Although Katheryn Winnick has been acting in films and on television since 1999, it wasn’t until she was cast in the pivotal role of the fierce shieldmaiden Lagertha in the medieval drama series “Vikings” that she became popular with global audiences.
Now on its fifth season, “Vikings” is one of the most popular period dramas on cable television with a solid following that rivals “Game of Thrones” to which it is often compared with. And Katheryn is the only female cast member still with the show and the only series regular to be given directorial duties starting Season 6.
In a recent exclusive interview with InterAksyon, Katheryn attributes her longevity in the series on the favorable response by fans to her character which Entertainment Weekly calls “the most exciting feminist character on TV.”
“When I first got cast in ‘Vikings,’ I was told that it was a show about the sons of Ragnar mostly and so the expectancy for Lagertha’s character was only supposed to be no more than that,” she recalled. “It’s nice to see how fans have been extremely devoted and have been so vocal about their dedication and loyalty to Lagertha. I’m grateful and honored that my character has spoken to them on a personal level.”
The 40-year-old Canadian actress also gives a lot of credit to series creator and writer Michael Hirst for developing Lagertha, who has risen to become the Queen of Kattegat following the deaths of her former husband Ragnar and his second wife Aslaug.
“It’s also nice to see that as an actress, I’m constantly getting challenged. To have an opportunity to be able to sit down with the writer and have a mutual discussion in terms of how your character is shaped and how it draws on your personal life is very rewarding,” she quipped.
In Season 5, Lagertha finds herself drawn to Bishop Heahmund, a bishop warrior played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers (“The Tudors”) whom Katheryn considers as “a talented actor who is wonderful to work with.”
“Jonathan plays a very interesting and complex character. It would take a big person to really get into Lagertha’s inner circle at this stage of her life and after all, she has been through. But they definitely have some sort of connection although she’s not sure if she fully trusts him. She’s definitely intrigued by his skills as a warrior even as she questions his philosophical nature and his sense of belief in his world and his religion.”
As her directorial debut for the next season of “Vikings” is drawing near, Katheryn admits to being very excited at the chance “to tell a story through an actor’s point of view.”
“I’ve been looking at some of the battle sequences in preparation for my episodes and I’ve been working with the visuals department and trying to understand how some of the shots were made in order to help inspire me,” she shared.
“It’s nice just to be able to spend time with our crew and see all the hard work that goes into set designs and costume making and pre-production scheduling and sub-coordinating and things that I don’t usually see as an actor because I’m focused just on my storyline and my point of view of it so seeing all these behind the scenes preparation that it takes to work on a show.”
Being on the show since Day 1 and being friends with her fellow cast members also gives Katheryn an advantageous perspective as far as developing her future storylines is concerned.
“I do know these characters extremely well since season 1. I’ve read every script, I feel confident in terms of understanding where each character came from. More importantly I’m friends with my cast members so I am be able to speak to them on a level that directors can. I feel like having that personal relationship with them will help me steer them in the right creative path when making creative choices,” she added.
Asked to what she would attribute the staying power of “Vikings,” Katheryn says that “word of mouth” has certainly helped a lot.
“It’s a show that people binge watch once they’re hooked. It’s great to see that more and more people from Russia, Brazil, the Philippines and all around the world have tuned into our show and have become such loyal, dedicated fans. And that is evident with the ratings, the tattoos and all the fan art that we’ve been getting,” she quipped.
As to what else is in store for Lagertha in the coming episodes and hopefully, more seasons of “Vikings,” Katheryn says viewers are in for more shocking twists.
“You’ve seen her being challenged, you’ve seen her as a queen. You’ve seen her rule and be a queen of Kattegat and that the kingdom is in jeopardy from many, like the sons of Ragnar who’ve verbally said that they will kill Lagertha one day. There are definitely a lot more internal conflicts with her.”
“Vikings” Season 5 airs every Thursday at 9PM on HISTORY. There is also a scheduled “Vikings Season 5 Weekend Marathon” on February 17-18, Saturday and Sunday from 2:05PM to 6:40PM.