‘Vikings’ Season 4 Part 2: Katheryn Winnick Interview on Lagertha, Ragnar, and Fierce Women

Vikings season 4 Katheryn Winnick
Katheryn Winnick stars in HISTORY’s ‘Vikings’ (Photo by Jonathan Hession)

Fans of History’s Vikings will finally get to catch up with Ragnar (Travis Fimmel), Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), and the rest of incredible ensemble when season four part two kicks off on November 30, 2016. The second half of the season finds Ragnar returning to Kattegat and Lagertha planning a power play. In support of the return of the critically acclaimed series, Katheryn Winnick participated in a conference call to discuss what’s coming up and what fans can expect from Lagertha.

At this point in Lagertha’s life, what’s motivating her? What is driving her forward as we catch up with her at the start of this second half of season four?

Katheryn Winnick: “Lagertha has always had a lot of different challenges. Throughout this season it’s been evident for her at this stage. Going into four, it’s really seeing how Kattegat is run and being extremely disappointed that it’s not ruled by the right ruler. With King Ragnar not necessarily being there and present as a king should be, and with Queen Aslaug running the show and not necessarily running it the proper way or the strongest way as a ruler to help the people. And I think for her, her dream was obviously to expand two different territories and also make Kattegat one of the largest trading centers. It’s her dream and she saw the potential of it. So, I think for her it’s a personal motivation but her heart is in the right place in wanting to do good for her Viking people.”

What’s your perspective on The Seer? He’s always been very cool but now he’s screaming which is worrisome. Is something truly horrible coming?

Katheryn Winnick: “The Seer is the Seer. You never know necessarily what’s going to come out of his mouth; he’s kind of the modern day psychic, I guess. Everyone goes to him to see the future and also for therapy, and it’s interesting to see him in a different light and in a different animated state and especially with Lagertha. I feel that she does have a scene with him – a really strong scene – where she goes to him and he gives her some devastating news that literally changes her for not only the rest of the season, but the rest of her life. It’s a really big scene. It’s really a big moment for him answering a certain question, and I think that what he actually answered I don’t think will be expected. In every choice that I make as an actress, it is in the back of my mind. I think it’s something the audience wouldn’t necessarily expect.”

Can you talk about the relationship with Astrid and how it came about?

Katheryn Winnick: “There is a big time jump in season four, in which you saw Lagertha is in a different place than she is now and had to be, and she developed this relationship with Astrid, who Josefin Asplund plays, and it’s a relationship that she… Lagertha has been betrayed by so many men throughout her life, obviously Ragnar by cheating on her and asking her to be a second wife, and then her second husband was abusive, and then Kalf who she groomed tried to use her up and she had to kill him on her wedding day. So her relationship with men, I’m not sure it will change. I’m not sure she will ever trust a man again.

So, it did make sense that she would find comfort in another human being and that that human being happened to be a women. And, I don’t feel that Lagertha necessarily is a lesbian. I wouldn’t necessarily say that and I never really played it that way, but she did find a love with her that other men have never been able to give her.

Also, their relationship has been for six, seven years and she’s very different and brings a breath of fresh air to Lagertha’s life. Josefin has a lot of humor and wit and that’s evident in her character, and especially her sense of style and her sense of the way she deals with Lagertha is unique. That was really a lot of fun to play. I think you’re going to like that relationship and I think Lagertha definitely grooms her to be the warrior that she is. It was nice just to see that it’s not necessarily, ‘Oh, here are two women that are in bed together,’ but there is a strong bond that is not necessarily the sexual part of a relationship but more of an emotional bond that is evident and really beautiful to see.”

We’ve seen Lagertha almost marry Kalf and then kill him. Is there some other end game involved with Astrid? Is she using her for something else?

Katheryn Winnick: “No, I don’t think there is any end game. I think that she sees her as someone that is very comforting, but at this stage Lagertha truly feels alone, I feel, because of all the betrayal that she had. Even though she has Astrid, I’m not sure how emotionally close she is going to let anybody into her life. And with Astrid, there is no other motive other than caring for her. She sees in Lagertha herself through her own journey, and really trying to find her own path and own purpose in life at this stage is the theory. That’s why she ends up going back to Kattegat and approaches Aslaug.”

How does Lagertha feel about Bjorn abandoning his responsibilities to his daughter?

Katheryn Winnick: “I feel that Lagertha is a warrior and she understands that Bjorn has ambitions past, necessarily, just being a father. And especially in those times it is not uncommon for the warriors to go out to explore different lands and to really raid. So is it comfortable for her to necessarily leave her granddaughter to Aslag? No, not necessarily. I don’t think that that’s the ideal situation. But, she does understand that Bjorn is Bjorn and she really wants the best for him and in life he ends up being a very famous, powerful warrior and he needs to do what he needs to do.

I do feel that it’s different from how we may look at it now in our society. That he’s not necessarily a great father, but in those days it’s making a name for yourself and teaching your children to be good warriors. To be able to find their own path is what really drove them and definitely is what drives Lagertha.”

Is there anything coming up in the upcoming episodes that was particularly fun or interesting for you to do as far as action and fight scenes?

