RED BULLETIN – The Vikings star talks about why she doesn’t feel pressure in Hollywood, her new film The Dark Tower and her very dedicated fanbase.
Long before she became a fiery shield maiden on the hit show Vikings, Katheryn Winnick was kindling her inner warrior in the suburbs of Toronto. At age 7, she was learning taekwondo, and by the time she was 21, she was running three martial arts schools. When she made the transition into acting a few years later, Winnick’s fighting skills occasionally popped up on her lengthy list of film and TV credits—including guest spots on nearly every network procedural (CSI, Law & Order, House, Bones, Person of Interest) in the past 15 years.
But it wasn’t until her role as Lagertha on Vikings that the 39-year-old actress found a character that truly embodied the mental and physical strength she had developed as a confident young martial artist. Now filming the show’s fifth season in Ireland, Winnick took a break to discuss why she doesn’t feel pressure in the cutthroat business that is Hollywood, her new film The Dark Tower and what it’s like to see a tattoed depiction of herself on someone’s chest.
THE RED BULLETIN: Your parents got your entire family into taekwondo—sounds like a unique way to spend time together.
KATHERYN WINNICK: It was the best thing that ever happened. It just bonded us. It’s one of those few sports that you can do at any level, and all do at the same time. Even though it’s an individual sport, you can do it based on your own personal goals, depending on your age and physical ability. I think every family should do martial arts together.
You started your first taekwondo school when you were 16. Did that entrepreneurial spirit come from your family, too?
Definitely. My dad was an entrepreneur, and he took risks. At that point in my life, taking a risk to start a business didn’t seem so risky because I knew that I had a roof over my head and I had family that would encourage me. We come from humble beginnings. I had no financial assistance whatsoever, but I did have the emotional support and my mom helped me with the accounting. I wanted to create my own reality, and the only way of doing that is to be your own business owner. I took what I knew at that time, taekwondo, and I excelled at it. No one’s going to give anything to you. You’ve got to work hard for yourself.
Acting can be an inconsistent career. How did you stay focused during the times when you weren’t working?
OUT – The fearsome female ruler Lagertha will go to war with her nemesis when the History Channel’s Vikings returns for its midseason premiere next week, but actress Katheryn Winnick says that’s just the beginning of the changes for her character. After years of betrayal by the men in her life, Lagertha falls for a woman, the shield maiden Astrid (Josefin Asplund).
This sapphic switch sounds sudden considering Lagertha will battle Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), the woman who stole her first husband, Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). But during a recent chat with reporters, Winnick explained how it isn’t that surprising—and that she doesn’t think Lagertha suddenly has become a lesbian.
How did this relationship with Astrid come about? Lagertha didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a lesbian, did she?
Katheryn Winnick: Lagertha has been betrayed by so many men throughout her life. Obviously, Ragnar cheated on her and asked her to be a second wife. Her second husband was abusive. Then Kalf, who she groomed to be a leader, tried to usurp her own rule. She had to kill him on their wedding day. So her relationship with men [wasn’t great]. 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 woman. I don’t feel that Lagertha necessarily is a lesbian; I never played it that way. But she did find a love with Astrid that men have never been able to give her.
SHOWBIZ JUNKIES – History’s critically acclaimed Vikings will return for the second half of season four on November 30, 2016, and in support of the upcoming premiere Katheryn Winnick participated in a conference call to discuss what’s in store for her character, Lagertha. 99% of the conference call focused on Vikings, however Winnick was also asked a question about a project she managed to star in during her limited downtime from Vikings. Winnick has the much-anticipated The Dark Tower heading to theaters in 2017, and Sony just confirmed it’s now moved off of a February release date to July 28, 2017.
The cast is led by Idris Elba as Roland Deschain and includes Matthew McConaughey as Randall Flagg (aka The Man in Black), Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers, Abbey Lee as Tirana, and Fran Kranz as Pimli. Winnick’s character hasn’t been revealed, however during the conference call she came close to accidentally letting it slip.
“I play a character that’s in the novels as well,” offered Winnick. “I assume I’m not allowed to talk about who I play. (Laughing) I was this/close about giving it away! That was almost a massive slip-up. But I will say this, I have some great scenes with Matthew McConaughey who I love working with. I worked with him years and years ago on Failure to Launch – one of my very first movies. So, it was nice to reunite with him. He plays a very interesting character.”
There was just barely time to fit in the role after Vikings wrapped up, but Winnick managed to pull it off. The film was shot in Cape Town during her hiatus. “It was an amazing experience,” said Winnick. “I only had less than two months of a break in between so it just luckily worked out, in terms of scheduling. I went straight from the end of season four straight to Toronto to visit my family and two days later I was on a plane to Cape Town. So, it was really quick. I know that they’ve been trying to get this movie made for over eight years. Ron Howard’s producing it. Idris Elba is starring in it, and Matthew McConaughey also. We’ve got an incredible young cast as well.”
