In a world of dirty, wild-haired barbarians, not one detail is forgotten on the History Channel series “Vikings.” The cast and creator attended a panel at the Television Academy on Tuesday night to discuss what goes on behind the scenes of the lavish drama, which is set to begin filming season three in the coming weeks.
Created by Michael Hirst (“The Tudors”), the actors were all in agreement that “Vikings” is a world, not just a show.
“It’s the amount of imagination that’s gone into this show and the evolution of the costumes,” said Hirst. “So as the Vikings, as Ragnar’s gang, gets more successful, the raids produce more goods, you see the clothes transforming, the environment transforming — it’s a very thoughtful process. “
Costume designer Joan Bergin took the time to visit the markets in Scandinavia to find authentic-looking materials. Fabrics are sourced from literally all over the world, according to Alyssa Sutherland, who plays Ragnar’s second wife, Princess Aslaug.
“[Bergin] realized it’s a lot to do with textures,”said Hirst. “A lot of it is handmade and hand-woven to reflect what was actually happening at the time.”
When it comes to hair and makeup, Katheryn Winnick said it is now a ritual and a transformation process that helps get her into character as the fierce shieldmaiden-turned-Earl Lagertha. “Time kind of slows down,” she said.
For Jessalyn Gilsig (Siggy), “hair really means they are sticking in really nasty, messy hair and with makeup it’s actually more dirt and sunspots.”
“It’s not like your average TV show,” said Clive Standen, who plays Ragnar’s troubled brother Rollo, crediting Hirst and the production team for creating such an immersive working environment.
George Blagden, whose embattled monk Athelstan was crucified (and then rescued) this season, admitted that filming the brutal crucifixion scene was “the most emotionally and physically challenging” day of his career so far, but undeniably rewarding.
While Travis Fimmel, who headlines the show as Ragnar Lothbrok, was absent from the panel due to filming commitments, his co-stars were effusive in their praise of the star. Donal Logue, who joined the show late in season one as King Horik, pointed out that Ragnar has no lines in the season two finale except for a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer, but that the intensity of his performance drove the episode without him saying a word.
Gustaf Skarsgard, who portrays the impish shipbuilder Floki, admitted that Fimmel is the biggest prankster on set, and quipped that he drew inspiration for many of Floki’s mannerisms from his co-star.
The cast revealed that there are no trailers on set. Once the actors are in costume, they head up to the mountains in Ireland and brave all the elements: hail, rain, wind and occasionally some sun.
“No one bitches or whines,” said Logue. “It’s a country of people who go hard.”
On “Vikings,” the background actors are predominantly employed in the same roles for the entirety of the season, to further cement the authenticity of the world; if you see a fishmonger or cart driver in one episode, chances are you’ll still see them plying their trade in the village of Kattegat in future installments. “They’re acting just as much as us,” Standen said.
Skarsgard said the extras’ dedication is something to admire. “When I find myself whining and I’m like ‘God it’s wet,’ there will always be one guy who never got into the heat tent, who didn’t get past the coffee and he’s still there and this guy is smiling. You know, I gotta get over myself. “
“You only see what the camera focuses on, but all behind there are literally hundreds of people who are being exposed to the same experiences,” Gilsig added. “There is no complaining in ‘Vikings.’”