Katheryn Winnick Interview On Vikings

Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick is taking the idea of playing a strong female character to the next level on Vikings, a new miniseries that premieres tonight on the History Channel at 10pm. Winnick joins the incredible cast, which includes Travis Finnel, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gabriel Byrne and Gustaf Skarsgard, as Lagertha, a Viking shield maiden who battles on the frontline with the Viking warriors. When it comes to getting into character, it doesn’t hurt that Winnick holds a third-degree black belt in taekwondo and a second-degree black belt in karate. Real Style spoke to the beautiful Winnick at home in Toronto about the exciting new series, created by Michael Hirst.

Real Style Network: You’re from Toronto!
Katheryn Winnick: Yes, born and raised.

RSN:: You have a serious background in martial arts.
KW: One of my first loves was martial arts. I started training when I was 7 years old, and had my first black belt at 13, and started my first school when I was 16. It’s nice to be back in Toronto to see where I used to teach and where I went to high school. That was how I got involved in the business: teaching actors and actresses martial arts on movie sets. It’s nice to play a character who is a real person and who is also a warrior — to incorporate some of the background that I have. I had been shy about taking a part that was an action-based role until it had the right writer who was attached to it and had the kind of material that had depth. A lot of it is one note in terms of action heroes. It’s great to find a character like Lagertha who is such a fierce shield maiden and a warrior but who is also based on a real person who used to roam through Norway.

RSN: How did you — especially when you’re doing something period like this — how do you prepare? What do you read or watch?
KW: I try to get as much information as I can. Unfortunately, there’s not that much out there in terms of who they were, being in the 8th century. It’s tough to get accurate information. History Channel and Michael Hirst worked with a historian to make it as accurate as possible, even for our wardrobe. In those times, Vikings only had one or two outfits. They rotated them. With my warrior outfit, it’s really personalized. With my belt, for example, there’s a raven carved into it. A raven is a big symbol in terms of my character, her relationship with Ragnar [Norse legendary hero from the Viking Age.}

RSN: At first, I didn’t know Lagertha was based on a real person.
KW: She is. My husband, Ragnar, becomes king of the Viking tribes, and Lagertha rises in power and status. As he goes off to raids, Lagertha has a lot of responsibilty in terms of making decisions for the community, dealing with the justice system, dealing with the conflicts and being the leader of the town or the community when all the men are gone raiding. It was an incredible role and gave me a lot to work with emotionally and physically. I’m very proud of it.

RSN: You fight in the show, and you’re the only female who goes off to fight. Were they aware of your background when they cast you in this role?
KW: I think they were looking for a strong actor first, and I think it was just a bonus that I had a martial arts background. It was helpful in terms of the core of her personality — someone who was raised being a shield maiden — that’s something that’s passed on through the generations from her mother and her grandmother. In terms of having that training and going to the gym four hours a day and training for the nationals, I think that it gave me a good, strong self-discipline as well as a self of hard work and sense of self that I really got a chance to bring to the role of Lagertha.

RSN: Where did you guys do the majority of the filming because the scenery is beautiful?
KW: We shot in Ireland for six months, which was great to be there and to create Norway. It was very helpful to immerse yourself in the middle of nowhere with sheep, goats and chickens running around to really get a sense of how they lived and who they were.

RSN: Was it a camp-like scenario?
KW: Of course, and for the first three months of filming, I was the only girl. I was stuck with 14 Viking men that were all 6’6 or something. That was such a blessing in a way because, playing a shield maiden, I would have to hold my own in the company of men. I think that really helped a lot… being the only girl in the cafeteria! We have such a fantastic cast; they’re such great people. That’s the beauty of shooting in Ireland. We had access to an incredible international cast. Gustaf Skarsgard is fantastic in playing Floki. Gabriel Byrne is amazing as Earl Haraldson.

RSN: You have some pretty big movies coming out soon too.
I have a movie coming out this week called A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. I play Charlie Sheen’s ex-girlfriend in it. That’s a fun movie, and Roman Coppola directed it. I had to learn Portuguese for it. I also have a fun role with Al Pacino, Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken in Stand Up Guys. I did a movie with Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon for Dimension called The Fix. That’s a comedy heist movie, and I’m excited for that to come out.

Related Link: What To Wear To The CSA’s – All Canadian Fashion Special

Photos Courtesy of: imdb (Katheryn Winnick); History Channel (Vikings)

Free to join! Get the hottest fashion, beauty and celebrity news, enter exclusive subscriber giveaways and be the first to receive the full digital version of REAL STYLE magazine every month.