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.
Going back to the beginning, what drew you to the role of Lagertha?
My agent sent the scripts to me, and right away they got my attention. It was the end of pilot season, and I’d been reading probably like 15 to 20 scripts a week. So, when I got these two scripts, I knew instantly that something was different. First and foremost, the fact that Michael Hirst wrote them and his name is on the cover.
I’m a big fan of “The Tudors” and Elizabeth. So, I knew that it was going to be something special. I’ve always been curious about the Viking culture and didn’t know much about it, the details of how they lived, and how women were portrayed. All that was new to me. To come across a character as strong as Lagertha, where, when I first read it, she’s a housewife and the next scene she gets two guys out of her house by using a fishhook, I thought that that’s such a powerful way to introduce the character. And also to the domestic dispute with her husband, where she went and pulled out her shield and beat him silly to try to get what she wanted, which is really to go raiding with him.
What made you say, “I have to play this person”?
Lagertha is a character that I always wanted to play, in the sense where I get a chance to use my background and my history of martial arts. I studied taekwondo since the age of 7. I got my first black belt at the age of 13. I’m a third degree black belt in taekwondo, second in karate, and was teaching actors martial arts on movie sets. I loved the physical side of things, but I hadn’t found a role that was as complex and as interesting as this, that also had the external elements. I just knew instantly that this was for me, and nobody in my head would be doing a job as well, just because I identified with this character.
Can you talk more about how you’ve incorporated your martial arts background into the portrayal of Lagertha?
Well, it’s a different style of fighting. I come up from a taekwondo and karate background. And a shieldmaiden is a warrior who doesn’t really throw out a roundhouse kick. But the physicality of having to pick up movements really quickly and not necessarily being showy, but really just be able to fight and attack and work on survival instincts is something that I can relate to.
I think that really bleeds into who Lagertha is as a person, and her strong will as a fighter also is evident in how she is as a mother and as a wife and as a ruler. That is something that I can understand, and it does take a lot of discipline to be in the martial arts and train every day and compete competitively. As a shieldmaiden she would have had the same training. Once you have power or once you empower yourself and once you gain control with yourself physically, it does lead into how you carry yourself and how you stick up for yourself and what you believe in. And I feel that those are qualities that I understood in Lagertha.
The midseason finale culminates in a massive longship battle between Rollo and Ragnar’s forces. What was it like, filming those battle scenes?
Oh, that was incredible. We actually shot the entire sequence on the water. It was challenging in the sense where they built a structure with these boats connected to this ramp, to have the crew there and in between boats. We had to be able to shoot it all and coordinate it all and get lunches sent in paper bags. They have another boat just to take you to the restroom, and it was in the rain. There are no trailers. You can’t get your hair and makeup checked. You just kind of have to go.
How long did it take to film?
We did multiple days on the water, and then I think some of the closeups we reenacted and recreated in the studio. But we didn’t necessarily need it, because once you’re there, we could just shoot it all at once. At one point, we had multiple cameras on the boats and doing circular grand shots and the crane over the water. It was a big, intense episode. It was challenging. The crew members had to dress up as Vikings because we were in limited space. That’s the only way. If they’re going to be on the boat, there’s no way of hiding them, because it is a Viking boat. You could see everything with the multiple cameras. So, some of the crew members were Vikings.
What can you tell us about the second half of Season 4?
It’ll be radically different. There will be a time jump, a significant time jump. For me, it was different to be able to completely switch up my look. Not only to come up with a way of aging Lagertha physically but also how to switch up her physicality so you can instantly tell that she’s in a different place emotionally and physically and also chronologically. That was a bit of a challenge. It was different and fun, and I think all the characters have gone through massive physical changes as well. We also have great new cast members who are joining us.
What else can I say about that? Other than the audience is going to really enjoy it because we have such interesting characters and such phenomenal cast members. I’m excited for you guys to see it.