Winnick added, “We’ve got an incredible director (Nikolaj Arcel) who’s really hands on with the actors and really has his own vision, his voice behind the camera and how he wants the film to be really authentic and real even though it has more mystical elements. But I think fans are going to absolutely love it.”
Winnick is aware of discussions taking place about the future of The Dark Tower franchise, but she hasn’t heard anything definite. “I know that there are talks of doing a TV show now and possibly more movies. I know that I had an incredible experience working on it, and it’s just going to be amazing when it comes out. I believe the date now is in July. I’m excited to see it in theaters and I’m sure you guys will too.”
Before returning to all things Vikings, Winnick added one final The Dark Tower statement: “I play a character that’s extremely different than Lagertha – I will say that!”
EW – Vikings’ midseason finale left much of its cast bloodied, battered, and bruised. A wounded Ragnar retreated in defeat from a battle with Rollo, Lagertha was left on the verge of death after a brutal stabbing, and an aimless Bjorn set sail for the Mediterranean to honor his absent father.
As viewers continue to reel from the climactic episode, cast members Travis Fimmel (Ragnar Lothbrok), Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha), Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn Ironside), and Gustaf Skarsgård (Floki) stopped by EW’s studio at San Diego Comic-Con to tease what’s next in the back half of season 4.
Winnick said it’s “no secret” Lagertha is alive, as she’s currently filming season 5 in Ireland, but the shieldmaiden is in “a different place in her life.” She also promised a dramatic throwdown between Lagertha and Queen Aslaug.
“It’s going to be a cat fight. The two power women go head to head,” Winnick said. “It’s a really interesting scene because you don’t expect what happens.”
Bjorn, on the other hand, is enjoying a lighter storyline. “Floki and Bjorn end up going to the Mediterranean, and they work on their tans a little bit,” Ludwig said. “You’re definitely going to see Floki and Bjorn’s relationship flourish.”
For the full run-down on where Vikings will pick up, watch EW’s full interview above.
An exclusive interview with actress, model, and Raymond Weil brand ambassador Katheryn Winnick, star of the hit TV series ‘Vikings.’
INC – Sure, Katheryn Winnick’s IMDb page lists over 60 credits. Sure, she’s appeared on a number of magazine covers, not to mention scores of feature stories and interviews.
And sure, on the hit TV series Vikings (just renewed for a fifth season) she plays one of the most multi-layered characters on television.
Talented actress? Absolutely — but inside Katheryn Winnick also beats the heart of an entrepreneur.
This is another in my series of interviews with people you might not think are entrepreneurs — but they absolutely are. After all, actresses and actors are in business — the business of themselves. And while you might think you have nothing in common, you’re wrong.
When you were sixteen years old you opened a martial arts school. A few years later you had three. How did you pull that off?
I got my first black belt when I was thirteen, and then I started teaching martial arts at after school programs and over time more and more people asked me to teach them. So I started a school in Toronto and it expanded through word of mouth and just took off.
My dad was an entrepreneur so I had a great role model. He showed me that if you want to do something great the best way is to do it yourself. Watching him made me realize that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. He made things happen for himself and seeing that was so inspiring and gave me a lot of confidence… so the thought of starting a business of my own was really exciting.
I knew I wanted to work, I knew I wanted to help people, and starting my own business was the best way to accomplish both.
So how did you go from teaching martial arts to acting?
IMDb: What does it mean to you to have such a massive viewership and fan base?
Katheryn Winnick: It’s amazing just to see how many people relate to the show and how people from different backgrounds, cultures, and countries all identify with these characters and are fascinated with the Viking world. It’s now going into Season 4 and having now double the episodes. And the fact that History Channel ordered twice the number is such a proud moment — that all our hard work from Season 1 is now coming to fruition. It’s amazing to have the fans and the critics all by our sides. Our biggest complaint was people wanted more episodes!
Lagertha has consistently been a fiercely strong, independent woman and leader. How has she changed in Season 4?
You will see her making decisions totally based on herself and trusting herself, especially in the midseason finale and the one coming after. She’s been burned before and betrayed before from everyone from Season 1, from Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) to her second husband, who physically abused her and Kalf (Ben Robson), who betrayed her by taking over Hedeby.
I think that she’s definitely now trusting her own intuition, and she probably will never put herself in a situation where she’s depending on other people as much. I would even say that she comes into her own even more so in Season 4. You’ll definitely see a big change with Lagertha. There will be a change not just physically but also in who she is as a person, and she gets a new tattoo and more responsibilities. There are definitely some fun changes.