News

Vikings Star Katheryn Winnick Says Goodbye to TV's Most Brutal Series

From farmer and shield maiden to queen to madwoman, Lagertha's evolution has been epic.

by | November 26, 2019 | Comments

Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha in Vikings (1, 3 & 5 Jonathan Hession; 2 & 4 Bernard Walsh/©History Channel / Photo 1 Courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Jonathan Hession, 1, 3 & 5; Bernard Walsh, 2 & 4 / ©History Channel / Photo 1 Courtesy Everett Collection)

Katheryn Winnick has worn many faces over Vikings’ six seasons, and as the History network drama reaches its conclusion, the actress is clearly grateful for the luck she’s had in playing such an epic role.

“Lagertha’s journey throughout the years has been a huge evolution where she was a farmer, wife, shield maiden, queen,” Winnick told Rotten Tomatoes. “She ended up struggling, losing everything, went mad. At the end of season 5, she’s in a place where she’s reevaluating her purpose in life and trying to get back to what made her most happy, and that was really the early stage of her life of being a farmer — when she was a stay-at-home mom with kids on the farm with Ragnar — so that part of it, she’s going to be re-exploring this year.”

When Vikings began in 2013, Travis Fimmel led the ensemble cast as Lagertha’s husband Ragnar, who started the series as a farmer and rose to become King of Denmark. Fimmel left in season 4, and following Ragnar’s death in the show, the character’s surviving family members — including second wife Aslaug, first wife Lagertha, and sons by both — began a lengthy and bloody contest for the throne, which Lagertha took and again lost.

Season 6 of the series, which was created and written by Michael Hirst, sees Lagertha older, fed up with the cycle of violence, and eager to return to a more peaceful existence. Her son Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) is on the throne with the support of his half-brothers Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) and Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) after defeating their tyrannical brother Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen).

Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Winnick about Lagertha’s evolution, her directing debut this season on episode 608 (airing in 2020), and the “old Lagertha” makeup.


Vikings -s6 Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha (Lagertha -Katheryn Winnick-Vikings_PHOTO CREDIT Bernard Walsh and History)

(Photo by Bernard Walsh and History)

Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: I wanted to talk about how Vikings has changed for you over the seasons.

Katheryn Winnick: I’m one of the only cast members that was there from day one to going into the final season … so it’s been a huge honor to be part of everyone’s journey as the evolution of the show changed from the first season. We only had one or two sound stages, and at the end we had five or six different ones. It’s crazy how much it’s just expanded, not just in terms of space, but production value. And we had more of a budget to do more of the effects and more costumes. Vikings just traveled to different countries, and that’s evident in this year’s story line, as well as the years prior. We went to Iceland, we went to Morocco, we went into — I believe this year you’ll see a new cast in Russia. So it’s been an exciting journey, not only just in terms of story lines, but also visually appealing to be able to tap into different cultures.

It seems very much like Lagertha is beginning a new journey this season. How would you characterize that?

Winnick: She’s been around the block. At the end, I think we were laughing: I’m like, “How old is Lagertha now in this season?” And we played around with different ways of aging her, added a little bit with clothes more of a weight gain. We did a limp. I ended up doing scars on her face to show the passage of time. So she wears her scars physically, and her emotional scars as well. And the gray wig, obviously, is a big part of it. And we played around also this year with prosthetics and aging her eyes and neck and hands. So hopefully that’s evident in the viewers. When we have six seasons to tell a life story, it’s important to be able to have that contrast, especially in the final season and the final chapter for Lagertha.


It does come across that you’re trying to show that aging, but to be honest, you still look really youthful in the show. I’m sure a lot happens in a short time span in a Viking’s life —

Winnick (laughs): Oh, come on! I wasted two and a half hours, three hours everyday [in makeup] … The real-life Vikings actually really only lived — I think the average age was 39.

The fans, being so loyal, literally [sent] Michael Hirst death threats if they kill Lagertha, so in the end, we needed to come up with creative ways of still keeping her storyline alive. Chronologically she’s a grandmother at this stage, with Bjorn’s children and everyone else. So it was an interesting journey as an actor to go through that final stage. You can see in the trailers that she buries her sword, that she kind of gives up being the shield maiden now. Especially since it defined who she is for so long, I struggled with how to be able to define her sense of strength and strong will even without the sword. But you will see Lagertha is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I don’t think she regrets anything. She doesn’t give up easy, and that’s definitely evident in this season.

She’s not going to go full Floki on us, is she? She does seem to have a spirituality, but —

Winnick: I’ve had many conversations with Michael Hirst about this: Out of all the other characters, Lagertha’s had a very strong sense of faith and really believed in the pagan gods, and her moral character, it doesn’t necessarily sway too much compared to the other ones, compared to Ivar or anyone else. So she’s determined to keep that faith going. This is her time to now redefine herself and give herself to the fate of the gods. She won’t go all Floki on you, if that’s what you’re asking.


