With such an extensive group of actors on the set of Vikings, not every casting decision can be a home run. Still, the ones who do stand out become longtime favorites and earn a significant place in the show’s history. Even if they’ve already left us, we never forget what these solid actors and actresses contributed to the storylines. For those who haven’t made their mark, it’s harder to be remembered fondly, if at all. Some have the right physical appearance for their character, but not much beyond that. It seems even producers might have noticed these casting errors that later affected the direction the plot would take.
On the flip side, the love we have for our favorite characters is not just a testament to Michael Hirst’s writing, but also the talented people who brought it to life. Some had a few unexpected standout scenes, while others delivered quality acting and commitment throughout every episode. The best of the best are able to balance their intensity with the fine art of subtlety. By understanding their characters fully, they go beyond the script to give us the haunting scenes we return to again and again. The show wouldn’t be what it is today without these actors who fit their roles like a glove, but we could do without ones who are a little lackluster. Don’t worry if you disagree; of course all these actors are doing their best and may impress you in different ways. Just be sure to tell us why!
Here are 8 Casting Decisions That Hurt Vikings (And 12 That Saved It).
20 Saved: Clive Standen – Rollo
The show benefitted from Clive Standen’s enormous stature combined with the fact that Rollo could never seem to find a shirt. Of all the actors, he might have just had the most stereotypically Viking appearance with his broad shoulders and brute strength. He always delivered the wild aggression we expect to see in Viking battles.
Standen isn’t just brawn, though. He captured a different side of Rollo’s character when he settled in Paris and gave up his Norse ways. Now we meet him again in his old age when he returns to Kattegat, and it’s a testament to Standen that we’re not tired of him. We may not have Ragnar anymore, but at least Rollo's increasingly rare appearances are a welcome callback to season one.
19 Hurt: Maude and Georgia Hirst – Helga and Torvi
Nobody can blame Michael Hirst for wanting to give his daughters an acting job, but did he really need to cast both of them in the same show? Maude, who plays Helga, and Georgia, who plays Torvi, look extremely similar, but their characters aren’t even related. Their features don’t look particularly Norse either, considering they’re both English.
Is this really worth confusing viewers? They’re not bad actresses by any means, but the parts could have been filled by those who were the best possible fit for the role. At least one of them is gone now, but we have to wonder if this decision sacrificed a little bit of the integrity of the show.
18 Saved: Alex Høgh Andersen – Ivar
You can take one look into Alex Høgh Andersen's icy blue eyes and know he was the right choice for the role. When Ragnar was written out and the fate of Vikings seemed to be hanging in the balance, this actor stepped up to the plate. He may not be Ragnar, but he has the same aura of a strong lead.
Ivar may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but no one can deny Andersen’s dedication. It must be hard to play someone with a permanent disability having never had that experience, but the actor does it thoughtfully. Clearly nothing affects his lungs, though, because his voice always seems to go decibels higher than everyone else’s!
17 Hurt: David Lindström – Sigurd
Not all the sons of Ragnar can have the same ferocity, but something about Sigurd fell flat. David Lindström didn’t bring anything extra to the character, even though he may have technically had the same potential as some of his brothers. Seeing as his full name was Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, we definitely expected more intensity or fantastic elements from this character.
Not all actors have an equal presence onscreen, and it’s unfortunate that Lindström seemed to fall into the background consistently. Michael Hirst might have noticed this too, since Ivar eliminates Sigurd pretty early on in the tale of Ragnar’s sons. This isn’t historically accurate, so it’s more likely that the role just wasn't working.
16 Saved: Katheryn Winnick – Lagertha
Kathryn Winnick brought elements to Lagertha that even the producers had not yet imagined. Her martial arts experience helped turn Lagertha into one of the most formidable fighters in the series, even outliving the original protagonist Ragnar. Her chemistry with her former husband was organic and entertaining.
Apart from being an actress who apparently doesn’t age, Winnick understands what it means to be a Viking shieldmaiden. She is more subtle than many of her male counterparts, but her drive to rule is riveting. With just a few lines in her calm and steady voice, she can take over an entire scene. Vikings would be lost without her.
