Travis Fimmel: History’s ‘Vikings’ is ‘Definitely Different’ from ‘Game of Thrones’

"Vikings": Ragnar Lothbrok, played by Travis Fimmel (Photo by Kevin Lynch / HISTORY)

Vikings are known for their fierce warriors who each summer would sail off to raid neighboring lands, where they looted, burnt villages and murdered the residents of coastal towns.

The one things the Vikings didn’t do was keep historical records, so their story has mainly been told from the point of view of their victims. That changes in the new HISTORY nine-part series, “Vikings,” premiering Sunday, March 3 at 10/9c.

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“Vikings” will follow the life of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), who is different from the other men in his clan. He is a man of vision, who believes that if they sail west on their summer raid, instead of east, they will find a new land — one that isn’t as poor and depleted as theirs.

“He wanted more from his life,” Fimmel says of Ragnar in an exclusive interview with “He grew up on a farm and he still works on a farm. He wasn’t satisfied with his lot in life. He wanted more and he wanted his culture to expand. The population was getting bigger and there wasn’t enough farms and resources for their society, so he was courageous enough to want to leave his society and look for better places and expand.”

Of course, Ragnar owes fealty to his local chieftain, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), who is stuck in the old ways and wants his fellow Norsemen to raid the Baltic states and Russia as usual. So, in order for him to fulfill his dream, Ragnar has to be extremely savvy to work around the Earl and his self-serving wife Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) without pushing them into stripping him of his farm lands or sentencing him to death.

Watch the Pilot Episode of “Vikings”:


“The show has everything: adventure, action, violence and girly stuff,” Fimmel says when asked why people should tune in. “I think there is something for everybody. I hope they enjoy it and understand that the Vikings did what they did because they believed they were doing the right thing. They weren’t just raping and pillaging.”

Joining Fimmel, Byrne and Gilsig in the cast are Gustaf Skarsgard, Katheryn Winnick, George Blagden and Clive Standen.

Here is more of what Fimmel had to say about “Vikings”:

Is there a must-watch scene or episode in this first season?
I actually enjoy the very first scene, which starts the show with a bang and a lot of action. It is a great way to start the show.

How did you land the starring role of Ragnar?
My agent told me about it. They were casting in Ireland. The producers were all over there by then. I put myself on tape and I was lucky enough that they saw something they liked. I was over there in a week.

So they waited that close to the start of production to cast the lead role?
They had been casting for a long time and they didn’t find exactly what they wanted. They were desperate by the time they came to me and they gave me the job.

Should people compare this to “Game of Thrones?” The tagline [“The Storm Is Coming”] is very similar.
The only comparison is that they are both set way back. Maybe it looks like the same time period, but the shows are definitely different. Ours is based on history. It is a drama, but it has a lot of historical facts in it.

Were there any scenes that made you uncomfortable because they were too violent, or sexy, or…?
None of them made me uncomfortable, except when I have to learn a lot of lines, which I don’t like. No, I get to cuddle a girl and get to beat up people. It’s a boy’s dream.

Watch the Second Episode of “Vikings” Before It Airs on TV:

What was the most difficult scene to shoot?
Some of the exteriors because of the weather. Some of the battle scenes with mud up to your shins. They are all long days and the weather was very drastic at points. It made it hard on the crew. But I sort of enjoy those days at the same time. It makes it very realistic.

The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. I am so glad I watched it on an HD TV.
It is a beautiful country, Ireland. It is an amazing landscape and the cinematographer John Bartley was amazing, too. I think the show looks visually beautiful.

Talk about the costumes, especially the haircut. Where did the idea for that haircut come from?
I actually had that haircut before we started. They just kept it. The creative team on this — makeup artists and hair people — they wanted something different and it was such a great opportunity. No one really knows what Vikings looked like. It’s interesting, you know?

Did putting on the costumes help you find the character?
For sure. All the sets, the costumes and real boats all help you get into character.

You only got the part about a week before filming started. Did that give you any time to prepare for the battle scenes?
The stunt guys were so amazing and the choreography, they really help you through it. We had a sword master who was very helpful. You just concentrate on not hurting people. We were slipping and everything. The stunt guys were amazing. The only people I got hit by were actors.

Do you like these physical roles? You started off playing Tarzan.
I very much enjoy it. It keeps it interesting. You are like a little kid in a candy store.

There isn’t a lot of written history on the Vikings, what did you learn from doing the project? Any surprises?
It shouldn’t be that shocking, but you never hear about the Viking side of things. They were always portrayed by the people they attack. They weren’t looked at in a good way. This show gives a chance to show that Vikings are human and they had families and loved people and had laws. They believed in their gods and did stuff for a reason.

Do you have any barbaric, Viking-like tendencies in real life?
I eat with my hands when I am home alone!

“Vikings” premieres Sunday, March 3 at 10/9c on HISTORY.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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