Katheryn Winnick directing on the set of HISTORY's VIKINGS_Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Hession and History

(Photo by Jonathan Hession and History)

Fans are going to have to wait a little while to see how it unfolds. Are you happy with this final season?

Winnick: I am very happy with the final season in many different ways. You get to explore Lagertha in a different light. There was one, or a couple episodes, depending on how they edit it together, that Lagertha — I know I was rehearsing this scene for weeks, and hopefully you’ll see and know what I’m talking about, but it was definitely very momentous for her, and hopefully it came across to the viewers, because this is really labor intensive and emotionally intense this one particular scene. I’m also extremely happy with this because I got a chance to go behind the camera for the first time.

I was going to ask about that next. 

Winnick: My directorial debut was 608. It was such an honor to be asked, and being the only actor on the series after seven years to be asked to direct and go behind the cameras and work with my fellow co-stars and friends and crew members and tell a story that I’m so proud of, that was an incredible experience.

Are you in that episode?

Winnick (whispers): I can’t tell you that.

OK —

Winnick: But I will tell you this: It was definitely my highlight of working on it. I asked Michael Hirst, “I want three things out of my directorial debut: Give me a big event. Give me something epic and amazing.” You will see that is actually in the trailers right now. So there is a big event. I wanted character-driven material that I can push the actors, my fellow costars, to new levels that the audience hasn’t seen them do before. And I’m happy to say that I definitely put Alexander Ludwig through the ringer. And even Marco and Jordan — Hvitserk and Ubbe. The third thing is just coming from a martial art background and doing my own stunts and being passionate about the fight choreography, I asked him for a big fight, a big epic battle, and you will see that as well.


Lagertha_Katheryn Winnick_Vikings_PHOTO CREDIT Jonathan Hession and History

(Photo by Jonathan Hession and History)

Now that you’re facing the the tail end of your series, what will you miss most about your time on the show?

Winnick: I don’t miss getting into the costume hair and makeup, because that was always a process. We tried to get it down at the end. That wig was a challenge because we were shooting in high definition and you only get X amount of space to glue it on. Or even the prosthetics with the latex around the eyes — I have very sensitive skin, so the process was definitely a process.
What I won’t miss: The coffee in Ireland’s not the best. I’ll tell you that. They made instant coffee. Our craft table was pretty always kind of scarce, but it kept us lean. But yeah, the instant coffee I’m not a huge fan of.

What’s coming up next for you?

Winnick: I’ve had a really busy year. Really excited to say that I’ve done three projects, three different independent movies. There’s an incredible script called Flag Day, written by Jez Butterworth (who just won the Tony for Ferryman), and Sean Penn directed and starred in. I play his wife, and our daughter is played by his real daughter, Dylan Penn. We’ve got Regina King in this, you’ve got Miles Teller, we have Josh Brolin. It was really an amazing experience on set to work with Sean, and especially becoming now a director myself — I just did a show on Netflix; I directed, Wu Assassins — but it’s nice just to see him [work]. He’s so accomplished and brilliant as a director and knows what it takes to get the performance out of you, but also aesthetically knows what is pleasing and what he wants. I wanted to really see him work and spend time with him on set and create something that hopefully people will realize how special it is, because I have a place in my heart for that as well. And to go through like three decades, we went through ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, and to have that physical change of — there’s prosthetics, there’s hair changes — It was a very interesting movie, and I’m really passionate about that one. Great experience.

I did a movie with Liam Neeson I just finished called Minuteman. I’ve been a fan of his since back in the day, obviously, Taken and Schindler’s List. He’s also from Ireland. I played his daughter. That’s coming out. And did a movie this summer also with Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart, more of a conspiracy theory, written and directed by a female director, April Mullen, so it’s nice to be able to support a female storyteller.


Bjorn_Alexander Ludwig_ Lagertha_Katheryn Winnick_Vikings_PHOTO CREDIT Jonathan Hession and HISTORY

(Photo by Jonathan Hession and History)

Speaking of women in power, Lagertha has been such a huge influence on women because she’s such a strong character. She’s one of the most powerful women on television. How do you feel about portraying a character like that? What are some of the responses you’ve gotten about being her from women?

Winnick: I am still blown away when I meet fans that are diehard fans, and such loyal fans of Lagertha, just because it’s — not just women and girls, it’s men too that really look up to her, respect her, like her. So it’s nice that it’s reached both genders. But more importantly, it’s also around the world. I’ve been lucky enough to travel for the last few years. I was in India, I was in Brazil, I’ve been in Argentina, Canada, and all over Europe, really, and all around in different cultures people from all around the world, not only recognize her and me, I guess, but they also really feel the same way, and then really feel that there’s a part of them in Lagertha, or they look up to her, and that’s been remarkable to see.

