We’ve made no secret that we love the History Channel’s Vikings around these parts. A large part of that stems from its amazing female characters. There’s the shieldmaiden Lagertha, whose husband Ragnar runs the (literal and figurative) show. Siggy, expert manipulator, friend of Lagertha, and wife of the former Earl. And Aslaug, played by Alyssa Sutherland. She’s relatively new to the scene, introduced at the end of season one as a Viking princess whom Ragnar very much wanted to know better. Now, three episodes into the second season (have you been reading our recaps?), she’s his wife and the mother of (some of) his children.
But Sutherland won’t be tolerating anyone who tries to pit Aslaug against Lagertha, dismissing her character as a “homewrecker” or “the other woman” in the process. The Mary Sue was invited to a roundtable discussion with the actress, and we very much liked what she had to say.
Aslaug was something of a contentious character among Vikings fan when she was first introduced due to her potential of her relationship with Ragnar throwing a kink (no, not that kind) into his marriage with Lagertha. (To be fair to the fandom, it’s my own experience that Ragnar caught far, far more hell than Aslaug.) The season two marketing for Vikings, with a promo titled “Love Triangle,” seemed to want to cash in on presenting Aslaug as someone who rolls into Kattegat ready to steal Lagertha’s man.
But back up, says Sutherland. “I think what’s really cool about this show is we’re portraying a really different time period to a modern audience,” she explains. “Back in that time period, there were instances of polygamy… To dilute it down to Aslaug to being a ‘homewrecker’ or ‘the other woman’… I question whether that concept would even have existed back then. I like the complications of that storyline.” Further, Aslaug’s not doing anything that most people in her situation wouldn’t: “What other pregnant chick wouldn’t chase down the babydady and say ‘Um, excuse me? There’s something that you haven’t dealt with.'”
And it’s not like Aslaug set out to be an evil, eeeeevil woman disrupting Ragnar and Lagertha’s perfect love in the first place: “When [creator] Michael Hirst and I talked about Aslaug at the end of the first season, we weren’t talking about manipulation, we weren’t talking about this woman with this real ulterior motive. We were talking about Aslaug and Ragnar feeling like they were destined to be with one another.”
It’s funny, because people sort of love to say that she’s a a homewrecker, and she’s this other woman. But if you think about it from her point of view, in that time period men did sleep with other women while they were away. That was something that was mentioned episode one, season one! Lagertha says ‘Don’t sleep with too many women in Kattegat!’ [Aslaug] gets knocked up, and the guy that does it goes back and leaves her, so what is she left to do? She’s gonna have a baby. She was orphaned herself and doesn’t know her parents, and she’s gonna make damn sure that doesn’t happen to her kid.”
So stow your double standards at the door, please. Sutherland also talks about how Aslaug, as a result of losing her parents, is “untrusting” of her new subjects, and “likes to keep an eye out, wants to be a step ahead of everyone all the time.” It makes sense: She’s an outsider in Kattegat, someone whom no one really knows, whereas her predecessor Lagertha was loved by all (no surprises there, Lagertha being wonderful and all). Why wouldn’t she be somewhat defensive in looking out for herself and her children?
So cut Sutherland some slack if she’s a wee bit defensive herself on behalf of her character, too. “It’s interesting to see what people do when they put labels onto Aslaug so quickly after, what, three scenes that they saw [by] the end of the first season?” But she keeps is classy, calling that anti-Aslaug tendency “a real testament to how invested [the fans] are in Lagertha and Ragnar… It’s interesting to me to see what people project upon a character when they feel strongly toward another one. And again I think it’s a testament to the show and what Michael has been able to do with these characters and how the fans are so invested in them that they feel maybe even more hurt by Ragnar’s betrayal than Lagertha does.”
Preach it, Alyssa. Lagertha’s better off without him, though her new husband needs to die in a fire. And Aslaug’s proven herself more than capable of keeping her occasionally immature, perpetually goat-snuggling (see top pic) hubby in line. It’s a role that Sutherland relishes playing: “I think so many female actresses are after these layered, strong female roles. Obviously Lagertha is this exceptional character, this badass woman going around and fighting alongside men… And then Aslaug is this really strong, smart princess. I love the idea that we get that opportunity on a show that’s actually centered a little bit more around the guys, when you think about it, [with] the action sequences and the battles. It’s so cool to be a part of that.”
(Photo credit: Bernard Walsh)