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ALL it takes is one series to turn the tide in an actor’s favour. We have seen it change the fortunes of George Clooney (ER), Lena Dunham (Girls) and, on the local front, Jay Anstey (SABC3’s Isidingo) for that matter.
Now, Hollywood is grooming another star in the making, with Travis Fimmel hailed as the golden boy in Vikings.
His profile was raised after a talent scout for Chadwick Models agency spotted him at a gym in Melbourne. He rose to prominence with Calvin Klein’s huge campaign before exploring the opportunities as an actor.
He featured in the TV series Tarzan and The Beast as well as movies like Southern Comfort (with Madeleine Stowe) and The Big Valley (with Richard Dreyfuss and Jessica Lange). This was followed with parts in Restraint, Surfer, Dude and The Experiment.
Now he has the coveted role of an ambitious warrior in Viking.
Given the subject matter, it goes without saying that it is a physically demanding role for Fimmel.
He felt differently, though, in his interview with HitFix. He said: “It’s really the emotional stuff that demands a lot more preparation, know what I mean? It’s working on the scripts.
“We’re provided with a lot of research (material) and did a lot on our own, but the Vikings (according to history) didn’t read or write, so they were, in a way, portrayed by the people they attacked.
“So their reputation was pretty bad. It was sort of our job to humanise them and make them relatable. I (as Ragnar) like my family. I like my children. I honour my family. So it’s a real family saga.”
In defending his character and his flaws, he revealed: “I suppose he’s a bit of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). Tony did horrible stuff, but you just loved him and you loved The Sopranos.
“And it gives everybody a lot of conflict as to who is a good guy and who is a bad guy. And you make the audience feel like we’re doing this to provide for our family, which we are. We think we are doing the right thing.”
Set in a time when it was a struggle of the fittest for survival, with a different set of beliefs in operation, the actor continied: “It was an honour to die in battle and that’s a hard concept to understand.”
He also sung the praises of creator Michael Hirst: “He’s just a brilliant, intelligent man. He’s just a wealth of knowledge on history, not just about Vikings. He’s certainly a phone-a-friend type for Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
Of his co-star Katheryn Winnick, who plays his loyal wife Lagertha, Fimmel confirmed: “Katheryn’s a feisty girl and that’s an exciting, passionate relation-ship. And Gabriel Byrne (as the chief, Earl Haraldson) is just brilliant. He has a great presence and is such a nice guy off-set, too.”
With several notable TV appearances, Winnick has embodied her character with aplomb, if reports are to be believed.
In a chat with Collider.com, she said she did her callback in a halloween costume, just to lend veracity to her character.
With a black belt in taekwondo, as well being as a licensed bodyguard, it goes without saying that this shield maiden part came naturally to her.
Peeling back the layers of her character, she said: “Lagertha is a fierce shield maiden, and a shield maiden is really a female warrior in the Dark Ages, or the Viking era. She’s based on a real Viking.
“Her role was to fight alongside the men, during a shield wall, and her specific role was to plug up the holes in battle when the Vikings were falling.
“She’s also a young mother and a loving wife, who has a true partnership and equal relationship with her husband. She’s a very strong woman, and she’s definitely modern for her time.”
Of course, while the spotlight is on this formidable acting duo, there are other gripping characters who help propel the storyline, like Nathan O’Toole, who is Ragnar’s little son, who hero worships him and wants to follow in his footsteps.
Then we have the perfect foil to all Ragnar’s good deeds – Clive Standen as Rollo – Ragnar’s envious brother.
Thankfully, Ragnar’s best friend, Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), tries to offset the disasters that arise and also sparks off a dangerous chain of events in the series.
Vikings has all the addictive trimmings of drama, love, honour, conflict, betrayal and ambition. That alone should pique curiosity… if nothing else.
l Vikings airs on M-Net Series Showcase (DStv channel 113) from tonight at 10pm.