Interview: ‘Vikings’ Katheryn Winnick on Her Audition for the Show and Shooting Battle Scenes

Katheryn on shooting in Ireland: "It allowed us to bond together as cast members and as a family and I think that was really important"

katheryn-winnick-vikingsThe History Channels Vikings is one of those shows that just keep getting better and better. It’s so well written and the cast, including George Blagden, Travis Fimmel and Katheryn Winnick are just great. 

Winnick plays Lagertha in the show and in this roundtable interview, she talks about how she got cast – complete with a story about driving around town in a Viking costume – going from Bones to a period piece and shooting on location in Ireland.

Vikings airs on Sundays at 10pm on The History Channel

For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes 

I don’t know how you actually got the part, but what did you think of the project when it was first brought to you?

Katheryn Winnick: Great question. I actually got the script last year probably around this time I wanna say, and they weren’t doing any meetings or any casting sessions, so I had to put myself on tape in my living room with my self camera.

And I was trying to look up as much information as I could just on Vikings because, as you know, there’s not that much out there in terms of how they spoke, for example, and how they… and the different religions and the pagan religions. So I was trying to do my research.

But what happened was months went by, I was shooting something in Toronto, and I got a call saying that they wanted me to come in to the casting director in Toronto and they needed me to look more undone I guess. You know? So I went in and I was in Toronto, I was shooting Transporters, a TV show I was doing there. And I was… I went to the local costume place and I was like, “Please make me look like a Viking. How do I look undone?” And so I ended up renting a costume that I thought was more fitting of that era and the Dark Ages and I went in and I did a read and then they flew me to LA to do a chemistry read with Travis. So it happened really quickly. I think I was the last person cast of the main cast and 3 days later I was off to Ireland.

So you’re just driving in your car with a Viking costume on?

Katheryn Winnick: Pretty much, yup. People thought I was a bit of a freak, but it’s fun.

I know you were also on Bones, what’s it like transitioning from modern into that more period piece and which do you prefer?

Katheryn Winnick: Oh, gosh. For me I absolutely adore period pieces. And it’s something different and here and shooting being a Viking and being a shield maiden, the dirtier the better. The more dirt on your face the better. The more blood in battle. And so it was such a treat not necessarily having people coming up, “Oh, you need more lip gloss,” or something like that. So it was definitely more my style of shooting, of being real and stuff like that.

That’s how you kind of get involved, for me, to really get into the character when you can take on a different persona from the look and the feel and the set design and that was a gift for sure. That was great.

What’s the most sort of surprising thing you did learn about the era?

Katheryn Winnick: Just how they lived and how actually sophisticated and cultured and smart they were with very little means. You know, in terms of even running water and how they heated their homes and how they had one central fireplace in the center of a one room house and what kind of food they would make. It was just so… when you’re shooting, and I think Ireland was such a perfect setting for something like this because I can’t imagine another country where it is so rural where you get a chance not to see a Starbucks or McDonalds and you actually feel that this is how they would’ve lived and I loved that part of it. And the religion, the whole paganism, and how they believed in fate and how they believed that their fate is already written.

And I know with my character, Lagatha, she definitely questions the fate and if, you know, why is all this happening to her as the series goes on. Is this God’s will or is it her fate? So it’s… or does it actually even exist? So all that was very interesting for me.


In one  episode you stood up for a woman who was about to be raped. What do you think that says about your character?

Katheryn Winnick: Lagatha is a very strong individual but she’s also a mother and a woman. I think… I know, for me, acting and being a part of it, as much as slaves do get raped in that time period and it’s they’re considered property, Lagatha would not be one to let that happen. She just is one for the people and especially one for when she would stick up for what she really, truly believes in and I think that scene specifically showed her inner strength. Even though that it may be a conflict with the other Vikings or she’s probably stepping outside her legal right in a way where they get they’re allowed to do it, but I love that about her. She doesn’t care. She does what’s best for other women and for what she believes in. She’s one to fight for.

Do you think that she enjoyed killing?

Katheryn Winnick: Oh yeah. Are you kidding me? That was my favorite scene. It was really just written and we… when we were rehearsing it, you know, I’m like, “Well, how do we do this rape thing? Because Lagatha wouldn’t even come close to it.” So we actually had to coordinate, “Well, ok, maybe if he knocks her out for a split second, she’s dazed… just and then give… have her have the upper hand and eventually be the one on top and actually dig in that knife in twice.” So I love that scene.

How was it to shoot the battle scenes?

Katheryn Winnick: Oh, it’s great. I think for my character being based on a real person, a real Viking, it was… it’s not… you can’t say that I’m the only shield maiden. There were other women there fighting in battle with their husbands and their brothers and other men, but it says a lot of who she is. She’s a fighter. She’s a very strong, fierce, forward thinking woman.

How was it shooting in Ireland? Being away from everything and just kind of being immersed in this world?

Katheryn Winnick: I absolutely loved it. It was a little bit of an adjustment period, you’re shooting in Ireland where your cell phone doesn’t work when you’re shooting.

But for something like this, it allowed us to bond together as cast members and as a family and I think that was really important. And the crew is so fantastic, they really deserve big props because we could not do it without the crew and they worked harder than anyone and with the different climates also. Ireland has tons of microclimates and you’re from one day you’re hot and then it’s snowing or hailing and raining and you never know what you’re expecting. So that was challenging, for sure.

Are you shooting all over the country or one specific region?

Katheryn Winnick: You know, we had… they built a studio. We were the first production in this studio, but we also explored different parts of Ireland and got a chance to got outside of the indoor atmosphere and see the landscape as you can see on the show.

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