Alexander Dreymon once again suits up as Uhtred of Bebbanburg in Season 4 of “The Last Kingdom.” This time out though, Uhtred goes through some things that fans of the show haven’t seen before.
Dreymon spoke with Variety ahead of the premiere about how the kingdom is transforming, how Uhtred changes this season, and how he seems to have misplaced one of his children.
Uhtred and Alfred had such a great dynamic over the first three seasons. What was it like this time without him? Even though he’s gone, his presence still seems to very much hang over the show.
I was really worried about this, to be perfectly honest with you. David Dawson is a phenomenal actor. And if you saw the ending of Season 3, those scenes we had together were just honestly the best moments of my acting career and I think the dynamic he and I had in the show was one of the most compelling factors of it. And so I was worried going into the season about how it was going to be without him, and we all missed him enormously. But I’m really glad to hear you say that. His presence is felt all throughout Season 4 because I think it’s just so important that he’s still there. But it’s really thanks to David Dawson’s talent that he’s still here with us in a way because he made such an impact.
And then Uhtred finally returns to Bebbanburg this season only for him to fail in a monumental way that we’ve never seen before. Why was that?
I actually think that’s really important because it speaks to his humanity, and I think the most interesting moments in a character are when you see the character vulnerable. In this season, Uhtred has gone through so much — that’s also one of the challenges of playing him is that he just goes through so much s— [Laughs]. After the end of Season 1 when his lover’s head gets cut off and thrown at him, it’s kind of like “Where are you going to go from there? What could possibly be worse?” And s— just keeps happening. I think seeing him losing faith in his dream and purpose and losing this major father figure in his life at the same time is really compelling. It was very interesting to dive into that.
Yes, that was my next question. Talk to me about the death of Father Beocca.
Well, after losing David Dawson, it was like, “Not Ian Hart too!” He, just like David, is one of the cornerstones of the show and he’s such a solid actor and presence on set. I think in all the scenes that I’ve ever had with Ian Hart I never had a moment where I needed to actively suspend my disbelief or to substitute anything, because he has this ability to put you so in a moment that you don’t really have to do any work as an actor as long as you’re truly listening to what he’s saying and how he’s saying it. So that definitely stays with me every time I mentioned his name onscreen. So all of these scenes seem to be very organic and that once again is really thanks to his screen presence and the work that he’s been doing over all those years. I missed him onscreen just as much as I miss him offscreen. I think Ian Hart is one of those guys who you remember even if you’ve just spent an hour with him. To have been able to spend all these years on set with him, I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s also somebody that I’m going to miss dearly. I think we’re so blessed on the show to have a cast and the crew that is extremely respectful of each other and we’ve become a big family. I think that’s really rare on a set. Ian was one of the major factors of that.
And Mark Rowley as Finan really seemed to stretch himself this season in a way he hasn’t before.
Exactly. Yeah, I was so stoked to see that his part was getting bigger this season because we have a lot of actors in this cast who are, in my opinion, way underused. And that’s nobody’s fault. The story is what the story is, but to just see that he was given more and that he brought it to such a degree was just wonderful. I’m really hoping that we’re going to be able to develop the storylines of other characters that usually are in the background and don’t get that much screentime next year. I really hope that’s going to be possible.
We also get to see Uhtred act as a father for the first time, which he hasn’t always been great at.
[Laughs] He doesn’t really know where they went! Are they alive? Are they hungry somewhere in the corner?
And we only see two of his kids this season — Young Uhtred and Stiorra. Isn’t there a second son floating around somewhere?
Please don’t ask me that [Laughs]. I’ve been wondering all season where the hell that baby is.
But really, looking at Young Uhtred and Stiorra, compare and contrast them for me if you can.
Yeah, I mean Young Uhtred — he’s at the perfect age to play this teenager. He’s got this bounciness. When he’s in scenes with you, you see onscreen he’s kind of bouncing around. He tries so hard to be a grown-up, but he isn’t quite yet. He’s just so sweet and so everything Finn [Elliot] brought to that part I think really shows onscreen. And when you get to see some pictures of myself when I was around that age I look so similar to him. So it was really easy to make that dynamic work. And then Ruby [Hartley] comes into the picture who’s obviously kind of the badass of the two kids and who’s trying to stir up s— between him and me, and it was really fun to work with those two.
And then how would you describe Uhtred’s relationship with Aethelflaed this season?
