Vikings series creator and writer Michael Hirst is always a wealth of knowledge. Aside from writing every single episode of the History Channel series, he speaks about his characters with reverence and understanding. He likes them, he values them, and he knows fans do too.
In a recent interview with Variety, Hirst spoke a bit about what went into the decision to follow the trail of history and end the life of Ragnar Lothbrok in a pit of English vipers:
"I knew that in some ways killing Ragnar was taking a chance; I was told that to kill off a major character might be problematic, but I didn't worry about it. The other sons all have some aspect of Ragnar in their characters, for good and bad. It's a bit like the Beatles: they were four individuals who were in some ways one. Season 5 is all about shifting allegiances and The Great Army falling apart and the brothers fighting against one another. This season we see them often at each other's throats."
He continues on, speaking about newcomer to the cast Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the warrior priest Heahmund. You may recall that Meyers was the lead in Hirst's previous history series The Tudors, playing Henry VIII. Michael speaks a bit about Jonathan being a 'dangerous actor', and what his adversarial role for Ivar the Boneless will be like:
Johnny was the one and only person we thought of because we know him very well. I described what kind of a character we needed and everyone agreed. He'd just been in "Roots" for History and they'd really liked working with him. He's dangerous as an actor, maybe even as a person, I don't know. He's an unpredictable player, and that's what we needed.
What kind of adversary will Jonathan Rhys Meyers be to Ivar?
I've heard about some protests from Christian clergies in the States that my Christians were too feeble when fighting against the Vikings, and that their best dude was the monk Athelstan [George Blagden], so no wonder they got beat up. I thought that was slightly unfair criticism, but at the end of four with Aethelwulf [Moe Dunford] in retreat and the Saxons beaten I knew I needed a Saxon leader or warrior who could potentially stand up to Ivar and the Vikings. My historical research told me about these warrior bishops who were real people. Bishop Heahmund was a real bishop and warrior who died in battle and I knew as soon as I was on the trail of this character who was a forerunner of the Knights Templar I knew I had someone who could stand up to Ivar. You can tell when the characters are fighting each other in York that they recognize something about each other and their stories become more interlinked as the season goes on. It was evening up the playing field to introduce someone who was as formidable as anyone on the Vikings side.
When asked about the lifespan of characters like Floki and Lagertha (who in show terms are now in their late 40s early 50s respectively), Hirst commented that he always roots for Lagertha, and wants to see her around as long as he possibly can. Both characters were modeled after historical counterparts, and their lives apparently factored into the drama of the series:
There's a constant negotiation going on in my mind about who will live and who will die. There are certain things I knew [like] Ragnar had to die more or less at a certain point. I know when others have to die because it's appropriate to historic circumstances and the bits we know about them. But there are other characters that are more free spirits. To kill characters like that at a certain point would be ridiculous or self-defeating because I need them for something further down the line. Sending Floki to Iceland was not an entirely difficult idea, as he got tired of the world he was living in. He'd lost all the people he loved. He was tired of the battle between Christians and pagans. He wanted to find a purer world where the gods were so he just cut himself adrift in a boat and ended up in Iceland.
Lagertha existed but we don't know how she died. She's had a hell of a life, and had everything thrown at her. I'm constantly fascinated how as a woman she deals with all of these issues. I do believe it's more difficult for a woman to deal with these many, many personal political power issues than for a man. So I root for her a lot and want to know how she's going to deal with the next issue. I don't want to kill her arbitrarily. I need her around. Unless I have really good reason to kill her, I'm not going to.
Read the rest of the interview over on Variety, and don't forget to tune in tomorrow for Vikings season 5 premiere on HISTORY Channel.
This season, the bond between Floki and Ivar will be tested 😭 😭 😭
I'm not crying, you are! 😩😭 pic.twitter.com/ebgExrIZoD
— #Vikings (@HistoryVikings) November 28, 2017