Big Mike here from Comic-Con 2016 subbing in for Fanboy at the Vikings panel. Boy, did you guys miss a treat. The History Channel’s Vikings recently finished the first half of the 20 episode season four and it was another intense ride. On hand at the Friday panel were the show’s creator and only writer, Michael Hirst, and the beautiful cast including Travis Fimmel (Ragnar Lothbrok, which is the nickname for my…never mind), Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha), Clive Standen (Rollo), Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn Lothbrok), and Gustaf Skarsgard (Floki). This is still one of the nicest casts I’ve ever met and they seem extremely tight-knit and they love their fans. Katheryn Winnick was quick to show her love and appreciation to the crowd that has gotten bigger and bigger each year and I wouldn’t be surprised if it winds up in Ballroom 20 some day. I would love to see it make to Hall H, but then I really wouldn’t be able to get inside.
I’m not out to spoil anything here for folks not quite caught up yet, so read at your own risk. The first question was directed at Travis regarding Ragnar’s love and loyalty of his family and what could’ve happened to weaken that bond the first part of the season. Travis didn’t get far into his answer before Alexander Ludwig spit out his drink and pointed out to the crowd that someone put vodka in his water bottle, “And I’m drinking it allll!”, he exclaimed. Now that’s how you start a freakin’ panel. The highly enthusiastic crowd roared with approval. “Hand it down, Mate” Travis followed up with. This is pretty much the kind of panel I would want to be a part of. Maybe someday, no? Travis’ take on Ragnar’s “abandoning” of his family was that he didn’t feel appreciated and everyone he loved either got killed or betrayed him in some way and he had had enough. He sounded as if he’d been at Comic-Con since preview night and Alexander apologized for not bringing Travis’ translator. It wasn’t that bad, Travis just needed a hair of the dog that bit him. Man, I wish I could party with these folks.
Michael’s take on Ragnar’s disappearing was that he felt shame at losing badly in battle and wanted to disappear from history altogether. He only reemerged because he wanted to see how his sons turned out and that he had unfinished business in Wessex with King Ecbert. He mentioned that if he was a fan of the show rather than the writer that he’d love to see another meeting between the two leaders. We just might. Hirst has some clout.
Katheryn was then asked if she thought Lagertha felt like she would be the best person to rule the vikings. She believes that Lagertha would want her original dream with Ragnar, which was to have many settlements in different lands and make smart decisions for her people. She praised Hirst for his penchant for writing strong female characters and pointed out that she “loves kicking ass. It’s fun.” She is pretty damn good at it. This drove the crowd wild. There were tons and tons of women there showing their love for this awesome show. They cheered almost every time someone mentioned the phrase “strong female character”.
Onto Rollo. Clive was asked how it felt to betray his people and he felt he had to stay behind because there was nothing left for him back home and they were no longer his people. There was something waiting for him in Paris and whatever it is he has to make it work. They’re his people now and he has to embrace them. Rollo is just a man who wants to be accepted. His nephew Bjorn is the only family he feels any affinity with at this point in the series which earned Clive an affectionate head rub on his shoulder from Alexander. Sooo many people were jealous of Ludwig right then. (Even me!) It was also noted that it was Clive’s birthday, so hundreds and hundreds of loving fans sang him Happy Birthday. “I’d betray anyone for you guys!” he exclaimed. It was a very warm and special moment in history that only the people in that room will ever know. See what you’re missing?
Alexander Ludwig exclaimed this was the season that got him to sign up in the first place. He took on a freakin’ bear and survived the wilderness, outsmarted an assassin and did not hesitate to play judge in regards to sentencing Floki. “Bjorn has totally come into his own now.” “I’ve never been more excited for a season and I think you guys can all look forward to a really crazy and intense next ten episodes.” This guy knows how to work a crowd.
Gustaf was asked what it was like filming his scenes in the cave being all hung up by his arms and nekkid and if it was as tough to shoot as it looked on screen. “The physical aspect of it was pretty tough.” Being hung up on the ropes pinched a nerve causing him to lose feeling in one of his thumbs for a couple of months. He also had to starve himself a bit to look skinny (skinnier), but the toughest part he said was the mental preparation he had to do to portray the part of losing a child. Harsh. Wow, having to hang all in the buff like that, pinch your nerves and act all day to boot can be pretty tough. Granted, he’s never had to wait in the autograph lottery ticket lines at Comic-Con before, so he’s got some more strength and conditioning to do before he earns my full respect. I am looking forward to the “Hanging Floki” Vikings Christmas ornaments coming out in time for the holidays. A great Secret Santa gift! But I digress, Gustav stated that a part of Floki died when he lost his daughter and that he’s been in just a state of disorientation and is lost. “Poor Floki”, Gustav said to a bevy of “Awwws” from the crowd.
Michael was asked aboot the large jump in time at the midseason finale and if the show was going to go full forward with the jump or if there will be any flashbacks to what happened to everyone while Ragnar was away. He said in his mind that the show was always aboot Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons and he wanted to give sufficient time for Ragnar to “lick his wounds and his sons to become young men” and he doesn’t want to look back. It’s not the first jump forward in time on the show and he felt it worked tremendously well the first time and he wasn’t afraid of doing it again. He also pointed out that historic Ragnar’s only fear was his sons becoming more famous than him, which did happen. Kids.