Well, I think that’s been a long time coming, and I’m really glad we start off the season the way we do. But then Uhtred just can’t seem to stay in a situation where he’s settled down and when nothing’s going to happen. So it was kind of bound to go the way it does. I think Millie [Brady] stepped up her game this season because she has so much responsibility all of a sudden. I think that was really good development of her character, especially when you see the way Brida develops in the story. You suddenly have these two hugely powerful female characters who were set up against each other and Uhtred’s between them trying to figure it out.
Yeah, speaking of Brida, she really cannot catch a break.
A lot of the stuff that happens to her, she also deserves. That’s the crazy thing, to see her develop from how she was. If you remember that shot of the two kids sitting on the steps of the hall at Eforwic right at the beginning after they’ve been taken and then seeing her develop into this fierce fighter. There’s this one scene where she kills the villagers when they’re stealing the horses. She smashes this woman’s head. It’s just — jeez, how do you get to that? And I think in a way, it’s one of those moments where the audience is really torn between rooting for her because it’s Brida and because they know her so intimately from the beginning and at the same time she’s become this monster. But I think Emily [Cox] does a really good job of making you understand what she’s going through and she can’t catch a break. But at the same time she’s also portraying this vile figure that is only made up of hatred at this point.
And of course I have to ask about The Sickness, a.k.a the pandemic storyline that happens this season.
[Laughs] I can’t believe it. That was nuts. I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to put some sort of trigger warning before those episodes because it’s just nuts, isn’t it? Who could’ve predicted that? At the same time, it kind of reminds you that that we’ve had these all throughout our history and somehow we prevailed. So that’s what I thought, the positive aspect of it.
You also get a great one-on-one scene with Aelswith this season, which is the first time they really have that alone time together. I thought that was great.
Yeah, I agree. I was really glad to have that moment with her. Eliza is one of the people who I always want to see more of onscreen. “The Last Kingdom” was her first job out of drama school. And she’s the same age as Millie, who is playing her daughter in the series. I’ve always been a huge fan of what she can do. I think one of her jobs two years ago was to play 22 different characters all with different accents for a computer game or something. She’s one of those people who can just completely change. She comes in the morning and she looks gorgeous. Then she steps out of the makeup truck and goes to costume and she’s Aelswith, who you’re just like “Ugh! Don’t come near me!” [Laughs] So it was a real treat to spend more time with her in front of the camera.
Another thing I noticed, Uhtred and the gang seem to spend a lot of time running this season.
Literally running! And as if that weren’t enough we were running with kids in our arms! There was this one scene where we were running in the hills, and it doesn’t really show onscreen that much, but there was this one time we’re running across the side of the hill. It was super steep. The ground was uneven and I was carrying the little girl playing Aelfwynn. Actually, at this point I think it was her stunt double because there’s only a certain amount of time that you can work with young kids. And I’ve been running all day already with one of them in my arms and we get to this steep hillside and I’m just thinking, “Oh my God, I cannot fall. I cannot fall. I cannot fall.” I was so terrified.
Sigtryggr also plays a big part later on in the season. What is your take on him?
Well, the first time Uhtred hears about him he just thinks of him as a boy. He’s not to be taken seriously. And I love that dynamic especially because of what happens between Uhtred’s daughter and Sigtryggr afterwards. He’s somebody whom Uhtred can respect. There’s another scene where Sigtryggr fights against the Welsh army and he really outsmarts them, when he sets the fire and looses the arrows on them. So you think, “Wow, this is not an enemy who you can just defeat through battle.” You really have to outsmart him. I think Uhtred sees himself in Sigtryggr and that’s why he’s able to let his daughter go with him.
And of course Timothy Innes as Edward this season was a big shift from Season 3. How would you describe his character at this point?
It ends on such a warm note in the previous season. And then pretty quickly you get to the point where, because he’s influenced by Aethelhelm, he kind of turns into this pseudo Alfred character who never gives Uhtred a break. For a moment there you think, “Is he an Alfred replacement?” And then very quickly you realize no, he’s not. He’s got his own thing going on. And I think Tim Innes did such a brilliant job of portraying that, especially during those scenes where he needs to choose between the sons and how he’s torn about it. And I think he brought such a profound human quality to that part. Yeah, he’s got this rock star thing about him when he walks. I always think, “Man, he should be up on stage with a guitar.” [Laughs].