Even in India, you can go to different villages and people, they live on their Netflix. And Philippines, people don’t even have running water, but they all have cell phones and they watch Vikings on their cellphones. It was just amazing just to see how it can inspire people everywhere.

It’s a little strange when you see somebody, when they have your face tattooed on their bodies. That’s a little surreal because I feel kind of uncomfortable with it just because it’s like, “Hey, you’re stuck with me for life.” No, but on one hand you can’t ask for a bigger compliment than to have such loyal fans.

On the flip side it’s also made it hard to find projects that I’m also as inspired, and work with writers that can write such a complex, strong, yet vulnerable character. It’s been a challenge. I’ve read a lot of scripts that I’m not wanting to sign on to because I feel that the characters aren’t — or the woman character is underwritten or their voice isn’t as multi-dimensional as I would want it to be. And I think we still have a long way to go, and hopefully we encourage more female writers, female directors, and female producers to be able to tell those stories. Have the men do the same as well.


Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha in Vikings season 6 (Bernard Walsh and History)

(Photo by Bernard Walsh and History)

Are you saying that Michael Hirst has ruined you for life?

Winnick: I’m just going to have be in a Michael Hirst movie for the rest of my life. How about that? Not really. Yeah. He set the bar really high, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Especially in TV when you’re signing up for multiple months, if not years, of your life, you want to make sure there’s a character you can really sink your teeth into and be inspired.

I learned a lot from Lagertha. I really, truly did. And the truth of the matter is, if I was 100-percent honest with you, I’ve yet to really say goodbye. I actually have a hard time watching it. I haven’t been able to watch the episodes in this season. I prepared, obviously, as a director to watch certain ones, but as a whole, it’s just so close to my heart still. And now that everybody knows that this season’s finished, I think maybe next year I’ll finally get a chance to sit down and binge-watch all of them, but it’s still too fresh for me. It feels like you’re saying goodbye to a big part of yourself and life. It’s hard to say. You go through a mourning process a little bit because, as you know, the show ended.

The fans are there mourning with you, but, you know, “Valhalla.”

Winnick: To end on an up note, this season’s been amazing. It’s going to be surprising. It’s definitely going to be a bunch of shockers, and the fans will not be disappointed. They’re going to be ecstatic when they see this season.

Vikings returns for its final season on Wednesday, December 4 at 9/8C on History.


