packaging and full color photograph-heavy booklet.

Travis Fimmel:  Hey there, hope everyone is doing well.

Q:  With respect to the chemistry between Ragnar and Athelstan, there is some pretty powerful stuff that happens within the first four episodes of season 2.  Can you talk a little about what’s going on in Ragnar’s mind as you stare down from the boat?

Travis:  Oh, well George Blagden is a great actor, I’ve always enjoyed doing scenes with him.  And he’s very much become part of the family, and Ragnar gets….pretty disappointed when Athelstan chooses to not come back with me and help try to find my family, and it sort of breaks my heart a little bit.

Q:  So far, Ragnar has gone through some personal losses, and claims to care about his family.  I was just wondering what his stance towards his family’s value is.

T:  He’s all about his children, he wants to have a lot of children as we know in the history books.  It really messes him up when Bjorn chooses to go live with his mother, and it’s great to see him when he comes back, but he feels like he’s missed out on an education.  He feels his son should be with his father, and he didn’t want his wife to leave in the first place.

Q:  Some of my favorite interactions from the first season were between Ragnar and young Bjorn.  I was wondering if it was difficult after the time jump to say goodbye to Nathan (O’Toole) and then start working with this brand new actor?

T:  Oh, well we all love Nathan.  He’s such a great little actor, local Irish guy.  And yeah, I was very sad to see him leave.  It was a great opportunity for a young up and coming actor to be on the show.  But Alexander Ludwig was a great- we all miss Nathan a lot, but Alex does a tremendous job, and he’s a big, big boy.  Bjorn grows quick in four years.

Q:  In season one, there is the scene where you’re sitting at the water, looking out over it, and talking to your recently deceased daughter, Gyda.  Can you talk about preparing for that type of emotional scene?

T:  I think that’s the best scene Michael Hirst wrote in the entire series.  I mean he writes every scene, and it’s all great with Michael.  But that one, Michaels’ got children and he really hit the nail on the head with that speech.  It was really more of the writing than me that made that work.

CO:  So you mentioned Michael, how much of what we see is preplaned by the writers vs an in the moment thing.  In one of the episodes in season two, there is that great moment of you rolling up the priest’s stole under his neck, was that you or was that written?

T:  Oh most of it is in the moment, Michael is such a great collaborator, and he doesn’t restrict you in any way.  It’s really great to work with a writer and director who let you do stuff like that.   Gosh mate, I can’t remember a lot of those things, we filmed them all last year, and situations come up, they let you play with it, and we never do exactly what’s on the page.  Nothing is ever set in stone.

Q:   How tough was it to get back into things from season one back into season two?

T:  On any job, the first weeks you think you’ve done the worst job in the world.  I mean you always want to reshoot the first week of work on anything because you haven’t really gotten into it yet.  But, we know everyone on set, we work with a couple of the same directors, and we’re all friends, it’s a very friendly set, so it wasn’t too hard to get into it.  And the sets and costumes are so good that it really helps putting you back into that world again.

Q:  With all the physical combat going on, was wondering if you had any favorite memories or moments from filming, especially with George fighting his first time while the rest of you have all this experience pulling off these kind of scenes.

T:  Oh George does such a good job this year, he was so excited to do some fighting.  The fighting is such a big part of the show and I’m getting too old to do it (laughs), I’d rather send someone else to do it, I’m a bit lazy with that stuff.  It’s better than trying to remember lines, though.

Q:  You guys have had some awesome guest stars, Gabriel Bryne as a reoccurring character last season, Donal Logue last and this season, is there anyone you’re working on or who you’d sort of dream cast onto the show to do some scenes with?

T:  Man, I loved having them on the show.  There are so many actors I respect, it’s so hard to say.  I mean I hope they bring in some new guys.  Actually, we do, the King this season, and I have a few scenes with him, I hope I get to do more.

Q:  With the four year time jump, how does that effect Ragnar, how does he evolve between seasons, and was it difficult to not play out those four years?

T:  It’s difficult in a way, because we don’t have the biggest budget, we don’t shoot in continuity so it’s hard to do the physical change over those four years.  I mean other than the boy getting huge, I don’t think life changed all that much for them.  They went through a bit of a famine and a plague, and had more children obviously.  And they get right back in to going west again.

Q:  You say there wasn’t so much physical growth, but we all noticed the character change in the way he behaves and the way he reacts to situations.   Was this a conscious choice or were you not aware this had happened?

