From Left: Astrid (Josefin Asplund) and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Photo by Bernard Walsh.
The fearsome female ruler Lagertha will go to war with her nemesis when the History Channel’s Vikings returns for its midseason premiere next week, but actress Katheryn Winnick says that’s just the beginning of the changes for her character. After years of betrayal by the men in her life, Lagertha falls for a woman, the shield maiden Astrid (Josefin Asplund).
This sapphic switch sounds sudden considering Lagertha will battle Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), the woman who stole her first husband, Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). But during a recent chat with reporters, Winnick explained how it isn’t that surprising—and that she doesn’t think Lagertha suddenly has become a lesbian.
How did this relationship with Astrid come about? Lagertha didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a lesbian, did she?
Katheryn Winnick: Lagertha has been betrayed by so many men throughout her life. Obviously, Ragnar cheated on her and asked her to be a second wife. Her second husband was abusive. Then Kalf, who she groomed to be a leader, tried to usurp her own rule. She had to kill him on their wedding day. So her relationship with men [wasn’t great]. I'm not sure she will ever trust a man again.
So it did make sense that she would find comfort in another human being and that that human being happened to be a woman. I don’t feel that Lagertha necessarily is a lesbian; I never played it that way. But she did find a love with Astrid that men have never been able to give her.
The time jump at the end of the first part of Season 4 was about 10 years. How long have they been together when we return for the new episodes?
Their relationship has been more than six or seven years. Astrid is considerably different and brings a breath of fresh air to Lagertha’s life. Josefin has a lot of humor and wit and that’s evident in [the way she plays] her character. Her sense of style and...the way she deals with Lagertha is unique, and that was really a lot of fun to play [opposite Josefin]. I think you’re going to like that relationship.
Lagertha definitely grooms her to be the warrior that she is. It was nice to see that it’s not, “Oh, here are two women who are in bed together.” Their strong bond is not necessarily the sexual part of a relationship, but more of an emotional bond. It’s really beautiful to see.
Lagertha has been betrayed, but she also comes up with some great schemes herself. Does she have an end game with Astrid?
No, I don’t think there is any end game. I think that she sees Astrid as someone who is very comforting. At this stage Lagertha truly feels alone, I feel, because of all the betrayals against her. Even though she has Astrid, I'm not sure how emotionally close she is going to let anybody into her life. But with Astrid there is no other motive other than caring for her.
It seems from the previews that there is going to finally be a reckoning between Lagertha and Aslaug. How will Lagertha take care of business there?
Yes, there is definitely a big scene where Lagertha and Aslaug come face to face. I will say it’s pretty epic; it’s juicy and it’s memorable. I wish I could actually give away more, but it was a great scene to shoot. Lagertha felt that she needed to take back control of Kattegat. She believes Kattegat is being run so badly...and she feels that she is doing the right thing by reclaiming it. Nobody would rule it better than she would because she truly cares about her people.
How has Lagertha kept her moral center in the face of all the changes in her life while a lot of the other characters have not?
It’s the fact that she is constantly getting challenged, her moral compass and her ethics are getting challenged. I think that’s what keeps her honest and it keeps her who she is as Lagertha.
She is formidable, she is strong, but she is also a woman. She is allowed to be vulnerable, she is allowed to be feminist. She is allowed not to have her [crap] together at times and that’s what makes this character so real and fantastic. I think a lot of people identify with not just the strengths of her character as a warrior, but her personality and her strong sense of will.
Going into the rest of Season 4, I think she is really on one hand an everyday woman. I think there are a lot of women who identify with her as a strong person and not necessarily just someone in the Viking era in that time period. She is really a modern woman that everyone can relate to.
Vikings returns at 9/8c, November 30, on the History Channel.