Interview with Vikings’ Clive StandenAugust 11, 2015
Beware, beware, Rollo the Viking- AKA the British actor Clive Standen, landed at the Monte-Carlo TV Festival in June to talk to us about the show, his stunts and his thoughts about women.
Did you know anything about the Vikings before you started the show?
I grew up in the UK and my parents used to take me to any monasteries and castles every holiday. We hardly went abroad. So I knew a lot about British history, royalty, and the kings…and there were a few elements about the Vikings. But history has been written by the invaders, Vikings didn’t write much about it. In Europe, a lot of what we know about them was written by Christian monks, they describe them as devils who arrived from the sea, raping, pillaging, killing…and it was certainly the case, but you know in history there are always two sides.
How do you analyze the relationship between Rollo and Ragnar?
What I love about our show is that the heart of Vikings is a family drama, it’s about fathers, brothers, friends…it’s about checking in every corner that nobody is going to attack you. Usually in the drama, the brother stories is about the good brother having to kill the bad even if he loves him. Our characters really existed but they weren’t brothers, and Michael (Hirst, Vikings writer) actually decided to make them brothers. The cleverest thing Michael did was to take two epic stories and put them together. What is interesting is because they are historical characters, one guy did all of this and raised two of the top of the Vikings royalty and the other started slowly but also raised to have his own destiny. And in our shows, the two stories are joined and it’s fascinating to see how it’s developing.
What attracted you to Rollo?
I love him. I think he is the best character I’ve ever played. If you were asking me now, which other character of the show I would love to play, I won’t be able to answer because he such a big part of me. When I signed on, I had no idea what’s going to happen to him and for many years on TV, the lead characters were the heroes who are always making the good decision. Rollo is not one of those characters. He made mistakes. And what’s interesting about him is to see what is going to do next, whether he will go down or up. It is so rewarding to play.
What do you think of all those battle scenes you have to do? Any special memory about one of them?
I remember, in season 2, I was doing this giant battle. I was always thinking about our producers and was wondering ‘do you hate me guys?’. I was the only one who, every day, was covered with mud and blood, there were cuts and bruises. We have an amazing stunts team, who are really strong. They’re encouraging me to hit them as hard as I can. I’ve got no protection…but they’re hitting me with metal shields and all. So I have tons of cuts and bruises. In the second day of filming, I have real cuts and the men were like “the make-up teams are brilliant” without knowing they were actually real. It’s been the best character I’ve ever played so I’m so happy to be able to explore him. No matter the cuts and bruises.
In Vikings, there are not just strong man, but also strong women…
You know recently I read about how Michael writes strong women, and I don’t agree. I think Michael just writes women. I think the problem lies that in other shows they don’t write women. I have a mom, a wife and a daughter and when I look at them I see Princess Gisla and all the other women on our show. And when I look at our show’s women, I see my wife, my daughter, my mom…. We have lots of female stunts, they’re doing the same stunts as the men with less clothes so it’s more risky. They’re taking more risks than men. So they’re actually stronger than us.
You have made many period movies and series, how do you explain that? Is that because you love this genre?
It’s just a coincidence. When you start, you just audition and you get lots of rejections. So when you’re accepted, you just take the job whatever it is. And it happens that the first things I did were period drama. I feel like Camelot and Robin Hood were just rehearsal for Vikings. But it’s not just something I deliberately chose, now I’m in a position to choose. This is why, you’ll see me soon in Everest and I’ve just finished Patient Zero, which will come out next year, and it’s a post-apocalyptic film. The two are completely different than the period dramas.