It's a tough gig to raid and pillage one's way through the Dark Ages, and Vikings puts the historical drama fan right in the middle of it. Praised for its mostly accurate portrayal of Viking society (with a few exceptions), Vikings has earned a name for itself due to its violent and intriguing storylines. This is to be expected from a drama that focuses on family squabbles and combat. War, back-stabbing, romance, secret alliances, and daring invasions are commonplace. The series certainly doesn't pull punches when it comes to violence and betrayal. The quest for influence and power corrupts everyone, even those within tightly-knit families.
At the very least, Vikings is packed with gorgeous people in period costumes. Though it's not as gratuitous in its depictions of the flesh as Game of Thrones or Spartacus, one can make a good argument that the actors in Vikings are some of the best-looking people on TV. It's also an ambitious show to shoot. Vikings is shot largely outside and on-location in a small county in Ireland. Cast and crew brave the elements daily to create the show, an effort that definitely pays off when the story is put together. Coming up on the sixth season, the cast has unquestionably bonded through the process of working long and tough hours together. Thankfully, we're taking a look at a few shots behind-the-scenes that give a different perspective on the day-to-day reality of working the show.
Here are the 25 Behind-The-Scenes Photos Of Vikings That Change Everything.
25 Cracking Up
Hand-to-hand combat in dreary weather can be dangerous. However, it's not as formidable when actors are on break between shots. In this image, actor Peter Franzen cracks a beautiful smile as some of the cast and crew talk together behind him. Shooting hours are long and arduous out there in the countryside of Ireland, so blowing off steam is essential.
Franzen plays Harald Finehair, a Scandinavian warlord who was in direct opposition to Ragnar. Ultimately, Harald Finehair outlives Ragnar. He was last seen escaping a ambush by retreating just in time and later forcefully taking leadership over York. It looks like his character will be going on strong in the sixth season.
Makeup artists are often some of the unsung heroes on set, especially when they must do their hardest work out there in the field, far away from the makeup chair. However, this makeup artists are even more important on a show like Vikings, which sees most of its main cast in face paint.
Makeup artists have to make sure make sure that makeup is consistent from shot to shot and make sure that there is no smudging from the weather. They are also among the first of the crew to arrive on set, as they must prepare all of the actors before shooting can even begin. This alone can take several hours. Here, a cheerful makeup artist touches up the face paint of Katheryn Winnick, who plays Lagertha.
23 Siege Ladders
Invading a medieval city is hard, particularly if the target in question is behind a high wall with parapets and defending archers. Siege ladders were use by the invading army to scale the walls and overcome the defenders. This was no easy task, though, as it was always a struggle to ascend the ladder without getting hit by incoming arrows.
Here, the director delivers instruction through a megaphone at the actors ascending the siege ladder, as the sound worker captures their dialogue with his boom mic. As with most takes, the actors probably had to do the scene and climb the ladder several different times to make sure they had the best shot.
22 Intense Eye Contact
Here, actress Katheryn Winnick takes a turn at directing and gives instruction to Alexander Ludwig, who plays Bjorn Ironside. Winnick ordinarily plays Lagertha, the mother of Bjorn, but she was given a chance to work in the director's chair for season 6's episode 8, which will air sometime in 2019. Like many accomplished actors, she has branched out and is trying her hand at directing.
On Facebook, Winnick posted this shot and said, "So proud to direct my talented boy @alexanderludwig. #Proudmama #Director #Vikings." We have no doubt Winnick will be an incredible director. She is quite the overachiever, as she speaks five languages and holds black belts in both Tae-Kwon Do and Karate.
21 The Production Assistant
Production assistants (also known as PAs) are low on the totem pole in terms of power and prestige, but they are nonetheless heroes on set. Without them, production would grind to a halt. They wear utility belts like Batman, which are equipped with all kinds of tools to facilitate shooting and fix things on the fly.
A typical PA carries a walkie-talkie, multiple tools including pliers and box-cutters, several rolls of gaffer's tape and/or duct tape, keys, flashlights, and a host of other things that come in handy during every shooting situation. It's usually the PA who operates the clapboard that tells the editor in post-production what scene is being shot and syncs the sound with the movement. More complicated series like Vikings probably require more PAs than other shows since filming takes place on location.
