After the Paris siege last season, which in the end yielded rewards for Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), it will be curious to see where the VIKINGS story picks up with Ragnar, his brother Rollo (Clive Standen), his wife Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) and their myriad of companions and friends in Season 4. Surely, Aslaug has a lot on her mind as Ragnar returns yet again from a lengthy absence and her desire to be a queen of her own destiny.
In an exclusive interview, star Alyssa Sutherland talks about what is first and foremost in Aslaug’s mind and where her journey shall take her in Season 4 of VIKINGS.
What initially drew you to the role of Auslaug and the show?
ALYSSA: First and foremost, because of Michael Hirst. [Laughs] I mean it was kind of a no-brainer. “Elizabeth” is still one of my favorite films to this day, so to get the opportunity to work with him, for me, there was no saying “no” to that. I had heard about the series and thought it was a really cool idea and no one had done it before. We did not know really a lot about Aslaug when the role first came along. I think it was kind of a leap of faith for all of us involved. She is around in the sagas, but there is not that much to be read about her. Not as a character. You only hear about things she was purported to do. As a character on a TV show, none of us really knew much about her to begin with. It was sort of an interesting way to come on in the season finale of the first season and to have to do things and get a little bit of a glimpse. Then, of course, we were waiting after the first season to find out if we were going to get picked up for a second season. So it was all sort of, “Okay, who is this woman going to be?” When the show was picked-up, that’s sort of when the real work began. Thankfully, they took a leap of faith on me, and as I said, I could not really say “no” to Michael Hirst.
Aslaug seems to have transitioned a little bit since the first season. When we first met her, she was very enigmatic and very in control and powerful and yet we had seen her kind of fall into more a traditional wife role. How has that transition been for you in portraying the character?
ALYSSA: I like that she is quite different from where she first started. I think she has been through a lot and I like how I get to portray her. I think a lot of women can relate to her. I know a lot of women who watch the show are fairly annoyed that another woman came along in Ragnar’s life. But I think she portrays the woman that raises his children. She’s a mother. She has four sons. I think any woman out there that has four children will hopefully be able to relate sort of to what she goes through. I think about that a lot when I think about Aslaug. She has been through a lot. When she first came on, she was youthful and I don’t think there were major problems for her. She sort of met this incredibly powerful man who was really attractive to her, and then she finds out that it is not all it is cracked up to be. He has, quite frankly, not treated Aslaugh well at all. He has never really shown her love, which is what I think she wanted right from the get-go. I think she wanted to build her own family. She grew up without parents of her own and I think that ultimately is what she wanted — and she wanted to have powerful sons. She wants to leave a real legacy behind. You get to see a little bit more of that in Season 4, actually. You get to see her thinking ahead and what her sons will have. I quite like that because that was one of my main ideas for her right from the beginning — that her sons are going to be the most important thing to her and what they went on to do was going to be important to her, sort of by association. They are going to go on and be powerful and impress the gods and she will have done the same and fulfilled her fate. I liked the story with Harbard (Kevin Durand). I liked thinking of her as a woman in an unrequited relationship with her husband, who does not show her anything, and having four sons and almost feeling like she does not have an identity of her own. Then this man comes along and helps her very ill son who is in a lot of pain, and I think for the first time in a long time, Aslaug had some attention from a male, and I liked how human that made her. I really liked that storyline and I hope people see all of that in there.
Aslaug also has the interesting storyline in that there is a spiritual element to her life, whether she is a seeress or she can see things. Will the series explore more of that?
ALYSSA: Yeah, there’s really cool stuff coming up. I can’t talk about it, unfortunately. But we do get to see a bit more of that side of her and that is really fun to play with because it is not all the time as an actress that you get to play a part like that. So I quite like that. I also like the way the show approaches these sort of fantastical elements. Clearly, this is the stuff that they believed in as pagans, but whether it happens or not, they leave it up to the viewer to decide. But I like that we show exactly what the vikings believed in and what their culture was. I had a really cool opportunity to go to Denmark and actually visit the gravesite of a woman who, when they dug up the grave, everything that they found led them to believe that this woman was sort of the seeress of the village. It was so special to go and see that and kind of go, “Here is what they believed. This is absolutely what was true to them and real to them.” That’s really fun as an actress to play with.
Will Aslaug’s spiritual side be in contrast to her sons or will she use that to perhaps help her sons gain power?
