‘Vikings’ Season 5B: Alex Høgh Andersen talks about fate of Ivar the Boneless’ romance

Vikings Season 5 returns on Nov. 28 with the arrival of a legendary Viking, the famous Duke Rollo (Clive Standen), who causes further upheaval in a Kattegat still reeling from Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen) becoming its king.

As Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and Lagertha flee Ivar’s murderous forces with Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Ivar’s tyrannical reign over Scandinavia ushers in a new Dark Age the likes of which have never been seen.

Ultimately, Ivar’s reign will not go unchallenged by the sons of Ragnar, and old enemies will become allies to defeat the despot, who has declared himself a god on earth.

Meanwhile, in Iceland, Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) battles the elements and his own settlers’ desire for revenge to forge a Viking colony on the beautiful and desolate landscape.

Global News sat down with Alex Høgh Anderson in Toronto to talk about Ivar’s journey during this half of Season 5, whether he is similar to his character in real life, the hairstyles on Vikings and much more.

Global News: Can you tell me about your character and what he goes through this season?
Alex Høgh Andersen: 
Season 5B starts with him riding into Kattegat, taking over, so he’s now gained ultimate power. All that he ever kind of wanted, anyway. Obviously, he’s not satisfied because his mission is not accomplished, and Lagertha is still alive and she’s on the run. So in the beginning of Season 5, you’ll see him not only try to handle what responsibility it is to be king of Kattegat. Keep in mind, everyone is losing that throne, and he knows that eventually. Not only is he dealing with that, but he is also trying to find Lagertha and Björn and Torvi and it’s a tough, tough job.

And on top of that, he finds a love interest, and she completely blows his mind. It’s a great experience for an actor to be able to take on that part of this character because we’ve never seen that before, not with him. And people thought — and I thought — that he wasn’t really capable of loving but at the same time I really wanted him to be. That opens up a whole new element to him as a character. And also it keeps him more balanced.

And then you see that more vulnerable side.
Exactly. He’s not just this one-dimensional, crazy guy who burns people and kills people and all that, which is super important because then it becomes an antihero instead of just a villain and emphasis on anti, obviously (laughing). I mean, Ragnar was an antihero as well. Ivar is taking it up a notch, and you will see that in this season as well because he is blinded by love to this woman. She has very extreme beliefs and convinces him eventually that he’s a god, and a god doesn’t have any limitations. He’s blinded by love to this woman, and she keeps telling him that he’s a descendant from Odin. There’s a lot of stuff happening in this season, and it’s a massive amount of pressure and his biggest challenge yet to actually be king.

Is there a theme this season, like brother versus brother? 
There is a theme, yet again, where it’s brother versus brother. It’s Bjorn and Ivar in the lead of each side. There is a massive showdown in the end of the season, and it was so much fun to shoot. Alexander [Ludwig] did a phenomenal job, some of the best work I’ve seen from him. Don’t tell him I said that (laughing).

Do you guys play off the narrative that you hate each other in real life?
Well, we do hate each other in real life (laughing). It’s been the easiest part of this job. I spent the entire day with him yesterday doing promo, and it was a horrible day, just horrible (laughing).

Worst day of your life? 
Absolutely (laughing). He’s a great guy. He’s so much fun and he’s passionate, just as I am, so we meet halfway. I think this season is some of his best work. I’m not sure about mine, but it’s some of his best work that you’ll see in this season.

What was it like preparing to play Ivar in Vikings? Did you have to familiarize yourself with the time setting?
Timing is one thing. You have to understand what vibe is present. But first and foremost, the thing that makes this show so great — besides creating an authentic universe that’s a thousand years old — it’s really about the people, and we’re showing people that you can relate to. Some of my favourite scenes on this show were going to England with Ragnar, when Ivor and Ragnar go together and he kind of passes on the torch to Ivar. It was a great experience because I could have done those scenes in the 21st century. It was all about a father and a son trying to reconnect. And that’s the beauty of this show, that humanization of these people, and it’s a great experience to bring them to life and keep them relatable.

And especially when you have such an extreme character as Ivar, who is dealing with a disease that’s not very good to him at all yet and living in a society that does not embrace that disease whatsoever. So, for me, I understand everything that he does — I have to because I’m an actor so I can never judge my character, and in everything that he does he believes he is right. But I understand that clown very, very much. I understand why he’s so torn apart.

Is it hard to take away that ruthlessness and viciousness of Ivar in your real life? Or are you not like that at all?
Oh no, no, no. I’m not too method. Obviously, there is a part of me in Ivar, and I think there is a part of any character that an actor creates, method or not. But I’m not bringing him home with me yet. And what I’m bringing home is all the work. I need to learn the lines for the next day. But that’s what I bring home with me. I think I handle that well.

Hair is one of the major things in Vikings. I’ve seen so many YouTube tutorials of how to do your character’s twists. But there are hundreds of tutorials specifically for hairstyles from the show. Do you have any specific memories of being in the chair, having your hair done on set?

History Channel / Corus

Thousands because I’ve probably had a thousand days on the show (laughing). It’s a pleasure every single time to work with our hair stylist and magician, Dee Corcoran. I came in on this show with my army cut so they had zero to work with. We ended up doing that horrible V cut, and it just kept going because I have really thick hair. It ended up looking like an acorn. It was horrible; it looked like I had a huge acorn on my head, and we’ve been laughing quite a bit about that hairstyle. There was nothing else to do.

And then eventually it grew long enough for me to slick it back and then three to five years into this thing, I ended up having hair down to my nipples. I would get it in my mouth all the time, waking up and couldn’t see anything because it was all over the place. I was sick and tired of it by the end of it because I’ve never had long hair before. The whole thing about different conditioning. What is that even? I had no idea what it was and I’ve learned what it is. Now I’m 100 per cent sure I’m still do it wrong, but it’s that magic. I was questioning my sexuality (laughing). Super, super, super soft hair and I love it. I still use conditioner.

Do you ever receive fan mail from people in wheelchairs that thank you for representing them in a show?
Yes, once in a while I do. And it’s amazing. It’s almost too much to even talk about because I feel so amazed that I’m in a position to, in some way, help those people or at least give them something that they haven’t seen before. And that, to me, makes it all worth it. It’s an obligation for me to make it as authentic and hard and make it look as awkward as possible because that is what they’re going through. I’ve had some long, long days at this job. Crawling through all sorts of mud and sh*t — there’s been a lot of horse sh*t. But crawling through that in February and it’s freezing cold, snowing, raining sideways and you’re crawling through this stuff for the tenth hour in a row now and you’re thinking: ‘I can’t even imagine or fathom what these people are going through on a daily basis.’ It brings you a massive amount of empathy and respect for these people so it’s been a privilege to be able to — as an actor — work with something that’s so challenging. But it’s also a responsibility, and I gladly take that on.

If you could describe this season in one word, what would that be? Or we can create a hashtag and put a bunch of words together.
That’s hard because every single season is epic. And I’m from Denmark so now I need to sound smart and intelligent in one word with English. It won’t happen (laughing). I’d say ever-changing, or there’s no way back.

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Vikings mid-Season 5 premieres on History on Nov. 28 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

HISTORY® is a Corus Entertainment Inc. network.

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