Tag Cloud

TV Land monster movies deadpool kids halloween series documentaries E3 mutant nbcuniversal AMC Plus black comedy YA E! art house Sci-Fi blaxploitation USA talk show 79th Golden Globes Awards olympics streaming movies sequel sag awards ITV facebook Countdown CBS Extras SXSW breaking bad PlayStation new zealand robots Spectrum Originals italian news TIFF cinemax Opinion scary movies Star Wars remakes kaiju Martial Arts Stephen King HBO Go Heroines werewolf pirates of the caribbean reviews rt archives TBS golden globes Marvel Studios high school Black History Month mcc war comic book movie dreamworks Netflix The CW Election Photos anime 90s tv talk nature FOX binge Thanksgiving Lionsgate Character Guide Instagram Live Disney Plus Tokyo Olympics prank 99% Broadway broadcast Emmys TCM Avengers HBO 73rd Emmy Awards king arthur psychological thriller USA Network VH1 rom-coms GoT LGBT Summer Marvel Television Native Rocky Ghostbusters Sundance Now Esquire new star wars movies Trivia Lifetime Christmas movies criterion 2017 spinoff Box Office hollywood Anna Paquin dogs Syfy comiccon rt labs critics edition VOD genre Starz travel richard e. Grant Comedy Women's History Month Drama Amazon Prime Video Walt Disney Pictures strong female leads Awards historical drama video on demand GLAAD Crunchyroll marvel cinematic universe Action Film Festival know your critic Wes Anderson scene in color series teaser Cosplay trailers Best Director ABC Signature Sony Pictures 2019 football A&E zombies adaptation independent BAFTA Travel Channel Sundance TV Family TCA Awards Red Carpet The Arrangement Christmas Paramount Network miniseries period drama directors Comic-Con@Home 2021 Certified Fresh Polls and Games Apple Nat Geo South by Southwest Film Festival royal family CNN basketball ABC Family Crackle Epix Columbia Pictures biopic Sony Quiz Chernobyl true crime American Society of Cinematographers animated Cartoon Network Comedy Central disaster stand-up comedy BBC Toys MCU APB BET Awards Premiere Dates Best Picture video women Schedule comic books Shudder cops OneApp interviews Captain marvel Fox Searchlight Pop Sundance ViacomCBS Tags: Comedy Paramount Plus The Walking Dead quibi IMDb TV comedies fresh social media 2015 summer TV preview witnail ABC Fantasy book adaptation kong slashers Writers Guild of America twilight best Pirates composers stoner blockbusters Star Trek thriller 21st Century Fox Discovery Channel The Witch action-comedy San Diego Comic-Con award winner Hollywood Foreign Press Association Showtime Tumblr Elton John Teen SDCC screen actors guild TCA crime thriller DC streaming service emmy awards Pixar diversity suspense debate feel good Amazon Prime Fargo YouTube Red justice league movies Film venice natural history romance what to watch Focus Features Hulu doctor who hispanic Chilling Adventures of Sabrina spain Comic Book Food Network Song of Ice and Fire anthology transformers parents Tarantino BET marvel comics 1990s Logo 20th Century Fox TCA 2017 crossover jamie lee curtis Image Comics Turner Classic Movies batman Pacific Islander canceled BBC One Trailer Acorn TV Universal Pictures DC Universe President Rom-Com Television Critics Association festival PaleyFest Disney+ Disney Plus WarnerMedia Pet Sematary DC Comics zero dark thirty Hallmark Year in Review razzies Turner Grammys 71st Emmy Awards mob technology rotten 2018 trophy indie Winter TV scary WGN scene in color film series halloween tv Alien vampires based on movie Disney Channel Paramount Hear Us Out Pop TV See It Skip It nfl New York Comic Con Horror Apple TV+ canceled TV shows new york Podcast theme song child's play dexter First Reviews TNT Musicals Classic Film serial killer Holidays Rock casting Music japanese golden globe awards Biopics spider-man Musical IFC vs. dramedy cancelled TV series space streamig obi wan Marvel First Look christmas movies name the review 4/20 YouTube Premium MGM VICE FXX Binge Guide blockbuster MSNBC australia dragons TruTV Spring TV Disney streaming service Apple TV Plus sequels Pride Month legend Holiday Indigenous classics mission: impossible Mindy Kaling Nickelodeon stop motion Prime Video PBS Superheroe Spike Warner Bros. a nightmare on elm street Lifetime japan Lucasfilm gangster NBA all-time joker documentary ID SXSW 2022 political drama police drama AMC dc NBC children's TV international Brie Larson docudrama Mudbound aapi supernatural comic Masterpiece The Purge asian-american game of thrones scorecard satire cats Vudu Ovation Television Academy BBC America History HFPA Arrowverse RT History versus A24 Country Awards Tour live event streaming jurassic park Funimation Freeform cars sports Baby Yoda Mary Tyler Moore book X-Men SundanceTV National Geographic Tubi obituary 94th Oscars CMT Calendar discovery south america latino CBS All Access harry potter medical drama 2021 game show Infographic HBO Max television TV One MTV die hard finale Black Mirror Marathons slasher Reality rotten movies we love Super Bowl chucky 2020 summer TV zombie summer preview concert james bond revenge dceu Mystery dark Universal Endgame Trophy Talk 24 frames laika Bravo critics movie The Walt Disney Company psycho superhero NYCC Oscars TV Neflix ghosts 45 TCA Winter 2020 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt lord of the rings Cannes free movies science fiction 2016 Oscar critic resources cancelled television 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Set visit Adult Swim elevated horror FX The Academy renewed TV shows live action IFC Films black saw Academy Awards spanish language spanish leaderboard DGA cooking cults screenings OWN aliens spy thriller reboot toronto superman godzilla boxoffice singing competition worst biography universal monsters Best Actress TLC adenture Britbox archives Shondaland 72 Emmy Awards Exclusive Video posters indiana jones hispanic heritage month Sneak Peek Winners Best and Worst target scene in color green book 007 Mary Poppins Returns 93rd Oscars Fox News Kids & Family young adult hist politics telelvision Netflix Christmas movies TV renewals Hallmark Christmas movies Nominations Comics on TV Ellie Kemper romantic comedy wonder woman comic book movies toy story RT21 GIFs crime drama Legendary fast and furious Star Wars Celebration hidden camera scene in color LGBTQ TV movies Paramount Pictures Western Amazon DirecTV Fall TV crime unscripted Animation Superheroes rt labs popular CW Seed foreign ratings Geeked Week Video Games target worst movies Best Actor Peacock El Rey Valentine's Day Amazon Studios sitcom YouTube franchise Dark Horse Comics boxing docuseries Creative Arts Emmys ESPN films french cancelled TV shows king kong FX on Hulu cartoon mockumentary comics Reality Competition sopranos Tomatazos Disney Mary poppins Rocketman adventure Interview Watching Series cancelled spider-verse Emmy Nominations festivals heist movie