One brother rises, one brother falls

By Darren Franich
April 21, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Jonathan Hession/History
  • TV Show

Season 4 has been a transformative period for Rollo, brother of Ragnar. Having long grown used to living in his brother’s shadow, Rollo betrayed his Viking brethren, allying with the Franks and defending Paris against a new attack from the Northmen. In Thursday’s midseason finale, Rollo met his brother in the field of battle. And the results were bloody. We talked to actor Clive Standen about what led up to this — and what the finale means for his Rollo.SPOILERS, natch!

(Also, be sure to check out my full recap of the Vikings midseason finale, and my chat with creator Michael Hirst about what lies ahead for the show.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It feels like the whole show has led up to the moment when Rollo faces off against Ragnar. What do you think is going through Rollo’s mind, in that moment?

CLIVE STANDEN: It’s never been about betraying Ragnar. It’s about existing. Michael [Hirst] and I always held onto this old Swedish proverb: “One wants to be loved, in lack thereof admired, in lack thereof feared, in lack thereof loathed and despised. One wants to instill some sort of emotion in people. The soul trembles before emptiness and desires contact at any price.” We talked about that in season one. He just wants to fit in. He just wants to be acknowledged by his brother.

In this season, everyone seems to have reacted to Ragnar on the boat, [saying] “When everyone wanted you dead, I wanted you alive! And this is how you repay me!” People forget how much Rollo has done for Ragnar. When Ragnar becomes the Earl of Kattegat, Rollo tells him: “How will we ever be equal now, brother?” Ragnar may protect his brother, but he doesn’t reward him. He wants to keep him in the shadow. This is Rollo’s one chance of doing something.

You didn’t have many scenes with Travis Fimmel, who plays Ragnar, this season. What was it like filming that bloody fight scene?

Travis and I have an interesting relationship this season. We are quite sociable. I treat him like a brother from another mother. We still go out drinking. But we didn’t have any scenes on set together. So I had no idea what he was up to as Ragnar. Travis is quite mercurial as an actor, so just because you’ve read [the script] doesn’t mean you know what Travis is doing. I had no idea what he had become, how far Ragnar had fallen from grace. I’d only seen Travis outside of costume, going for a couple beers. Seeing him, face to face, on the battlefield — the battlewater! — seeing him on the raft was the first time I’d seen Travis in months as Ragnar Lothbrok. It was like Rollo seeing Ragnar for the first time in years.

When you see us punch each other, there’s a couple hits that really connect. I went home bruised, and so did he. As soon as that scene was out of the way — the relationship of Rollo and Ragnar is crumbled, irreparable now — it was a big weight off my and Travis’ shoulder. We could hug and be friends again.

Rollo is now a hero of Paris, but we’ve seen him express some regret about leaving his people behind. Does he miss being a Northman?

Of course he does! He’s a Viking, through and through! He’s taken on the Frankish court, the fashions of Frankia, the etiquette, the religion, just because it’s a means to an end. He has no life left in Kattegat. He has to embrace another culture.

You’re starring in the new NBC series Taken. How does that fit into your Vikings schedule?

I’m gonna be a very, very busy man! Taken is amazing, and it’s killing me. The stunts and things — an entirely new set of skills, pardon the pun! Guns and special forces and Krav Maga.

Without talking too much about what happens in the second half of the season, you definitely will see Rollo again. There’s a big time jump, as we learned at the end of this episode. What’s fascinating is these characters, when you get reintroduced, they’re entirely different people. Maybe, with Rollo, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Whenever we get something, there’s the chance it’s not quite how you imagined. Maybe the brothers will meet again. Maybe they’ll never see each other again.

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