November 4, 2014
by Gary Collinson
Paul Risker chats with Vikings star Clive Standen…
As part of a special week long feature to coincide with the home entertainment release of Vikings series 2, Flickering Myth sits down in conversation with the cast and creator Michael Hirst to go behind the scenes of the critically acclaimed historical drama.
Paul Risker: There is a lot of love between the two brothers – between yourself and Ragnar. What went wrong, and how can we expect to this play out in season 2?
Clive Standen: At the end of season one Rollo in his eyes has the chance of a lifetime – to be the general of his own army. That’s what Jarl Borg ultimately offers him – the chance to be king for a day on his own terms, and so he trades in everything. It’s one of those cases that you don’t know how much you love something until it’s gone.
He realises that the one the person who has always been there for him is Ragnar, but it doesn’t strike him until he’s face to face with his brother on the battlefield. Ragnar’s sword is down, and Rollo’s spear is almost against his neck, and he has every opportunity to kill him and to have everything he wants. But he can’t go through with it because in that moment he realises that all through his life all he’s ever had his brother. Anyone with siblings will know that one minute you love them and the next you hate them. But they are blood, and you can’t choose them, but you also can’t live without them. That’s the problem that Rollo encounters on the battlefield – he can’t go through with what he thought he’d always wanted.
In episode two you quickly realise that its four years in the future, and he’s a shadow of his former self. He’s an alcoholic and he’s all washed up, and the relationship between the brothers will never be the same again. So he spends the majority of the first few episodes trying to gain enough courage to go and speak to his brother, to regain that trust, and it all comes to a head.
Rollo’s kind of like a phoenix rising from the flames so to speak in season two, and in episode three Ragnar punishes him just like you would punish a child. What do you do when you want to punish a child? You take away what they love most. I always thought that by stopping Rollo from raiding and going West with him again is almost like chopping the plug off the PlayStation [laughs].
When he’s left behind, and Jarl Borg attacks Kattegat, he’s in charge of Ragnar’s children along with Aslaug and Siggy. There isn’t a great army left because Ragnar has taken the best men with him, bar the women, children and old men. I’ve always seen that scene where the old man comes up to him and says, “Your main aim is now to look after the children of Ragnar” almost as if Thor is looking back at him. It is a massive turning point for him, and he’s at a crossroads. Everything about Rollo is looking after yourself, living on the margins, being a hedonist, and proving to the Gods that if you fight well then you are worthy of your place in Valhalla. This old man is encouraging Rollo to go against everything that he has believed in – to run away to fight another day in order to protect his brother’s children, and the future kings of Kattegat. When he goes through those months in the farmstead looking after Siggy, Aslaug and the children, it’s the first time Rollo has had to worry about anyone other than himself before, and I think it is then that he starts to realise what it is to be a leader of men – to lead by example. It’s not just about going out there with all axes blazing and decimating the battlefield. There are a lot more qualities that a leader needs, and he starts to learn that, which culminates in the scene where Ragnar comes back and he finds out Jarl Borg has taken everything. Ragnar says something along the lines of, “I want to rip out Jarl Borg’s throat with my bare hands.” Rollo is the one in a role reversal of the brothers who says, “You and what army?” He is almost the mature brother saying we can’t do this. He tempers his brother, and I think that’s when they start to trust each other, and find themselves once again in each other’s good graces.
The problem with Rollo is that while he may be back on side with his brother, he realises that his ambitions mean that he doesn’t have to trample all over his brother, because Ragnar isn’t involved in his ambitions. But they are still ambitions and they are not going to go away. So he still struggles with the inner turmoil of where he is going to go and what his fate holds in store for him? He has this great line where he says, “I was in your shadow, and when I stepped out of it there was no light.”