Katheryn Winnick: “Yes, there is a very big battle coming up in four and it’s one that’s going to be over the course of double episodes. It is in the history books and it is something that you wouldn’t expect, and it is definitely epic. It’s powerful. It’s a battle and you will see deaths…unexpected deaths. You will see 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, for those scenes you try to be prepared as much as you can by knowing your fight choreography. Shooting in those elements of rain in Ireland, on a slope with mud, with horses, with axes, with blood, you kind of have to expect the unexpected. Sometimes you find the real magic in those moments when you slip and fall and you pick up someone else’s axe because yours is gone, and everything is done a bit more sporadically.

When you see those battle sequences, it’s an opportunity to tell the story in a different way. It’s also a way of sharing the story in the battles through the action element. And if it’s done well, which our crew is incredible in shooting those scenes and our stunt guys are incredibly talented and amazing to be able to fight against, they really give it their all and you can feel the heart going into it and understand how special this set really is because it’s those moments that fill in the reality of us being Viking warriors. You can’t walk away from our set without getting banged up and you can’t walk away without being black and blue and full of cuts. It’s just part of the job and this job is not for everyone. This job is not for the divas or for the actresses that are going to be in the trailer. 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. I think that’s what makes this job so special and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I think that’s what makes me love being a Viking. It’s because it’s raw and it’s real. And some of those cuts that you see on camera are actually real blood, I’ll tell you that for sure.”

Vikings star season 4 Alyssa Sutherland and Katheryn Winnick
Alyssa Sutherland and Katheryn Winnick in HISTORY’s ‘Vikings’
(Photo by Bernard Walsh)

It appears from the previews that there’s going to finally be a reckoning between Lagertha and Aslaug. Can you talk a little bit about that and whether or not we are finally going to get a sense of satisfaction that Lagertha has kind of taken care of business there?

Katheryn Winnick: “Yes, there is definitely a big epic scene where Lagertha and Aslaug come face to face and I will say it’s pretty epic. It’s juicy and it’s memorable. I wish I could actually give away more but it was a great scene to shoot. Lagertha felt that she needed to take […]Kattegat and really try to get control back. Kattegat is being run so badly and there’s been a lot of problems with Kattegat, like people have been dying, things are not being run in a proper way as it should be. And she feels that she is doing the right thing by reclaiming it, because nobody would rule it better than she does because she truly cares about her people.

And so we had this great scene with Alyssa Sutherland who plays Aslaug and she is fantastic in it. It was great to finally get face-to-face with her and Aslaug and Lagertha together.”

How has Lagertha kept her moral center in this phase of the upheaval in a way that a lot of the other characters have not?

Katheryn Winnick: “I think that it’s the fact that she is constantly getting challenged in her moral compass and her moral ethics are always getting challenged. I think it is what keeps her honest and it keeps her who she is as Lagertha. She is formidable, she is strong, but she is also a woman. She is allowed to be vulnerable; she is allowed to be feminist. She is allowed not to have her sh*t together at times and that’s what makes this character so real and fantastic. It’s not just the strengths of her character as a warrior but her strength, her personality, and her strong sense of will is what I think a lot of people identify with.

And especially with Lagertha now going into season four, I think she is really on one hand, an everyday woman and I reclaimed it in a campaign for women and film. I designed a T-shirt that I’m actually going to launch again just to raise money for women in film. The T-shirt consists of those three words and it was in big bold print: Wake up, kick ass, repeat. That was really empowering and it kind of sums up my life, and it sums up the life of many different women which is really wake up, kick ass, repeat. Now. this can mean many things. It can mean kicking ass means being an amazing mother or kicking ass means going to work and trying to put your kids to bed and having three jobs, or if it’s a mother wanting to then be seen being a CEO of a company. There are different ways and a lot of women can kick ass in everyday life. Which brings me to my point of Lagertha. I think there are a lot of women who identify with her as a strong person and not necessarily just someone in the Viking era in that time period. But I feel that she is really the modern women that everyone can relate to.”

There was a scene of Ragnar looking back on the time when they were together as a family. Do you think it was Ragnar’s decision to detach himself from his commitment to his family that’s the difference between how both of those characters responded to events?

Katheryn Winnick: “What’s interesting about Ragnar’s character, and this is why Michael Hirst is such a great writer, is that even as he is our hero of the show, in a sense he is the elite type in one hand, but in the other he is more of the antihero in the sense that he is not necessarily all put together and he has flaws. That fits in the matter of him taking mushrooms with his slave or with him not wanting to be king and him not necessarily being a good father or a good ruler. I think that’s what really makes it very interesting.

So that scene that we reshot, we remember going back and putting on the clothes from the previous seasons and we ended up having to recast my daughter, because since then she became this gorgeous teenager. We needed someone that was at the same height – and she was in the back – but that scene was really beautiful because even though he may not necessarily be able to be the man or go back in time to be the Ragnar, the husband that he wants to be in his mind, in his thoughts, in his dreams, he has a beautiful (memory), thinking that he cherishes that moment and I know Lagertha does to. Ragnar was her true love and probably will always be.”

Also of Interest:
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Katheryn Winnick briefly discusses The Dark Tower