20 Waiting for the Shot
Travis Fimmel plays lead character Ragnar Lothbrok, and in this behind-the-scenes shot, he is standing with his staff as prepares for the next shot. Many fans may not realize that Fimmel was not the original casting choice to play Lothbrok. At the last minute, Michael Hirst, the showrunner for Vikings, had a change in heart and decided they needed someone else.
"He’d done the test in his kitchen in this farmhouse in Australia. He didn’t bother trying to disguise his ... accent. He didn’t dress up like a Viking like lots of people had done. He just did the scene and he did it rather quietly, with pauses, and we said, maybe, maybe we’ve found him," Hirst stated. "What he’s brought to the show is a real depth and a real sort of complexity that you don’t know often what he’s thinking or what he’s going to do.”
19 Wrangling Sheep
Depending on your point of view, animals are either easy to work with on set or a total nightmare. On the plus side, animals are naturals on camera precisely because they don't know how to act. Everything they do in the shot is what they would do if they weren't on camera.
However, because of this, they're also terrible at following directions, and even if highly trained, they can be entirely unpredictable. This means that if you want to have animals in an episode of Vikings, you're going to need a full-time animal wrangler who might even need a wrangling team of his or her own. Luckily, domesticated sheep are relatively easy to lead around.
18 Hand Stand
This photo is taken behind-the-scenes during season three. It is a candid shot of a cast or crew member doing a handstand on some uneven rocks. Almost all of the outside shots of Vikings were taken in County Wicklow in Ireland. The pose in this shot is totally appropriate — the motto of County Wicklow is "Free spirits."
Though not specified in the picture, this looks like part of Giant's Causeway on the Northern Ireland coast. It is considered a natural wonder and has been classified as a World Heritage site. If this is actually Giant's Causeway, then the symmetrical appearance of the rocks is entirely natural and is a result of a rare volcanic formation. Columns and hexagonal-shaped basalt rocks are indicative of the formation.
Actor Alexander Ludwig was caught lounging in this photo. It's unclear whether he made the merman tail himself or one of his fellow cast or crew members did it. Nonetheless, he seems bemused by it and is smirking in this photo.
The character Ludwig plays, Bjorn Ironside, is Ragnar and Lagertha's son. Bjorn is tough as nails and actually lives to his "Ironside" name, as he has survived multiple brutal fights and even walked away after he was shot with two crossbow bolts in the back. Because of this, its fun to see Ludwig hamming it up here. Most of the time everything going on in the world of Vikings is extremely serious.
This photo, which was taken behind-the-scenes in season three, shows actress Katheryn Winnick getting her hair finely braided for another day playing Lagertha on set. The hairdresser has to take special care to ensure that the braids look like they are the same from shot to shot, especially when trying to match a shot from a previous day.
Stylist Dee Corcoran is responsible for most of the hair on Vikings. It takes about 40 minutes per actor to do their hair. Lagertha's look has become especially popular, spawning tutorials on how to do her style on YouTube. "The first time I saw the [tutorials] on YouTube, I laughed ... I thought it was hilarious. It’s a great style. Even my own daughter has worn it," said Corcoran.
15 On the March
Traveling in the Dark Ages was tough, especially if you were trying to win battles or find new territory. Moving an army across a country has always been a challenge logistically, but even more so when they didn't have any modern equipment. More than likely, you would probably lose a few soldiers to the elements before you even reached the battle.
On top of that, even after a successful campaign, you'd have to haul all of your spoils back to where you came from. With the loss of a few soldiers, it would also have been harder to defend against bandits or other marauders on the way back. From the looks of the helmets and uniforms in this photo, this appears to be the Norman army or the army from France, and not the Vikings.