T:   Well I don’t know, he changes a fair bit I’d say, especially after he loses his son.  I don’t think he has the same fun, the adventure isn’t as strong for him as it used to be.  But he really wants to help out his people, and his community.  And his going west isn’t about the discovery so much anymore as it is trying to help his people survive and have enough food and stuff.  He wants to better his community.

Q:  Off set, does the cast treat you any differently because you’re their leader?  I mean on days when shooting is over, do you guys ever sit around in Viking garb and pass around the grogg and have some fun?

T:  Oh we all get on very well.  I don’t think anyone treats me differently, no.  I mean if anything, we all make fun of eachother.  I actually live in the country right  next to one of the sets on the lake, and everyone else lives in town, so I drink with the locals because I don’t want to travel in the car an extra 2 hours a day.

Q: The women on the show are so strong, and Ragnar’s relation ship with both Aslaug and Lagertha are strong.  What will we see from this so called ‘triangle’ in season 2?

T:  I mean their relationships both happened in different ways.  Aslaug played by Alyssa Sutherland is a tremendous actress, she really does an amazing job and Ragnar really falls in love with her.  And Lagertha has changed, she seems to be chasing a bit more power now, she wants to be Earl.  It’s not about her community anymore, she’s had a taste of power, and she'[s more about that now.  And Aslaug is more about the family and taking care of the kids.

Q:  In the promo, there is a shot of Floki doing battle with Rollo, and we were wondering how much you can tell us about those fight scenes?

T:  Well, you’ll just have to wait for the show to air.  But I remember that day, it was the hottest on record at the time in Ireland, a lot of people passed out, and there were something like 13 injuries.  A lot of the time you don’t know what’s going on, because you’re focused on your part, so I didn’t see everything, but it did look pretty bad for Floki.   But I mean out in the boats, we have tremendous fun, especially when we go out on the ocean.  The boats were made to scale, they were built in Eastern Europe somewhere, and they really do sail and float.

Q:  Where does this show rank with the other projects you’ve worked on?

T:  It’s definitely my favorite.  From Michael’s creation to everyone on the crew, because I mean the Irish people are very talented and very efficient.  They do their best with the budget we have, and that’s a credit to them, it really shows.

Q: We’ve seen that Ragnar has this thing with having sons, having someone to carry on his legacy, and it almost feels like he’s afraid now of being outshined by them.  How will that play out in the second season?

T:  That was something in an earlier script that I didn’t really think affected Ragnar.  He wants his sons to do well, and he’s very touch on them, and on Bjorn.  There is a fight that happens, and his son messes up, and it annoys Ragnar because he doesn’t want anything to happen to them.  I  don’t think there’s jealousy, but he was upset Bjorn chose to stay with his mother rather than his father.

Q:  But did Ragnar really think Lagertha was going to go for the whole plural marriage thing?

T:  Well you never know, it wasn’t the 20th century or anything.  Stuff happened back then.  People keep putting 21st Century values on it.  He was thinking about it, he had to give it a shot.

Q:  How are we going to see Ragnar and Rollo get along this year after we pretty much saw him try to take out your best friend?  And how does it affect Floki?

T:  It’s not as simple as it was last season, and I think the audience will really enjoy it.  And Floki is in his own little world, he forgets about the battle after a week or so.

Q:  Ragnar seems to be struggling between his former warrior’s life and being an Earl, will we see more of that?

T:  Ragnar never really wanted to be earl, he just wanted to go west.  But the only way he could do it was to take the power.  He’s like me really, he hates getting up and talking in front of people.  He doesn’t want to be the judge of people, he just wants to sail west and take care of his people.  He feels Odin gave him the chance to be in the control of the boats.

Q:  Tell us about your Viking hair!  Is it something you get to keep on between scenes or is it something you are really eager to get rid of?

T:  Oh, well both year’s I’ve had extensions.  But it’s pretty embarrassing to have to shower with a shower cap on everyday so they don’t fall out.  But I was so happy, Dee Corcoran our lead hair stylist won an award or something for the show.  It was worth her getting the award to look like a dummy in the streets.   I’m so glad everyone liked the first season, I think the second season is better, we all worked really hard on it, and I hope everyone likes it.  Thanks everybody, cheers!



About Mary Anne Butler

Photographer, costumer, writer, and mom.

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