VIKINGS POST - Interview with star George Blagden

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History Channel is another cable network hoping to make its mark in the world of scripted drama with its impressive new series, Vikings. Created and written by Michael Hirst (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Tudors) the series will run for nine episodes premiering on March 3, 2013 at 10pm EST.

The story follows Ragnar Lothbrok, a character based on an actual historical figure, as he rises from Viking warrior to eventual king. Starring Gabriel Byrne, George Blagden, Travis Fimmel, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gustaf Skarsgard, Clive Standen and Katheryn Winnick, the series promises an intriguing storyline, and judging from what we’ve seen so far, incredible locations and a top notch cast.

George Blagden (fresh off his success as Grantaire in the recent film adaptation of Les Miserábles) shares some insights about the series and his character, the Anglo Saxon monk Athelstan captured by Ragnar on his first raid to England.

You’ve done what seems like a few period pieces, with Wrath of the Titans, Les Mis, and now Vikings, do you have any interest in history or was there anything that drew you to this project in particular?
I seem to be drawn to historical fiction, with Les Mis and Wrath of the Titans, it’s all I’ve done so far really and I think being able to play roles you don’t get to experience in modern life, especially set in historical fact, well really it’s historical fiction based on factual information. You feel like you have a responsibility to portray accuracy. And this is a period of history you don’t necessarily see being portrayed too often which is really exciting. Whether it’s Vikings or student revolt in 19th century France it's really exciting.

Tell us a little about your character. Without giving too much away, was there a favorite scene that you enjoyed filming?
My character has a very exciting arc, it’s very exciting the journey my character goes on, and one of the interesting things about him is, without giving too much away he goes on an incredible journey. What we were trying to achieve is that he would be unrecognizable. We really wanted the audience, you know if they make it to they end, to go back to the first few episodes and say, “Is that the same character?”

Vikings kind of seems to have that sort of epic, serialized drama sort of feel to it, which is very popular in TV these days, with shows like Game of the Thrones. Are you a fan of these types of shows?
I’m still a boy at heart, we want to run around with swords! I love Game of Thrones though I haven’t had time to catch up on season 2 yet; I need to get to that! There were definitely moments where I was standing there on set [on Vikings] thinking, “This is really cool, I’m in the middle of a big battle scene, I’m doing what I want to do.”

Was it easy to transition from shooting Les Mis which is a very different kind of project, to shooting Vikings, which although still a period piece, probably had a lot less singing?
All of the past year has been kind of new to me, Les Mis was my first big studio production and Vikings my first TV production but its all really acting for camera. I guess you sometimes, but not all the time, have more time on film to show what you’re trying to show. I was incredibly happy with how often we see Grantaire in Les Mis but he’s still a minor character. Athelstan has more focus in Vikings. And I’m not promising anything but you might see Athelstan sing… but I’m not promising anything.

What types of things did you have to do to prepare for this role?  I know for Les Mis you read the book, was there anything to help you prepare for playing a monk?
Michael Hirst is the writer, he did the Tudors, and I did research into Anglo Saxon monks, I visited the monastery that you see in the first two episodes. I also visited a Viking Center in the UK, in York, and I got to talk to kind of Viking historians. They seemed kind of furious because every attempt to portray Vikings doesn’t really do them justice, show their community, and usually get the period of history wrong. In talking to them about the show they seemed very excited for the show and what we are trying to do. It’s important to find that balance between historical fact and entertainment.

My best research, for me, I went to a boarding school from the age of 7, and I told my agent, that’s really the best research I could have done because being a monk, it was very much like a boarding school. These monks were in the same place for years and couldn’t leave and to me it was very similar. I looked into the gospels they had written and what they were trying to achieve. These monks were stuck there, I don’t think we have that kind of dedication anymore, well maybe with artists if you’re working on something for years, but it’s still very different and I admired that kind of dedication.

Did you feel you were able to bring a lot more of yourself into the character because it wasn’t such and established well-known character like Grantaire in Les Mis?
When I got on set of Vikings the director and Michael Hirst asked me to put a lot of myself into the role. Sometimes you go into a casting session and they see you and say yeah we want George and they want you to put a lot of yourself into the character. I mean with Grantaire, I’m not a complete drunken womanizer in real life… I’m really a geek.

Do you have any other upcoming projects? Is there anything you would really like to do that you haven’t had a chance to do yet? Do you have a favorite musical you would love to be involved in?
I would have loved to been apart of Once, I was lucky enough to see it in New York and its just an amazing production. I actually auditioned for it in the West End, I thought that they had casted it and then found out that they hadn’t. I went out and bought a guitar cause I had left mine abroad and learned all the songs and I auditioned but yeah, they wanted a year commitment, which I couldn’t do because we don’t know about Vikings yet so that was disappointing.

So is there potential for Vikings to continue?
Well I mean it really depends on you guys, we can’t really say yes or no, it depends if people watch, but it wasn’t really planned to be a one season series, so you never know.

Do you have any upcoming projects besides Vikings?
No not at the moment, I’m looking for a job! I’m out here promoting the show but also doing a few auditions as well and yeah its all up in the air, which is exciting, I quite like that about our industry.

Full interview here.


The Warrior (Lagertha):

The Monk:

More character promos here and here.

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Praying this will be good.