Interview: Bradley Freegard & Johannes Johanesson Talk Vikings: Valhalla

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Led by creator and showrunner Jeb Stuart, Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla is now streaming. The historical drama features the end of the Viking age and serves as a follow-up to the hit drama Vikings.

“Set over a thousand years ago in the early 11th century, Vikings: Valhalla chronicles the heroic adventures of some of the most famous Vikings who ever lived — the legendary explorer Leif Eriksson (Sam Corlett), his fiery and headstrong sister Freydis Eriksdotter (Frida Gustavsson), and the ambitious Nordic prince Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter),” says the official synopsis. “As tensions between the Vikings and the English royals reach a bloody breaking point and as the Vikings themselves clash over their conflicting Christian and pagan beliefs, these three Vikings begin an epic journey that will take them across oceans and through battlefields, from Kattegat to England and beyond, as they fight for survival and glory.”

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ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Vikings: Valhalla stars Bradley Freegard and Johannes Johanesson about their respective characters of King Canute and Olaf Haraldsson.

Tyler Treese: Bradley, Canute is such an interesting and important figure in history for your portrayal. Did you just go off the script or did you do a lot of research into this role?

Bradley Freegard: Obviously, it’s quite important we go off the script because if you just turn up and start making things up, people get pretty mad pretty quick. [laughs]

Johannes Johanesson: Fairly Important.

Bradley: It’s a combination of both. Of course, you know, we all as actors playing historical parts, we do our due diligence and we read what’s out there, who wouldn’t? They’re interesting characters. That’s why they’re still making these amazing TV series about them. So, it’s great privilege to be able to play these interesting characters and also then to be presented with fantastically drawn characters within the scripts by Jeb. It’s just an honor, isn’t it?

Great. Johannes, doing a period piece like this, how cool are the sets? How does it compare to doing like Game of Thrones and all these other awesome projects you’ve done?

Johannes: The sets are amazing. Vikings: Valhalla, it’s a new show and it happens a hundred years after the other Vikings show, and it’s a standalone show. You don’t need to have seen the other show to enjoy this one, but we do enjoy the privilege of using the same sets, but they’ve embellished them. They’ve made them big, because it’s a hundred years later, for instance, the little village of Kattegat is now a big city and they’ve added onto it. So, they were able to do a lot more as opposed to if you were doing sets from scratch, because you’re able to build on the other show, adding onto it and making it more richer for us, which was amazing.

Bradley, you spoke about having these great scripts by showrunner Jeb Stuart to work off. Doing a historical drama, what’s the most interesting challenge that brings as an actor?

Bradley: Well for myself, the biggest challenge is performing these big set pieces that I’ve been lucky enough to be given by Jeb in the show and making sure that I deliver them, hopefully, to a standard that Jeb’s happy with and the rest of the world enjoys when it drops on the 25th. But, yeah, what’s interesting, I suppose, is then seeing, you know, what you have in your mind’s eye and watching the other cast create these characters around you.

Johannes, Olaf’s such an important figure in Norwegian Christianity and this divide between the pagans and Christians is really at the core of this show. Can you just speak to the importance of religion for Olaf?

Johannes: He is like today, even still, he is recognized as the eternal King of Norway. He’s a Saint in the Catholic church, he’s celebrated in Norway and he has a church Saint Olaf’s church, Saint Olav’s Day is held every year in the Faroe Islands. So for us in the show, it’s interesting to play with that, how that came to be, because, I think using religion as a way to conquer people, it’s sort of an iffy premise, isn’t it? Because you know, he’s preaching the love of Jesus and Christianity and all of that, but he’s also killing people and burning houses and stuff to get what he wants and needs. So there are conflicting interests there, and looking at the use of religion as a tool to manipulate, and gaining power in history was really interesting and that’s still being used and done today.

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