Four years is a long time in the life of a youth, and in the case of Ragnar’s son, Bjorn, on “Vikings,” those years have turned him from a boy into a full grown man.
Thursday, on the History series, “The Hunger Games” alum Alexander Ludwig steps into the role of the son of Ragnar Lothbrook (Travis Fimmel) and his former wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick).
In the show’s season premiere, Lagertha decided to leave her hubby when his Season 1, one-night-stand, Princess Aslaug, came over to their village, fully pregnant with his child. Bjorn, just a boy then, couldn’t watch his mom leave, so he left with her.
Alexander spoke to Access Hollywood about taking on the role, his own (possible) Viking connection, accents and his wild new TV-induced haircut.
AccessHollywood.com: How many times did you get asked when you were growing up in Canada if you were of Viking descent?
Alexander Ludwig: That is so funny you said that. I’ve actually never got that question. That’s a great question. Many times. People would be like, ‘You’ve gotta have some Viking blood in you or something like that — or some Swedish heritage, or some Norwegian in you.’ I’m German, Australian and Canadian, but I’m sure somewhere down the line I’ve got Viking blood in me.
Access: We’ve seen your new haircut for the show. Did they have to do an initiation ritual when they shaved half of your head?
Alexander: I had one or two spectators around there, just like laughing ‘cause they couldn’t wait to see what happened. … I was just like, ‘Cut it off. It’s going to be good for me,’ and when it happened I had my girlfriend there with me and she was very supportive and I loved it. It’s funny because Vikings — they’ve got such crazy hairstyles, I went to New York for some press and there are people there just rocking that cut everywhere. It’s hilarious.
Access: So you became an accidental hipster then with your hairdo?
Alexander: That’s exactly what happened and it’s funny though, there’s actually a story behind that. Vikings — some of them used to cut the back of their hair, so when they were in battle, nobody would pull it.
Access: What did your family think when they saw the hairdo?
Alexander: They loved it. They were like, ‘This is exactly what you should’ve done.’ It’s was more the fans, you know, obviously like ‘The Hunger Games’ — The Hunger Girls — who had a bit of an issue with it, but I loved it and I [love] just being able to do anything I can to embody a character. I’m all for that. Even in [the film] ‘Lone Survivor,’ I just put on so much weight for that film. If anything, it just helps my process.
Access: What was the brief they gave you about the accent for ‘Vikings’?
Alexander: It’s incredible how much research they put into that. Basically, what I love about the show is that not a lot of people know what Vikings would’ve sounded like back then and there’s very, very little information to go off of. They researched… what the accent would have sounded like back then on the end of one area and then the end of the other and they kind of combined the two where the Vikings were in the middle. So it’s like a Norwegian, interesting accent, I guess you could say, but at the end of the day, what I love about it is it’s very eclectic and nobody can tell you’re doing it wrong because nobody knows (laughs).
Access: How does Bjorn feel about his dad when we first see him? Does absence make the heart grow fonder?
Alexander: Absolutely. He’s really missing a father figure in his life. I think when you first see Bjorn… when’s he aged, he’s just very conflicted.
Access: How does he feel about his mother’s choice – now that he is older – to have left Ragnar?
Alexander: I think he really respects her for that and that’s one thing I really do love about the whole Viking era. As much as they were an animalistic society, they also were a very progressive culture in that they respected their women, I mean, unless you were a slave. But what I think is so cool about the show is that there’s some really badass women characters who have respect for themselves and that was really interesting. And Vikings, back in the day, used to fight beside women and they were known as shield maidens and it’s so interesting to know that back then, they were so progressive in that way. So I think, if anything, Bjorn has the utmost respect for his mother making that choice. At the same time, obviously, he wishes that hadn’t happened. As you go into the second season, you kind of realize that as much as [his] mother’s making a lot of sacrifices so Bjorn can grow up in an affluent life… that’s the last thing Bjorn wants to do. He wants to find out who he is as a person, as a man, and he does not want to be waited on or served. He never grew up that way and that’s not how he wants to live his life. And he wants to do it on his own, very much how I grew in up in the acting industry. That’s one thing that I think my character and myself, personally, do share is that we both just want to do it on our own.
“Vikings” airs Thursday at 10/9c on History.
-- Jolie Lash