Well, this should certainly help legitimize History Channel's first original series, Vikings. It looks as though the series about Norsemen, their various raids and the people who love them, has signed Golden Globe-winning actor Gabriel Byrne to portray Earl Haraldson, a high-ranking Viking leader who takes a particular dislike to ambitious upstart Ragnar Lothbrok.
Byrne should be familiar to audiences from films like Miller's Crossing and The Usual Suspects. In addition to his many film roles, Byrne also headed up the critically-acclaimed HBO series In Treatment, from 2008-2010, and will also be taking a major role in the upcoming UK series Coup – though no word on whether or not that series has any plans to air in the U.S.
Vikings, meanwhile, will consist of a 10-episode season that tells the story of historical figure Ragnar Lothbrok. According to the network:
"The series tells the sagas of Ragnar's band of Viking brothers and his family, as he rises to become King of the Viking tribes. As well as being a fearless warrior, Ragnar embodies the Norse traditions of devotion to the gods; legend has it that he was a direct descendant of Odin, the god of war and warriors."
The series has been in development since 2011, with Michael Hirst (Camelot, The Tudors) serving as writer and producer. It wasn't until March of this year that History picked added the series to its development slate - and now, with the announcement of Byrne joining the cast, production is likely to get under way soon. By History's own description, Vikings will have a "stylized" approach that will be highlighted by "imaginatively choreographed battles", but strays from depictions of graphic violence seen in similar programs like Game of Thrones or Spartacus.
The network also sent out this description of Haraldson, which helps to put his motivations in perspective.
"Earl Haraldson was the most important ruler in Ragnar’s district. A man of limited vision, he suspects Ragnar’s ambitions and goes head to head with him in a struggle for power and glory. Once a mighty warrior, the Earl, a mighty political leader in his own right, will take on Ragnar, his opposite in every way: a lowly farmer; a young man thirsting for knowledge, and a descendant of the gods."
Apparently, Vikings has already recruited another actor in George Blagden (Les Misérables) to play Athelstan, a monk held captive by Ragnar after a triumphant raid on England.
So with two characters down and an unknown amount still to be cast, it seems Vikings is coming along swimmingly. With Byrne in the series, attention will certainly now be focused on finding the perfect individual to play against him as Ragnar. Since there has been no word on whether the powers that be are interested in finding a well-known actor for the role - or plan to place their hopes in the hands of an unknown - the speculation of who should embody the descendent of Odin may now commence.
Screen Rant will keep you updated as more news breaks on Vikings. The series is expected to premiere on History sometime in 2013.