ALYSSA: I think she has always felt like she has known that her sons are going to be powerful, like when she first met Ragnar. She certainly trusts her own instincts. If she believes that she has this psychic ability, like when she meets people that she gets a special feeling about, she sort of goes, “Okay, this is my fate. This is who I am meant to be with and this is what is going to happen.” I think she believes it, but at the same time, she also wants to push that agenda. So it is kind of an interesting dichotomy. I like that there is still an ambition to her, and yet there is also this kind of narcissistic sense of entitlement that she has. Like, “Well, this is what is going to happen with my sons, so get out of my way.” I like that as well. I’ve met people like that and I’m sort of fascinated by people who live like that. [Laughs] Sometimes I wish I had more of that myself. I’m Australian and I am almost too apologetic at times. So in that case, it is fun to play around with something like that and do something different. I also kind of like that edge to her. I like that there is a gray area and it’s not black-and-white. She is not good and she is not bad. I like to keep people guessing. We certainly delve into a darker side of her this season and there is some twisted stuff that goes on. It was really lovely that Michael sort of trusted me with some of the things that we explore. [Laughs] I wish I could say more, again, it is so hard to do interviews when you want to tell everybody what’s coming up!
With Ragnar gone quite a bit last season, is Aslaug going to want to stand by her man a bit more or is she going to tell him, “Go off and fight your wars, I’ve got plenty more to do on my end”?
ALYSSA: Again, that is sort of an interesting conflict for her. One of the things that drew her to Ragnar was, for this time, this incredible human being. To jump into a ship and say, “I think there might be land. I’m going to get into a wooden boat and sail across an ocean.” That takes an incredible amount of courage. I think he was a remarkable human being at that time for doing these things. Of course, that is attractive to a female and the power that then comes with that is attractive and I think she sort of aligned herself with him to be a part of it. Again, it’s this narcissistic entitlement that she has. But I think she likes what Ragnar’s power brings her and if he were to stop raiding, what happens to that? But, at the same time, she is left at home with children and it happens over and over again. I like this part of the show too — these men are gone for months at a time and the women in the village are left to do everything themselves and they have no idea whether their men are going to come back or not. To say goodbye to these people over and over again and think it might be your final farewell, to me, it is kind of this huge thing. That’s not really how we live today. So each time people say goodbye to those boats, it is very likely this is the last time they are seeing this member of their family. I like the conflict in that. But they must do it. They must prove themselves to the gods. And at the same time, it really is a hard thing to do time and time again.
Aslaug seems to be decision in her quest for love, whether it is with Ragnar or Harbard. Will Aslaug want to seek solace or love from someone else?
ALYSSA: Her focus really is on her sons. What can I say that is not giving anything away? I think she really does want that for herself. I think most people do. It is a very human thing to want to be loved by someone and I think is what most of us crave. Not all of us are able to admit it, but I think most of us crave it and want to have that in our lives. I don’t think Aslaug is any different. What happens? You’ll sort of have to wait and see. Then I think there is almost a point where she becomes quite bitter about men. She really gets burned by Ragnar. That’s really obvious. Especially in the beginning of the third season. The poor woman is like, “Do you love me?” And he doesn’t even answer her. If you can imagine that view. I have so much sympathy for this woman who has gone and tried so hard, and this man just keeps pushing her away. So I think there is an element to her that is kind of bitter, jaded and almost really damaged by it.
It’s interesting. I can’t wait to see where she gets her inner strength to push forward with her life this season and where she goes with it. Can you offer some general teasers about what to expect this season?
ALYSSA: We are going to see what Aslaug was about from the beginning, like her sons and the legacy that she wants to have and how powerful she wants her sons to be. Actually, that comes to fruition and, at the same time, that’s ultimately what she wants. Then there’s a hunger for power that she has herself — again, ultimately for her sons, but it’s that same narcissistic side to her that wants power. That feeds her. Ragnar talks about power all the time and what it does to people and does he want it and does he not want it. I think we get to see Aslaug’s relationship to power and how that makes her feel and what she wants. Certainly, she wants it for herself and, ultimately for her sons, but hey, if she can have some fun while she is at it, why not? We see that in the opening of Season 4 because Ragnar is still quite ill from his last raid in Paris. It really brings up the question with Aslaug of, “Okay, if my husband is not around, who is going to be in charge? What is going to happen?” There’s sort of an interesting subtext then and the interactions she has with Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), the heir-to-be. I like that there is a bit of subtext between the two of them at the beginning of Season 4. That’s coming up. There are definite scenes of power that carry on in Season 4 and then there is this darker side to Aslaug. We also learn a lot more about Ivar. His story is just beginning and what is her part in his story going to be. He was really kind of a psychopath. Just think about his upbringing and how that might be created and whether Aslaug has a part in that or not. There are some really dark things that happen and you see this side of her that maybe we did not know existed. It’s her own damaged self. I think she feels she has never really had the love of a man and that is quite damaging for Aslaug.
To find out just how deep Aslaug falls into the darkness and whether it bodes well for her and family, be sure to tune in for the Season 4 premiere of VIKINGS on Thursday, February 18th at 9:00 p.m. on History Channel.