VIKINGS CREATOR ON ROLLO’S NEW HAIR AND EPIC QUEEN OF MERCIA
IGN – That. Hair. A lot happened in “Kill the Queen,” but the scene-stealing moment was the debut of Clive Standen’s new Rollo hair cut — or just how many of his long locks he’d lost. Add on to that the action-packed rescue sequence at the end with Queen Kwenthrith, and there was plenty to talk about from this week’s Vikings.
To break down the episode, showrunner Michael Hirst got on the phone to discuss Rollo’s new look, the upcoming payoff for the contentious relationship between him and his wife and the joys of writing for Kwenthrith.
IGN: In this episode, Rollo loses his long hair, and we see that new wig and new look. It’s such a funny scene. How did you find that specific look for Clive, and how did he respond to it?
Hirst: I did always think [about] the possibility of how comedic an aspect of a culture clash between Franks and Vikings [could be] in the marriage. It’s not a deliberate “We can lighten the mood here,” but misunderstandings are always comedic, and they don’t speak the same language. So the Vikings are almost animals, so I was going to write that in to have a comedic aspect.
But still, there’s a sort of logic to it, which is not just about history. So she hates him. She thinks he’s an animal. They go to bed on their wedding night, and there’s this misunderstanding, because they don’t understand each other, and she hates him. But then when he goes to sleep, she hates him even more. Actually, that’s the funny thing, that you’d have thought she’d want him to go to sleep or go away, but actually when he goes to sleep and he ignores her, that’s the moment that she goes most cross. So there’s a kind of human moment there which is not historical but is just about how people behave towards each other. And then of course their relationship will develop from a very low point.
IGN: There’s a payoff in a couple episodes that’s so good.
Hirst: Yeah, yeah! I think so. It’s an unexpected payoff, ultimately, and it gets better actually. But everyone likes a bit of comedic lightness. It’s not like you don’t want to give them that, but you can’t cynically do something, but it did seem like an opportunity to have some fun at the expense of people who aren’t understanding each other and who are from different cultures and all that. It also reminds the audience, I think, that, you know, we’re talking old Norse and old Frankish — these are dead languages — but these are languages that people actually spoke. For me, it makes them more human. They stop being just historical characters. It’s just a man and a woman in bed who aren’t understanding each other.
IGN: I also love every time Kwenthrith is on the screen, and her whole badass fight to save her son at the end of this episode is so, so good. Are you at the point where you’re just like, “Let’s just find more excuses to have her do crazy, awesome things”? Or is that just the bonus of having a character like her and an actress like Amy Bailey playing her?
Hirst: I think that there’s a huge pleasure as a writer to have an actor that you know can play wild and strong and free and everything, and a wild card that you can play. But it did fit in with the storyline. It’s just that, when I gave her things to do, she could do more than I’d written. She’s a fantastic actress. Right from the start, actually, that actor was pretty much a wild card. She seemed to be both in period and slightly out of it, so it continued. She was one of the characters who kind of led me, as a writer.
There are character who are performing a function for you, so you know what you need them for and what they’re going to do. Then there are other character who you’re not quite sure how you’re going to use or what they’re going to do, and they can actually surprise you. So Kwenthrith actually completely surprised me in the show and in life because she suddenly got pregnant and had twins soon after, a boy and a girl. So in the last scenes that she played, she’s heavily pregnant, and we had great fun doing that. But literally, she’s a free spirit in the show. So I could just throw her into new situations and know that she would come up with something amazing.
IGN: Any time she’s on screen, I’m like, “Okay, I’m in for a treat.”
Hirst: Yeah! God, some actors are just like that. You kind of relax because you know they’re going to give you a good time.