I know I sound a bit like a broken record when it comes to HISTORY’s Vikings, but it truly is an incredible series. Created by Michael Hirst (Elizabeth, The Tudors), this first scripted drama for HISTORY Channel centers around real life Earl and badass Ragnar Lothbrok (played by Travis Fimmel) and his family.
The Lothbroks were indeed real people, the sons of Ragnar going on to accomplish their own victories and historical happenings. Same with Lagertha; Shield Maiden, Earl, mother. But specifically, we’re here to talk about Helga (Maude Hirst), wife of the completely eccentric part genius inventor spiritual mouthpiece of the Gods Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard). Maude is the daughter of series creator Michael Hirst, and she has previously appeared in Michael’s OTHER awesome historically-based series, The Tudors.
We’ve seen a HUGE change in the character of Helga over the past three seasons. She’s gone from earthy hearth and home dweller to wife, to mother, to strong and respected member of the women’s council when the men are off making war. Her biggest struggle seemingly to rectify Floki’s actions regarding Athelstan (George Blagden), and how to come to terms with her husband’s mood swings.
Maude was kind enough to take time out of her shooting schedule (Vikings is currently filming for season 4 in Ireland) to give an interview:
Question: Is Helga 100% behind Floki? Does she have doubts about what he’s been doing? Or does she think he’s just a little bit crazy?
Maude: I think up until the end of season 3, I think she genuinely was 100% behind him. And I think it’s so complex, and he definitely struggles with mental health. And in real life, dealing with someone like that is problematic. I think she wants to be behind him, but at that moment in season 3, it’s too much for her and we do see that switching moment that she questions what he’s doing, and how far he’s willing to push himself and the people around him. This new season…if she stays if she goes, I guess you’ll just have to wait to see!
Q: It seems like despite all that though, she’s still taking care of him after…..the thing happens, so she’s still loyal.
M: There is this thing that happens between them as a couple, and ever since they’ve been together, there is a bond there. I definitely think that he finally pushed things to a point at the end of s3, to where it was quite scary, the right side of crazy. But she’s still loyal to him, maybe that’s the wrong word, but still loyal. She did wavier in her understanding of him, I think.
Q: Can you talk a bit about how the relationship between Ragnar and Helga has evolved, especially this season.
M: His compassion for her is quite touching and it comes out of the blue. But they do have a bond, the only two who love Floki, and they bond over this. He understands what I’ve (my character) has been through more than anyone else, and they have a real bond because of that, because he knows the journey Floki has been on. He reaches out for me, because of his male love of Floki, and working with Travis has been amazing.
Q: How much input have you had on your character this season? Do you get to put your 2 cents in? Is there anything in particular that YOU want to see happen to her?
M: Everybody now, 4 years in, you feel very connected to your character. We’ve always been able to have a bit of a say. There are definitely parts of me that come out in Helga, but we also have to respect the writing and go to where the characters are taken. But generally speaking, Helga gets taken in the way she’s written.
Q: How do you, as your character, deal with Floki?
M: As I read the scripts especially in season 3, when he really did push me and kept pushing me. It’s hard, Helga loves Floki so much, she just wants to keep him in reality, and he keeps going off the rails. She might be the only thing that keeps him grounded. It’s interesting in mental health, because it’s helpful for the person to have someone close to them, to be that calming influence. It does show Helga’s strength, and she’s tested, especially when he admits in season 3 that he is who killed Athelstan, that’s a big shock for Helga to go through. She doesn’t flip out, she doesn’t go to the places that maybe I would as a person when these things happen. She internalizes, and deals with things silently. She allows him to get rid of all his madness, she creates a calmer environment for him, because of her undying love of him.
Q: What kind of changes should we expect from Helga this season?
M: I don’t want to give too much away from this season, but there are definitely some big dynamic changes this season. It starts with a change at the very end of 3, the change makes Floki realize that it always seemed like Helga depended on Floki, but he’s going to realize that they are stronger together. Their dynamic changes.
Q: You said you find parts of yourself in Helga and vice versa, can you elaborate on that bit?
M: I think both Helga and I feel empathetic, I try to always look for the positive in people rather than jumping to conclusions. She has relationships with people that are almost silenced, she bonds with people. I don’t know if I’d be able to bite my tongue as much as she does, especially when Floki lost it last season, I don’t think I would have handled that as well as she does. But we’re definitely similar in a few ways.
Q: Do you see Helga as an outsider herself? And maybe that’s part of her attraction to Floki, since he sort of lives outside the norm of everyone else.
M: Yeah, absolutely. That’s how they met actually, we were just in his hut out in the woods. And Helga is definitely a bit of an outsider. They are both a bit different from everyone else, and it’s what connects them together.
Q: The series always seems physically challenging, was there anything in particular this year that was extremely difficult or worse than previous years?
M: Well with the extended season this year (YAY) we get to deal with all the months of the year with the Irish weather, which is pretty unpredictable. We normally would film over the summer which had it’s own problems, but now it’s winter here as well, and having whole days out in the boats really makes it challenging. It’s freezing cold, and all you have really is your costume to cover you, and it’s hard.
Q: It seems like Floki is a really traditional Viking, very rooted in the mythology and the culture and Ragnar is more an enlightened man of the time. What are your thoughts on the women of the series being the bridge between those two?
M: The show in general has some really strong female characters, who are completely different than each other. Going forward from this, the women become stronger.
Q: Is there a scene that was really hard emotionally for you to film this season?
M: Without too much of a spoiler, there is a funeral scene that happens, and it was hailing. It helped, getting into the mood of it, but it was probably the toughest day I’ve ever had.
Q: One of the things your father does is create very strong female characters. And these ladies are all very strong. We saw them all bond in season 3 when the men were gone, will we see them get back together as it were?
M: I don’t want to give too much away, but there are lots of unexpected friendships that happen this season. Not necessarily with the women, but in general throughout the entire cast. I can’t say too much, because you’ll want to find out on your own.
Maude: Thank you so much to all the fans, we wouldn’t have this show if it weren’t for you. Thank you for investing in our characters, for supporting us. Please continue watching, it’s a fabulous season!
Needless to say, we REALLY can’t wait for the 4th season of Vikings to start on February 18th, 2016.