Vikings' Katheryn Winnick Talks 'Bigger,' Bloodier Season 2, Betrayals and Lagertha Hitting Bottom
As History’s Vikings returns tonight at 10/9, its second voyage will take a leap not just in time but in scope.
When last we tuned in, Ragnar (played by Travis Fimmel) had traveled to Sweden — for naught — to strike a deal with Jarl Borg on behalf of King Horik (Donal Logue). Meanwhile back in Kattegat, Lagertha endured much tragedy, losing her and Ragnar’s daughter Gyda to a plague. As such, it will be far from “Happy to see me?” when Ragnar returns home with Princess Aslaug in tow, expectant with his new son.
Katheryn Winnick, who has acquired quite a following as shield maiden Lagertha, visited TVLine’s Times Square office to preview betrayal, battles and swings of fate ahead.
TVLINE | I look at your social media presence, with the “maiden warrior” fans and such…. Could you have expected that Lagertha would’ve struck such a chord with people?
I had no idea people would respond the way they have. It’s overwhelming and so amazing to see that a lot of people relate to her. And the fact that she’s a shield maiden, such a strong individual…. It’s inspiring. It makes me want to work harder and do justice to her character. So, if anything, it actually pushing me to explore different sides of her that I wouldn’t necessarily have in the first season.
TVLINE | There’s a fair amount of empowered females on TV these days. How do you think she is distinct?
I think it’s because she’s based on a real character, a real shield maiden who was married to Ragnar Lothbrok and who fought alongside her husband in the battlefields. So that history is interesting. And while Vikings is a family saga, it also has adventure and action. Also, she’s not only an empowered woman, but she’s also modern for her time. She stands out in that time period.
TVLINE | How has Lagertha been affected by all that she went through during Ragnar’s absence? I mean, sooo much went down.
She’s definitely had a lot of struggles and her sense of willpower and her sense of self has been tested. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” — that’s a good way of describing her. Season 1 was about Ragnar and our family life, whereas in Season 2 she’s coming into her own more. She definitely becomes his equal at one point… but she also has a weakness that you never saw coming. She hits a bottom that you wouldn’t imagine her hitting.
TVLINE | How does the news of Aslaug’s existence and what she and Ragnar have gotten themselves involved in impact Lagertha?
I think because she has gone through so much — losing Gyda to the plague, miscarrying Ragnar’s son, dealing with the responsibility of Kattegat and ruling it when Ragnar’s away raiding — it’s really hard for her. It comes off as more of a betrayal. Not so much the fact that he’s had sex with another woman, but more that if he’s in love with another woman….
TVLINE | What’s Lagertha’s read on Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland)? Lagertha calls her “princess” almost dismissively.
They’re from different walks of life. [Aslaug] has wealth behind her. She’s been raised in a privileged way. Whereas Lagertha was a shield maiden in the battlefield and a farmer…. more hands-on. I’ll tell you one thing: I definitely wanted to play against the stereotype of getting into a catty catfight between the women. But I couldn’t believe how strongly the audience reacted were when Auslock came into the picture, how devastated they were that Ragnar would cheat on Lagertha.
TVLINE | Oh, you know men back then — just blame it on “the gods.”
Yeah. I don’t know if I necessarily blame Aslaug as much as I would blame Ragnar. And I think that it actually strengthened Lagertha’s character when Aslaug came in the picture. In Season 2, the relationship evolves between the two women.
TVLINE | Rollo seems more a wild card than ever, allying with Jarl Borg. Is that the case?
He definitely has his own battles and demons to fight. And his behavior is unpredictable as usual. Clive Standen has a great storyline this season.
TVLINE | And how would you describe Lagertha’s current relationship with Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig)? They’ve been through a crucible together.
I think there’s a mutual respect between them now. Especially in that they’re both mothers who have lost their children. Also, the roles have reversed, where now Siggy’s in a position of helping Lagertha while Lagertha’s in a position of strength. We had one really beautiful scene in Season 2 – hopefully it all made it in — where they trust and confide in each other, which is nice to see.
TVLINE | There was a bit of confusion when Alexander Ludwig from The Hunger Games joined the Season 2 cast as Ragnar and Lagertha’s son Bjorn. Is there going to be a time jump at some point?
Yes. In Episode 2, you’ll see a four-year time difference, and Alexander’s playing him as a young adult. Which was really interesting for me to play.
TVLINE | Was it a little sad to say goodbye to young Nathan O’Toole?
Of course, because he is one of my favorite people on set. And we still stay in touch. But Alexander fit in beautifully. I remember doing a screen test with him, and with Travis, and he stood out as a perfect fit.
TVLINE | Would you say there’s any particular theme to Season 2?
It’s bigger and better. More storylines. Different storylines. A bigger spectrum, bigger battle sequences. More of an evolved world. A lot more extras, background actors. Everything is just definitely up a notch — even more so in terms of the plots and storyline. The stakes are higher.
TVLINE | What’s been the greatest physical challenge for you so far?
Well, I learned how to ride a horse this season. Also, just battling in these costumes — I’m wearing a metal armor for the most of Season 2 and that thing weighs more than 10 pounds. You sweat just walking up a hill! So to be able to fight and be loose and flexible is a challenge.
TVLINE | And what’s the coolest thing you’ve gotten to do? Is weaving on a loom in the Top 3?
It’s actually pretty easy, believe it or not — and very therapeutic. I think it’s learning the different sides of what goes on to make such a show. I remember walking into the set design department and seeing the battle sequences mapped out on a toy landscape, because it’s very important to get the right hills at certain sizes, since strategy was really important when they fought. It’s incredible how much thought goes into every detail. Not just with the set design, but also the costume department, hair and make-up…. Like, my character goes through an age jump, so how do we communicate in two seconds that she’s not as comfortable in and out of her own skin, just by her hairstyle?
TVLINE | If you, Katheryn Winnick, had a chance to visit an all-knowing seer like the one on Vikings, would you?
That’s a very good question. Yeah, I would. I would. I do believe in fate, but I also believe in choices. So, I’m not sure if I would necessarily want all the answers!