15 Hurt: Alyssa Sutherland – Aslaug
The fact that nobody wanted Ragnar to take another wife didn’t really give Alyssa Sutherland a fighting chance. The entrance of Princess Aslaug meant that Lagertha was cast to the side. Though it was Hirst’s attempt to remain historically accurate, the decision to cast Aslaug to begin with irritated viewers. The show blurs history and imagination enough in other areas. Couldn’t we have kept Lagertha as Ragnar’s wife, or at least seen them get back together eventually?
Sutherland’s cold demeanor didn’t help to endear Aslaug to fans. She was Ragnar’s wife right up until she met her end, but nothing Sutherland did allowed her to grow on us.
14 Saved: Morgane Polański – Princess Gisla
Viewers can’t be expected to cheer for the Franks against the Vikings, but something about Gisla made her an admirable character regardless. She’s far from meek, and Polański made sure she would come across this way with an authoritative presence and resolve. She doesn’t flinch in the face of danger, even when the Vikings are scaling the walls of Paris.
The actress’ intensity and commitment gave us a version of Gisla we can appreciate. Even when they aren’t on the Northmen’s side, we always have to admire fierce women who steal the show. Her standout chemistry with Clive Standen's Rollo doesn't hurt, either.
13 Hurt: Dean Ridge – Magnus
It’s debatable whether or not an adult version of Magnus needed to be cast at all. Don’t we have enough sons of Ragnar to follow, let alone one that very well may be a pretender? Most of Ridge’s screen time so far has been about Magnus desperately trying to convince the Northmen that he’s their relative. His eagerness is already tiresome, and his character comes off as annoying.
It’s still up in the air if Magnus could be Ragnar’s son. We never witnessed him accepting Kwenthrith’s advances, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened. What’s clear is that we don’t really want Magnus to stick around long enough to find out the answer.
12 Saved: George Blagden – Athelstan
It takes a special kind of actor to pull off the nuanced character of Athelstan. He goes through many changes and revelations, and George Blagden followed him accurately on that journey. From being an innocent monk to a Viking warrior, and then back to discovering the Christian God, Athelstan has faced both external and personal struggles. His pure relationship with Ragnar also works because of the complex way in which Athelstan is portrayed.
The actor conveys his story without overdramatizing these critical moments. What we love most about Blagden’s version of Athelstan has to be his calm nature that never appears weak. That’s a tough balance to strike, but we’re glad they found the man to do it.
11 Saved: Linus Roache – King Ecbert
Roache earned our respect with his ability to show the complexities of Ecbert’s character. He grew to represent so much more than an Anglo-Saxon adversary, and we actually came to look at him fondly. We’re used to seeing his face on Law & Order, but here he’s perfect as a strong but sympathetic King.
Roache plays the part like a lion that commands your attention. Some of his decisions are cruel, while other moments show us his deep curiosity for his spiritual journey. It must have been a challenge to understand a character that is so multifaceted, and even more so to translate that to the screen.
10 Hurt: Marco Ilsø – Hvitserk
It’s not entirely Marco Ilsø’s fault that Hvitserk didn’t have too many lines for a long time. At first, he didn’t get many opportunities to display his acting skills. That being said, Hvitserk is another character who doesn’t really stand out or demand attention. We’re left wondering if another actor could have brought more to the role right from the beginning.
In the latest season, Hvitserk is finding his own voice more and more, so it will be interesting to see what Ilsø can really do. Still, for now he lacks the charm and fire in his eyes that make other stars of Vikings shine brightly.
9 Saved: Jessalyn Gilsig – Siggy
After Siggy lost everything as the Earl of Kattegat's widow, her journey on the show could have been over. However, she stood out more than her husband, and the show kept her on for far longer than expected. After all, there’s something special that Jessalyn Gilsig brings to Siggy. Despite being a character who can’t fight in battle and has never ruled in her own right, we still see her as a heroine.
Gilsig just has that intangible quality that makes the character jump off the screen in a way that maybe even the writer didn’t anticipate. Before she met her tragic end, Siggy brought a lot to the show thanks to this actress.
8 Hurt: Kevin Durand – Harbard
Harbard was just kind of eerie, not only in his random entrance but also in his mannerisms. We still don’t really know what the point of his character was, and Durand didn’t make him particularly likeable. He was some sort of healer or magician, so you’d think we were meant to see him in a positive light. However, something about this actor didn’t sit right or didn’t mix well with the role.
