Vikings post-mortem: Departing actor talks 'dramatic' death
When Alyssa Sutherland first appeared on Vikings at the end of season 1 as the mysterious and tantalizing Aslaug, she immediately shook up the dynamic of History’s epic series. She was the daughter of legends who became the mother of legends, the fierce matriarch of the family of Ragnar Lothbrok. On Wednesday’s episode – SPOILER ALERT – Aslaug had a final showdown with Ragnar’s first wife, Lagertha, and the results were fatal. Sutherland talks to EW about dying well.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you know that Aslaug would be dying this season?
ALYSSA SUTHERLAND: The whole time I was on Vikings, I was waiting for this to happen. I figured my character had been introduced in such a controversial way, the only thing to do with her was to get rid of her at some point. I actually thought that it would happen earlier, to be honest!
I think it was about six weeks heads up I was given. We were filming episode 9 and 10 when I was told. One of the producers came up to me on set. The cameras were being set up to start filming a scene I was in. I had hair and makeup around me doing touch-ups. The producer came up to me and said, “Alyssa, I’d love a quick chat with you. When you’re done here, we’ll go for a walk.” I just went, “Oh, what? Am I getting killed?” I was totally joking. I wasn’t fearful, thinking that’s what was happening. He just looked at me, and I went, ‘Oh, I am! And now I’ve basically gone and told everyone!”
The characters on this show are so extreme, and Aslaug’s journey took her to some dark places. Were there any moments that really defined her for you?
In season 3, a Christian came wandering through town. Aslaug decided that he had to be gotten rid of. I liked that, and I liked that she was a seeress, that she believed she could do those magical things. Her history and her parents, she was so proud of that, proud of her Viking nature. This fundamental pagan, who believed very strongly in that world and wanted her sons to grow up in that world.
The final scene between Aslaug and Lagertha is a showdown that Vikings has been building towards for years now. What was it like filming that moment?
I was really grateful for what Michael had written in that scene. It felt like things that maybe hadn’t been said of her were said in that scene. It justified that presence, in a way. I loved how the Queen was so so smart about the way she handled that death. She got the last word. She said in front of all these people: “Fine! You have the town. I’m not gonna fight you. All I ask is that I have safe passage.” I think Aslaug knows she’s not gonna walk out of town. As one last little word, she asks her for [freedom] in front of all those people, and goad Lagertha enough to make her shoot her in the back.
So you think Aslaug is purposefully instigating Lagertha, trying to get her enemy to kill her?
I think she does. I think that’s her Viking way of being killed. There’s a lot of layers to it. If she just went walking off somewhere else, what was she going to do? Die of old age? That’s not a very dramatic death for her. The Vikings believed in dying in battle, being famous.
It’s sort of art imitating life. You join a show like Vikings, you know that, at any given moment, the producer’s gonna come up to you, tap you on the shoulder, “We gotta kill someone, and it’s gotta be you.” All you do is hope for it to be really dramatic. I think Aslaug wanted the same thing.