14 The Littlest Vikings
Yes, these kids are absolutely adorable. However, the mortality rate wasn't so high back during the Dark Ages. Seventeen percent didn't make it past infancy, and more than 33% of the Viking population did not reach adulthood. If you were to reach the age of 50, you were considered an elderly person. Half of the men didn't make it past the age of 30, though women had much better chances because they generally weren't employed in battle, though there were more than a few exceptions.
This means that if you made it to the age of 20, you were already beating the odds, and you would have technically been a middle-aged person. Those are pretty heavy stats to lay on a kid acting on Vikings, so let's just hope they enjoyed shooting that day and no one told them the characters they were playing would probably have passed away young.
13 Posing with the Kid
Here, Alexander Ludwig is seen taking a photo with a child actor on set, and the young boy looks like he's enjoying every second of it. This was taken sometime during the production of season three.
In Viking terms, this kid is already old enough to hold an ax or sword and go into battle. It's hard to imagine life being so rough, but that's just the way it was. Kids today freak out if they don't have enough time with their iPads, but back then, kids were probably happy if they were able to survive their first few battles.
12 Adorable Countryside
From left to right, actresses Maude Hirst and Alyssa Sutherland can be seen in this photo adoring the beautiful countryside. Hirst plays Helga, the loyal wife of Floki. Sutherland plays Queen Aslaug with whom Ragnar has an affair and eventually marries. This shot was taken sometime during season three.
Both characters have brutal fates and don't make it past season four. Helga perishes unexpectedly, as she is slain by her own adoptive daughter, Tanaruz. Meanwhile, Lagertha conquers Queen Aslaug's city of Kattegat. She pretends to forgive Queen Auslag for having relations with Ragnar but ultimately takes her life by shooting her in the back with her bow. These actresses are enjoying the moment here, as they might not have known the events that would transpire later in the show.
11 Shooting the Village
While watching Vikings, a casual viewer probably wouldn't think twice about a smooth moving shot. However, a lot goes into what looks like a simple camera movement. The dolly that the camera is mounted on and where the director of photography sits is an expensive and state-of-the art piece of equipment.
To get the authentic look of a real living and breathing village, a random goose has been chosen to walk into the shot. On top of that, there are countless small details that set designers and set dressers put into the environment to make it look authentic. This simple shot is probably only a few seconds long, but it might have taken hours to set up.
10 Aisha Tyler and the Gang
Aisha Tyler is an accomplished actor, known for her appearances as Charlie on Friends, the voice of Lana on Archer, and most recently, as a co-host on The Talk. Here, she pays a visit to the Vikings set and takes a group photo with a few members of the cast.
She posted this image on Instagram, saying: "Last day of my ... set visit @historyvikings w/Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), Ragnar (Travis Fimmel), Floki (Gustav Skarsgård) and Rollo (Clive Standen). Made it out without a blood eagle. Skål! #irelandsummer." A blood eagle, as most Vikings fans will recall, is a particularly brutal method of capital punishment. We'll spare you the gritty details.
9 Clapboard Between the Scenes
In this image, actors Travis Fimmel and Gabriel Byrne take a moment to prepare as the production assistant gets ready to use the clapboard, kicking off the scene. Gabriel Byrne played Earl Haraldson, the patriarch who had different ideas about where the Vikings should go and plunder next. Ragnar pushed for an uncertain voyage to unknown lands in the West, while Haraldson insisted on raiding failing communities in the East.
Byrne appeared in six episodes of the first season before his character Haraldson came to blows with Ragnar over their fundamental disagreements. In short, Ragnar won their fatal fight and became their new leader, thus paving the way for more risky ventures to the West and eventually a raid on Paris.
8 Vikings Assemble
If you were part of any group or culture that wasn't based in Scandinavia, this sight would be the stuff of nightmares. Historically, part of what made the Vikings so successful iwass their casual disregard for what was considered common courtesy in war. In other words, they had no qualms about doing things other invading parties wouldn't, like raiding holy sites and destroying monasteries.
Ragnar proved his ruthlessness early on, eventually dispatching of his own leader and seizing control. Here, he leads his troop into battle in season one, with his wife Lagertha at his side. The series is known for its graphic violence and doesn't shy away from major characters perishing in battles.