Harbard was really the only love interest Aslaug had outside of Ragnar, but their strange relationship didn’t last long. Harbard’s character was gone almost as quickly as he came, and probably for good reason.
7 Saved: Jonathan Rhys Meyers – Bishop Heahmund
Most of the cast of Vikings is comprised of relatively unknown actors. Since a lot of them are from Scandinavi and have acted only in their home countries, Jonathan Rhys Meyers was a necessary familiar face. The introduction of his character worked to garner a lot of attention after Ragnar’s demise. At a time when fans didn’t know if the show would survive, Meyers injected new energy into subsequent episodes.
It helps a great deal that Bishop Heahmund is a fascinating character who backs up his religious devotion with vicious action. Since Meyers previously played King Henry VIII on The Tudors, we all knew he would have the ferocity to succeed in this role.
6 Hurt: Alicia Agneson – Freydis
Alicia Agneson comes off as sugary sweet, but with an evil streak underneath. We expected more of the latter from Ivar’s chosen wife. Freydis doesn’t seem too different from ones who have come before her like Margrethe, and is acted similarly as well. She even looks the same, and nothing about this actress really makes us want to get wholly invested in her character.
This could have been an opportunity to give us another admirable female role. In truth, the writing for most of the women involved with the Ragnarssons have been lacking. Agneson hasn’t exactly made herself stand out, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she’s next to go.
5 Saved: Amy Bailey – Kwenthrith
Queen Kwenthrith’s energy has to be hard to live up to, but Amy Bailey never backed down from giving her all to this character. Her intense dark hair and glaring eyes gave Kwenthrith a severe appearance, but the real test came in the charisma the character had to embody. She stole the show from many of the men surrounding her, whether she was hanging out in the castles of Wessex or the Viking war camps.
Bailey's comedic skills were another standout element of her performance. She captured Kwenthrith's wild reactions perfectly, which earned her place as a memorable cast member for sure.
4 Saved: Thornbjørn Harr – Jarl Borg
His name alone makes him the perfect casting choice, but not many actors could have pulled off the scene that Thorbjørn Harr is remembered for. When Jarl Borg gets blood-eagled, the actor portrays the depth of emotion that came with meeting such a cruel end. Borg wasn’t meant to be super likeable as a main antagonist, but Harr’s remarkable talent quickly turned this around in the moment.
He had to be able to portray the worst pain imaginable without making a sound, a demanding task for any actor! Since the scene took all night to film, it makes his performance all the more impressive. That moment would have been a tough one to sell without incredible acting to back it up.
3 Saved: Gustaf Skarsgård – Floki
There’s good reason for this guy to be one of the only remaining original cast members on the show. Gustaf Skarsgård has proven himself over and over to be one of the most astounding actors on Vikings. He brought much more to the character of Floki than was on paper, and that has to be the sign of a great actor. Fans love everything from his quirky laugh to undeniable charm, and even mostly isolated in his own story, he captures our attention.
Floki could have been written out long ago, but Hirst has taken the time to see him through more personal journeys. He’s now in a more important role than ever as a pioneer of Iceland.
2 Hurt: Ben Roe – Guthrum
The son of Jarl Borg and Torvi seemed destined for a greater story than he got. He was not yet a man when he met his end, despite the huge potential such a character had. He never met his father, as he was still in the womb during Borg’s execution. He could have kept Borg’s legacy and memory alive, but instead actor Ben Roe was cut loose.
Roe wasn’t a commanding actor in this role, and this didn’t help fans get on board. He also didn’t look a thing like either of his parents, with his very dark hair and eyes. Maybe if he resembled Jarl Borg, we would have at least been reminded of his lineage.
1 Saved: Travis Fimmel – Ragnar
Yes, the sky is blue, the Pope is Catholic, and Travis Fimmel is the best thing to happen to Vikings. Who would have thought that a laidback Australian guy could play Ragnar Lothbrok so perfectly? Fimmel embodies the essence of the man who just wanted to be a farmer and never sought to be King, yet found himself in that position and handled it with aplomb. In all of his victories and losses, there was never a moment when he wasn’t believable. The subtlety Fimmel used to portray one of the most courageous Viking legends proved his worth time and time again.
His impossibly blue eyes don’t hurt, either.
Who are your some of your favorite Vikings cast members? Let us know in the comments!