Australian actress Alyssa Sutherland invaded Vikings at the end of last season as Ragnar Lothbrok’s new love interest, Princess Aslaug. Some fans still blame the beautiful royal for ruining the marriage between Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and his first love, Lagartha (Kathryn Winnick), but the ebullient Sutherland shrugs off the haters. We chatted with her yesterday about why last night’s episode, “Boneless,” was the fans first chance to understand Aslaug and why if you thing Lagartha’s a better woman than Aslaug then “you’re not watching [Vikings] properly.”
Last night’s episode of Vikings showed a different side of Viking family life as Aslaug and Ragnar had to deal with the fact that their son, Ivar, was born disabled. Aslaug was counseled by her husband and by her friend, Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), to let the child die, but she categorically refused.
When I asked Sutherland about last night’s episode yesterday before it aired, she was loathe to give spoilers, but she did say, “Oof,” when I brought up the Viking legend of Ivar the Boneless. She only spilled that “it’s my favorite episode for Aslaug. I think it’s the first opportunity that people have to understand what she’s about and what she wants out of life.”
“And this is what I love about the show,” she added. “At the heart of it, it’s still a family saga and there are still issues to be dealt with that I think people can relate to today. And I think what she goes through with Ivar is going to really–hopefully–strike a chord with people and maybe they’ll see a different side to her.”
“She adores her sons and just wants the best for her sons. That’s just what she’s about. She just loves them.”
Unfortunately, not all the fans see Aslaug as a protective mother…
Because of Aslaug’s seductive introduction on the show, many fans still hold her responsible for the breakdown in Ragnar and Lagartha’s relationship, but Sutherland isn’t phased by the backlash. “Oh, it’s not that bad,” she joked. “I normally get the obligatory ’I hate you on Vikings’ tweets and that to me is like, ’Hey, you know what? I produced a reaction out of you so that means I did my job.’ That doesn’t bother me. In fact, I kind of get a kick out of it.
But does she think that Aslaug was wrong to sleep with Ragnar? Should Ragnar be blamed by fans instead for cheating on Lagartha? “I never think it’s that simplistic,” Sutherland explained. “You know, the people involved would never think it’s that simplistic.”
“I can speak for Aslaug, and for Aslaug, she fell in love with a man. I wouldn’t personally go and hit on a married man. That’s not what I would do, but I can’t judge her. I’m meant to play her. You know, and then she gets knocked up and that’s a situation that she has to deal with. And he’s run off. It’s like, ’No, you’ve got to deal with this. It takes two to tango, dude.'”
Of course, being Ragnar’s second wife means that Sutherland still has to deal with people who think that Aslaug doesn’t measure up to the shieldmaiden Lagartha. Even Sutherland’s friends choose sides in the fray.
“I had a friend attack me the other night,” she said, “and he, like, laid into me because he feels so strongly for Lagartha! That’s great. I mean, we have passionate fans. I love our fans. He was like, ’Lagartha wants the best for her son and you’re just getting in the way!’ And I was like, ’I’m sorry. You don’t think Aslaug wants the best for her sons? You’re not watching this properly. Go back and watch it again.’ That’s all she wants! She wants the best for her sons. She wants to protect them at all costs.”
Sutherland is quick to praise showrunner Michael Hirst for showing so many different types of strong women on the program. “I think each female on this show is completely different. We’re all very, very different, but we all sort of stand on our own two legs as well and I really love that.”
Aslaug is the daughter of legendary Viking heroes Sigurd and Brynhildr, but as of yet, the princess has yet to take up shield or sword. “Personally, I would love to be involved in a fight scene. I think it would be so much fun! I kind of love the idea of getting really muddy and dirty, but for my character? The last thing she wants to do is be a warrior.”
“In that day and age, every time your husband left to go away raiding, that may be the last time you see them. So, for Aslaug to go out and do that…who’s going to take care of her sons?” Sutherland explains.
Ironically, it’s her famous shieldmaiden mother’s choices that also mark why Aslaug doesn’t want to be away from her boys. Without going too much into too much “spoilerific” detail, Sutherland explained how the Sigurd and Brynhildr’s tragic story serves as a foundation for understanding Aslaug’s devotion to her children. “All of that [backstory] for that character is why I get so defensive about her. I feel like I’m her only ally sometimes.”
When asked about her favorite part about working on the show, Sutherland thought for a moment and then joked, “I have a job!” She then added, “And the fact that I get to work with Michael Hirst, who did Elizabeth, is just a dream come true.”
“My favorite part about season two, though, was definitely working with my kids. My boys! They were so much fun. I fell in love with them and I just wanted to take them home with me! They’re such great awesome boys to hang out with. I miss them! I talk to them through their mums on email and I really miss them.”
Vikings returns next Thursday on the History Channel at 10/9 C.
[Photo Credit: History Channel]