History’s original scripted series Vikings focuses on a period of time and place rarely explored in series television, but the time seemed right both for the network come to be known for its (too many) documentaries about World War II. Creator Michael Hirst (The Tudors, Elizabeth) and several members of the cast joined entertainment writers at a Friday night press session at Comic-Con to talk about the new series, which has been renewed for season two.
The series brings us into the universe of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a farmer who yearns to explore beyond his world and to the west — Britain. But Lothbrok is opposed by the local Chieftain Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), who would rather raid an easier target. But Ragnar partners with his friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard), and the two invent a new generation of sea-going vessels capable of fording the rough seas and conquer the juicier (if more difficult target). Such is the conflict in Vikings.
But the series is also about family, culture and relationships, as any good scripted series must be. Vikings also focuses on the relationship between Ragnar and his wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Lagertha is in her also a quite a warrior. We also meet Ragnar’s brother Rollo (Clive Standen), a fierce fighter, consumed by jealously. The monk Athelstan (George Blagden), a captive of the Vikings finds his Christian morals clash mightily with the pagan Vikings’ society.
Hirst told journalists he had been playing with an idea of doing a piece on Alfred the Great (Ninth Century ruler in Britain who defended his realm against the Vikings) a couple of years ago, but it had not taken hold. He had researched the time period and setting, so when the opportunity arose to create a series about the Vikings, he was keen to do it. He said that History is a good fit, blending this unusual (and less known) period of European history and culture with scripted drama (and even a comic book!). He dismissed the comparison of Vikings with the hit HBO sword and sorcery series Game of Thrones, noting that Thrones is purely fantasy, whereas Vikings is rooted in real history. Although, he noted, the written history of the time is often contradictory. So much of it, like the early histories of many cultures, is rooted in accounts flavored with political and religious biases.
Female cast members Jessalyn Gilsig and Katheryn Winnik told us they loved the notion of the strong women who populated the Viking culture and the series. Katheryn showed us a couple of bruises, the inevitable effect of the rough and tumble of life on the Viking life. They both noted that they have done research on the period to understand their characters, noting that the production is a constant learning process, as they enrich their knowledge of the little understood time and place that their series inhabits. Skarsgard noted that as a Scandinavian (he’s Swedish), his interest in creating a character and being involved in a telling of Norse history and culture is very meaningful and wants very much to “get it right.”
The new season, which will commence in 2014 opens with an epic battle.