History’s Vikings continues to build its fanbase, with the series’ season three premiere watched by 4.6 million viewers. The series has an incredible ensemble cast that includes Linus Roache who plays King Ecbert. Sitting down to discuss the show during the Television Critics Association winter press event, Roache was excited about this current season and how the show has continued to expand and grow. “The show generally is growing in scope, so I’d say for me it’s more that the dimensions of my character are getting played out in a bigger way,” explained Roache. “I’m getting to do more twists and turns, that kind of thing, this season.”
Were you ever worried about your character continuing to be a part of the show?
Linus Roache: “Well, you’re always worried about your character in long-form television. You never really know. But I think King Ecbert’s going to stick around for a while and provide a bit of a nemesis for Ragnar.”
What is season three going to be like for Ecbert?
Linus Roache: “Well, he’s actually working with Ragnar for now. At the end of last season and the beginning of this, Ecbert is working with the Vikings and actually getting them to work for him. He’s a politician. He’s a very smart man, but he’s also someone you can’t completely trust. So we have to see what the outcome of that will be. [Laughing] I’m not going to give it away.”
And King Ecbert’s based on a real historical figure, correct?
Linus Roache: “Indeed. He was a King around that period. He was the King of Wessex and by the end of his reign, the kingdom of Wessex was pretty much the kingdom of England. I like to think of Ecbert as like one of the founding fathers of the English monarchy. Many people say that Ecbert was the first King of England. He actually wasn’t because when he died, he peacefully handed the crown to his son, Aethelwulf, and that was still the kingdom of Wessex. Aethelwulf’s son was Alfred the Great who was the first actual King of England. But without Ecbert, he’s the one who positioned all the different kingdoms and brought them together under one umbrella. He was the overlord of all the kingdoms.”
How far away are we from that story in this season of Vikings?
Linus Roache: “Quite away. The story is focused through the lens of the Vikings. [Laughing] I feel like sometimes I’m almost in another show called Saxons.”
How much of your character comes to you as soon as you put the costume on?
Linus Roache: “A lot, actually. All of it – the set, the costumes, the atmosphere – it’s so well done and so authentic, that it really helps. You suddenly stand on the set and you don’t feel like you’re a phony. There’s people running by carrying a pig’s head on fire. There’s that sense of authenticity on the set, and with the costumes there’s a weight and heaviness. As a King I get to wear fine robes and you feel so powerful.”
How does Vikings compare to other costume dramas/period pieces you’ve done?
Linus Roache: “I think Vikings is probably the scale of it is pretty epic. Michael [Hirst’s] writing is amazing, so the scope of the story and the scope of the characters keeps it very alive. So I’d say it’s probably the biggest and most authentic period drama I’ve done, in terms of big historical dramas.”
What else should we know about Vikings season three?
Linus Roache: “I think that the way that Michael manages to make the scope of the show much bigger and the consequences of everyone’s actions and the way the Vikings keep moving out, it’s compelling story in terms of just walking through history. But the way he’s taking so many characters on this big, big journey yet keeping it very personal, I think the audience are probably going to be surprised at where it goes in the later part of the season. It’s quite interesting to see. There’s a few big twists as well.”
Is there a particularly big episode for King Ecbert that we should be on the lookout for?
Linus Roache: “Around the middle of the season. Watch out in the middle of the season.”
Looking back, do you have a favorite episode?
Linus Roache: “I have to say I love every scene that Michael writes for me. You don’t always get to say that in a show. I relish every scene because he writes such great drama and dialogue. I’m not one of those actors who says, ‘Oh, I don’t like this. Can we change this?’ I’m happy with everything. But I love working with Travis [Fimmel]. In season two I got that big scene at the beginning with him, and that was fun. I love all of my seasons with George Blagden who plays Athelstan. That was fun developing that relationship with him. That’s the luxury of long-form storytelling. You don’t get that in movies. You can keep on going with relationships and keep building. It’s a great cast and a great company to work with.”
– By Fred Topel
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