COMPOSURE MAGAZINE: It goes without saying that Lagertha—the iconic character in the historical television series “Vikings”—definitely knows how to make a strong impression. In just four seasons, we’ve seen Lagertha fight men twice her size and wield a sword like she was born with one. For many fans, this mastery of combat comes as no surprise since Katheryn Winnick, the Canadian actress who plays the viking shieldmaiden, is just as talented in combat off-screen as she is onscreen.
“I started Taekwondo at the age of seven,” Winnick recalls. “I was heavily involved in sports at a young age. I started off in gymnastics, then soccer, basketball and volleyball, but my number one choice was always Taekwondo.” She continued to fuel this passion and just a few years later, she got her first black belt. Of course, she was nowhere near done. By the age of 16, she opened up her very own martial arts school and by 21, she ran three Taekwondo schools in Toronto focused on teaching self-defense to women. It was thanks to this passion that Winnick found her way into entertainment.
“I started in the [entertainment] field by teaching actors martial arts on movie sets. I was their trainer as well as their stunt double,” she describes. “That’s how I got a chance to see what a stunt life is like, and I realized it’s amazing and I would love to be a part of it in front of the camera. That was really my journey.”
Of course, the path to success is never easy. Winnick recalls one instance where she had to strike up a deal with a set photographer to exchange Taekwondo lessons for some headshots she couldn’t afford. And then there were the countless auditions and roles (like the one with a director who believed it was “necessary” for her character to be in a bikini) that simply weren’t a good fit for her. “It wasn’t until later on in my career that I really shifted in terms of choosing material a little more carefully,” she points out. She eventually decided that she wanted to set the bar higher and play more complex characters. As fate would have it, the opportunity to play Lagertha could not have come at a better time.