Some of the teases shared in the second half of the panel were the upcoming arrival of Jonathan Rhys-Davies who “won’t be playing a Viking, he’ll be playing a very interesting and new kind of character”. Also to look forward to, a scene between Lagertha and Aslaug that Katheryn is excited for the fans to see. “It won’t be a love scene but there is definitely some contact.” And since Ragnar is off doing his own thing, Lagertha has her eye on taking care of her home village since it is in need of proper leadership. When Travis and Katheryn were asked if they thought Ragnar and Lagertha would ever get back together again, since Lagertha is single again after killing another husband, Travis said “Relax, she’s got the clap.” “He’s got a small penis” was Katheryn’s quick retort. (Sadly, I can’t confirm if either are true, but I swear to do everything in my power to find out in the most non-awkward way possible.) The cast mates and crowd loved the banter. Michael said nothing would make him happier than to see them together again. He also said that two episodes coming up are the best they’ve ever done and he can’t wait for the best fans in the world to see them. Sweet.
The panel was opened up to my least favorite part of any panel, which are questions from the fans. First world problems. I always fear that folks are going to ask for hugs, autographs, shout out message/video requests and this panel was no exception. There were at least four or five such requests and it got a little old. Don’t do that folks. Don’t get me wrong, there were still a couple of good questions. One little girl asked Katheryn how she went from Tae Kwon Do to acting and we learned that Katheryn started learning at age seven and had her first black belt at age thirteen. She started a Tae Kwon Do school at age sixteen and started teaching actors and actresses martial arts and loved being on set so much she worked her way up. (Dayam! I had no idea.) My favorite question was actually a question I wanted to ask and that was from a chick who asked if she could have some vodka. Alexander kindly obliged and I was jealous that I didn’t get to share vodka with a viking. One fan asked the slightly hungover Travis if he had to do any research for his Ragnar’s addiction and dependency. “I’m guilty of that”. This was quite a funny panel for a drama. When asked if those were tough scenes to shoot and deal with, he said “Nah.” Sweet. Someone asked aboot the biggest prankster on the set and Alexander had a nice fresh one to report on from earlier in the day. Apparently at an EW interview Travis somehow managed to get his hands on a paint roller lathered in blue paint and during the interview managed to paint Alex’s entire face with it. I’d pay to see that. Ludwig also shared a tidbit aboot how he once pushed over a porta-potty Travis was using and almost made Travis heave when he got out. “This is after years of abuse. I’ve earned a few pranks, okay?”, Ludwig pleaded. “I’ll get you back”, replied Fimmel. Can’t wait to hear the update on that next year.
Another great question asked revolved around whether the cast thought what it would’ve been like if they had done a different kind of character. Ludwig took that one and mentioned he felt he’s grown up on the show and was really grateful for Michael helping Bjorn transform and grow into a character who has flaws and the like. His scenes in the wilderness really helped change his character. Gustaf wondered what it would’ve been like if he had chosen a different laugh for Floki after practicing all night the day before the first shoot. He gave the crowd a laugh that sounded close to Butthead’s of Beavis & Butthead and said he was in his hotel room in the middle of the night practicing what we now know as Floki’s laugh, which the folks in the next room must loved.
Katheryn was asked how long it took to get her hair done by someone dressed as Lagertha, which she thought was cool, and depending on the mood of the character or breakdown of the scene it can take up to forty-five to sixty minutes to do the two signature braids style, in case you were wondering. I didn’t realize how much thought the put into a hairstyle on that show. She also mentioned how she’s seeing Lagertha’s hairstyle pop up on red carpets and in fashion magazines. (Thank the lord it wasn’t the played-out half shaved head look that didn’t look good in the late 80s either.) For her, she wanted something strong and different and that’s how she got the two signature braid style and it’s “fun to do.”
With the question time running down Alexander was nice enough to stop the Q&A to grab the last person who asked for a shout-out but got shut down and have the cast oblige. What a guy. “I just wanted to look really nice, I’m actually a huge asshole”, Ludwig admitted. These guys love their fans.
One question asked was whether Ragnar was going to seek out his child with Queen Kwenthrith but Michael said he couldn’t answer because it would be a spoiler alert, which Alexander pointed out was pretty much a confirmation. Time will only tell.
The panel ended with a fan thanking Michael for writing strong female characters and what women inspired the cast. Katheryn praised Michael for being such a great writer of women and having their backs and Clive pointed out that he didn’t think Michael wrote strong women, “he writes strong characters”. Clive’s inspiration was his mum, wife and daughter and sees them all portrayed in Lagertha, Aslaug and all the characters on the show. He had some very poignant thoughts on strong characters that were women and if you ever get a chance to watch or listen to this panel I highly recommend it. I don’t think you can find a quality show without strong male and female characters out there folks, so open your eyes and enjoy this golden age of TV. Just make sure you’re caught up on Vikings first because this is one of the top shows of all time with one of the nicest and most talented and grateful casts to boot.
I pray I get to be in this cast’s presence again. Especially since they gave out voucher tickets to receive one of those horn drinking cups that I missed out on last year. I can’t wait to get drunk and get that baby signed. The second half of season 4 of Vikings airs in September. Don’t miss it.