Here, director Ciaran Donnelly takes time to go over a pivotal scene in season one. This is from the episode "Burial of the Dead", in which Earl Haraldson challenges Ragnar to singular combat. Ragnar has a few bones to pick with Haraldson, one being the raiding strategy of the Vikings. However, more recently, Ragnar discovered that his own brother was tortured on Haraldson's orders.
Once challenged, Ragnar accepts and they fight to the end in front of all their peers. As we mentioned above, Haraldson doesn't make it. The others accept Ragnar as their new leader, and it's not long before they sail for England in order to extort the royalty for peace.
6 Water Break
Leave it to Katheryn Winnick to blow off some steam by staging a "conquerer" picture on the backs of her fellow actors. Here, she turns a water break into a fierce tableau of what it means to be a Viking: conquering everything without remorse. With this kind of brilliant branding, she could probably start her own bottled water company.
The actors below her seem to find it hilarious. Gustaf Skarsgård, who plays Floki, is pictured on the left, with another bearded actor on the right. This fierce photo confirms that showrunners cast the correct actress as Lagertha.
5 Getting Into Costumes
Costume designer Joan Bergin had her work cut out for her when she designed the costumes for Vikings, aiming for an authentic look while at the same time making creative alterations that would look great on camera. However, another factor went into the costumes for the female characters: a sense of Viking empowerment.
"Viking women were really strong ... they could own property and ultimately rule," said Bergin. "All that power women had they eventually lost over the centuries. Women being equal partners to men in all areas of life. Thanks to the Vikings, in Celtic lands, a woman could divorce a man by turning around three times in a circle."
4 Studio Photoshoot
Of course, as the popularity of Vikings grew, so the did the demand for photo ops to be used for publicity. Here, photographer Matt Bigelow expertly captures some great shots using a complex system of lighting and a black studio backdrop.
"Here ... is a look behind-the-scenes at our luxurious studio setup (insert sarcasm here)," said Bigelow. "As you can see, a successful studio space doesn’t always mean a fancy loft apartment in downtown NYC. Sure, a bit more space and a few less pieces of yard equipment might help create a better working environment, but what’s coming out of the camera is all that matters. When you’re in a pinch, what’s important is that you do what you have to do to make things work. So, here we are!"
3 Lighting a Scene for Vikings
Photographer Peter Bigelow pulls back the curtain and shows us how he lit a few scenes for publicity photos. Even though it is daylight, the natural light alone is not enough to dramatically light the face of this actor to make it pop on camera. As you can see here, they need an additional key light, which likely has a flash.
Though reluctant to head out into the elements because of the rain, Bigelow ultimately "manned up" and decided to shoot anyway. "Once we arrived, we came to the conclusion that there wasn’t much chance of getting a clearing in the rain," he stated. "Nonetheless, it was a unanimous decision that since none of us are made of sugar (contrary to what we sometimes believe), we’d all survive getting a little wet. After all, what true Vikings would turn around and head home because of a little rain?"
2 Dressed for Camera
Here, actress Josefin Asplund appears as Astrid, who first came onto the scene in season four. Asplund was also known for her leading role in the U.S. version of the movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Astrid has a dalliance with Lagertha in Ragnar's absence and also helps comfort her after she receives the word that Ragnar has passed away. She is also a fierce fighter in her own right.
Eventually, Astrid leaves Lagertha for Bjorn, and later is forcefully married off to Harald and becomes the victim of a brutal assault. By the end of season five, it is apparent that Lagertha has not forgiven her, since Lagertha ends her and her unborn child.
1 The Children
Here, Travis Fimmel has a tender moment with the two child actors who are playing his sons. Though Fimmel has no family of his own (yet), he convincingly plays a father on the set and the kids who play his children seem to enjoy their time with him. He certainly had his work cut out for him -- through the course of the series, Ragnar had six children.
After his run on Vikings ended, Fimmel was cast in another father role, albeit an unusual one. In the sci-fi drama Raised by Wolves, Fimmel plays an android father whose duty it is to raise six human children.
Which behind-the-scenes photo from Vikings is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!