A Vikings star on contouring with dirt, why she’s gluten-free and how she was cast as Lagertha
VOGUE – Katheryn Winnick, star of Vikings and the face of Raymond Weil’s Noemia collection, talks to Vogue Australia about career, well being and Ireland.
What was your big break in Hollywood?
“For me, I think it was really two breaks. The first being a guest star role on the TV show, House, in an episode called “One Day, One Room.” My character goes head-to-head with Hugh Laurie. After it aired, I know it broke records with ratings, and gave me the confidence I needed to know that all the years of struggling in this business could eventually pay off. I would consider my second break to be when I got cast in Vikings to play the female lead as shield maiden, Lagertha, which has definitely been the turning point in my career. It’s a role I have deeply connected with and can sink my teeth into. Now, the show airs in over 140 countries around the world, and I couldn’t feel more honoured to be a part of such an incredible show.”
Did you ever turn down a role that you now regret saying no to?
“No, I have not turned down a role I regret yet. It is all about finding the right project that speaks to me. It all starts with the material. I look for strong female roles that excite me; roles that are not only powerful but raw, undone and authentic.”
What was the audition process like for Vikings?
“They did a worldwide search for Lagertha with thousands of actors competing for this role. After I read the script, I fell in love with the role and self-taped in my living room in Los Angeles the next day. They were concerned I wasn’t weathered enough to play a Viking. I re-did the tape, this time adding dirt from my backyard all over my face. I asked for a Skype call with the writer/creator Michael Hirst. We talked for an hour and clicked right away. I mentioned that I am a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a second degree black belt in karate and how I can understand the warrior mentality and the will power of someone like the character. I was amazed at how brilliant his mind is, how he works, and how collaborative he is to create a character together.”
When did you realise Vikings had become such a big hit?
“After season one aired, I started getting a lot of fan mail and social media hits with people tattooing my character’s face on their bodies. It’s amazing to me that there are such die-hard fans out there. At Comic Con last year, it was crazy to see thousands of fans line up for hours just to get a glimpse of our panel and cast mates. Also, it is incredible to see how Vikings has transcribed into trends around the world, in terms of Lagertha’s braids on runways and red carpets to Halloween costumes. It is all a wonderful compliment.”
Where is the best location you have ever filmed Vikings and why did you love it?
“Believe it or not, we shoot all of our locations in Ireland. There is an incredible landscape with mountains, lakes, reservoirs, and open fields that are so untouched. It is so beautiful and rural and with the help of an amazing visual effects team, we make it look like Scandinavia. My favorite location is on a Guinness estate where we have built Kattegat, our Vikings’ hometown. It is an incredible set, right at the bottom of these two mountains with several joining lakes. It is so beautiful and peaceful. I’m very fortunate to shoot in Ireland with such a gorgeous landscape.”
If you weren’t an actress, what profession would you like to try?
“At the age of 16, I started my first business running a martial arts school called WinKai Martial Arts. I had three schools in Toronto by the time I was 21. I fell in love with teaching self-defense to families and young women. Since I love business, if I weren’t an actor, I’d get more involved with being an entrepreneur and building things in a positive way.”
How did your relationships with Raymond Weil come about?
“I got a phone call from my agent saying that Raymond Weil was interested in working with me. I later learned the story was that the CEO was on a flight cross-country and someone downloaded Vikings for him on his laptop. Apparently, he watched that entire season on the flight and a week after, he had watched all the seasons in a binge marathon. He became a fan of the show and a fan of Lagertha. He then reached out and offered an endorsement deal with their company, becoming the ambassador for the new ladies line of watches. I feel so blessed and honoured to be part of such a well-known, exquisite brand like Raymond Weil.”
What do you look for in a watch?
“In this day and age, a watch can represent much more than just a timepiece. For me, when I look at my watch on my wrist, there is a personal story behind it. A watch is an opportunity to wear a significant piece of jewellery that is meaningful in a way that any other family heirlooms used to be. I plan to pass down my Raymond Weil watches to my children one day. I also look for a watch that represents my personality. I am a woman on the go constantly so I need a watch that is functional, but also elegant and stylish. The Raymond Weil brand is exactly that; beautiful, elegant timepieces for the modern women.”
You have incredible hair. How do you maintain it?
“Believe it or not, I am pretty low maintenance with my hair. My mum used to tell me as a child that I needed to brush my hair a hundred times a day to get thick hair. I know it’s an old wives’ tale, but that’s exactly what I did. I have worked with the same colourist for many years and we use a specific formula that doesn’t do damage to the hair. On the Vikings set, I air-dry my hair and use very little product. I found that most products weigh my hair down. Every night, I braid my hair and sleep on a silk pillow so it instantly crimps the next day and is easy to style.”
What is your exercise regimen?
“A combination of weight training, fighting, boxing, and enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking, jogging, horseback riding and kayaking. I feel exercise is incredibly important for both the mind and body. It is important for me to stay consistent with my exercise, especially with such long hours and multiple locations.”
What wellbeing and diet philosophies do you subscribe to?
“I believe in drinking hot water and lemon every day, as well as mint tea. I eat a strictly gluten free diet. I believe it’s helped me increase my energy, as well as keeping me fit. I try and stick to a base of vegetables and proteins while also trying to eat more often, about five small meals a day. It is important to sustain energy throughout the day. I also love juicing.”
How do you care for your skin?
“I have been trying to get facials once every couple of months for proper cleansing of the skin. Especially when I am on set with all the dirt, smoke machines and fires, my skin gets congested really easily. I believe in using natural products. I recently began using a Clarisonic, which I love because it is such an easy, fun way to cleanse your face. Lastly, I exfoliate every day, topping it off with a serum, and then a good moisturiser right before I go to bed.”
Have you learnt any beauty secrets working with hair and make-up artists on set?
“Every artist has a different or new way of working with you; they have their secrets. On the set of Vikings, we used dirt for contouring. We work with very little make-up on our set and have to learn to adapt in order to make it look flattering. For little braids, we use clear dental elastics that orthodontists use for braces that hide the band. Then, finding a good foundation and sunscreen is key. I exfoliate my lips with disposable mascara wands. I also use Eight Hour Cream on my lips, because once a make-up artist said there is aspirin in it to give that plump lip look in a more natural way.”
What is your vice?
“A glass of red wine after a long hard day.”