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From black belt to “shieldmaiden” – don’t mess with Vikings star Katheryn Winnick

- February 27th, 2013

Lagertha – played by Katheryn Winnick

As Katheryn Winnick puts it, “There are no soft Vikings.”

But they had codes of conduct, too. The fact that both the honour and the brutality are on full display – particularly through Winnick’s portrayal of real-life shieldmaiden Lagertha – is a large part of what makes Vikings so compelling.

The way this is written by Michael Hirst, you understand both sides,” said Winnick (pictured above), whose new scripted historical series Vikings debuts Sunday, March 3 on History.

You understand how the monks in England felt when they were getting raided, and then murdered. But you also understand, for the Vikings, that it’s just what they did, they felt it was within their rights, that it was their path, actively laid out by their gods.

So you really struggle with what’s right and wrong. But we need to understand their belief system, that in order to go to heaven, their Valhalla, they had to die in battle.”

Lagertha was a real person, the wife of Ragnar Lothbrok (played here by Travis Fimmel) and a fierce shieldmaiden and warrior in her own right. Lagertha certainly faces many challenges in Vikings, both emotional and physical, to the point that I felt the need to apologize to Winnick on behalf of the male gender.

It’s interesting that you say that, because I’m torn about it,” Winnick said. “My character challenges men on a lot of different fronts. But with who they were as Vikings, they were allowed to get away with a lot more.

For example, raping slaves – I know that’s something that was part of it, because they saw slaves as property. There’s a scene where my character ends up killing someone else and defending a woman because she was getting raped.

But you also see who women were on the other side of things, as Vikings. They did get respect. Women were allowed to own property. They were allowed to divorce their husbands. They were allowed to go to battle and be warriors. They could create their own wealth and had a say in the community. So hopefully women will identify with, and look up to, my character, because I think she definitely is a strong role model.”

Winnick, a Canadian, has an impressive martial-arts background, getting her first black belt when she was 13 and starting her first martial-arts school when she was 16. So in some ways Winnick has spent much of her life training for this role in Vikings, albeit inadvertently.

Having the strength and being able to defend her family, through words and through character and through situations, and how to get out of situations, I think it’s part of Lagertha’s core,” Winnick said. “And that I identify with.

I started training in martial arts when I was seven and started competing nationally and had to fight boys and men a lot in my competitive years. So I understand what it’s like to have that discipline, but also to have that mentality of, ‘I’m strong.’ ”

I am convinced, Katheryn Winnick. Seriously, I believe you. Just please don’t raid my town, okay?

@billharris_tv

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 

 

 

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