Interview: ‘Vikings’ Star Alex Høgh Andersen Discusses Ivar’s Journey

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Photo by Jonathan Hession

Vikings season 6 premieres in just a few days, and we are beyond excited to see how the final season will play out for our favorite characters. Season 5 ended with one of the most intense battles between brothers, leaving one victorious and the other running for his life. We recently caught up with Alex Høgh Andersen, who skillfully plays the fierce character of Ivar the Boneless. He talked with us about what is in store for Ivar this season and what it is like portraying a ruthless tyrant.

Photo by Jonathan Hession

Shikha Bajracharya: At the end of season 5, we saw Ivar barely escape the battle of Kattegat, and although most likely still hates his brothers, do you think there is any part of him that regrets how far everything went?

Alex Høgh Andersen: I’m a big believer in not judging your character and always being able to defend him, and he was so extremely tough to defend in season 5. And you know what I had some tough days on set. After I did a scene where I was like my god he’s crazy, I can’t do him any more. I truly believe he regrets it. He lost. It was not a perfectly executed plan. Everything failed. He lost the crown; he ended up killing his first love – my god, that is a tough loss. And so I think he absolutely regrets it. But I also think he is not a guy who wants to stay too much in the past. The past is something that hurts him quite a bit. So what he’s doing is getting the best out of it.

What you experience in season 6 is that he will really learn from this, and he will, for the first time, start to look in and think, ‘Hey, did I do something wrong for once?’ And that is very interesting to me. It’s been great to work with, and he’s going to grow a lot as a person and go through a really big transformation within.

SB: So you think it probably humbled him a bit then to really feel that defeat for the first time?

AHA: That’s a great way to put it. I don’t know if he is a guy who can every truly be humbled, but I think he is never going to admit it. He is extremely humbled inside but is never going to admit it, and he’s never going show it. The only time we are ever going to see it as an audience is if we are alone with him in his own room when he is not an ‘actor’ because my god he is an actor! He is acting tough all the time, and he’s pretending to be smart, funny, and cool, showing that he’s impenetrable, and he’s not. Now he understands that because he was almost shot dead, and his heart is hurting quite a bit. He’s on a learning experience.

Photo by Bernard Walsh

SB: Do you think things would have gotten as out of control as it did between all the brothers if their father, Ragnar, had still been alive? 

AHA: That’s a good question. Well, if Ragnar never died, they would have never accomplished the things that they accomplished. They probably wouldn’t have tried to kill each other as much as they had. It’s interesting; I don’t know because he left them for like 8 – 10 years or so, and they were becoming young men who wanted to accomplish their own dreams. The question is, would they have done it together, or would they have spread out and accomplished things on their own? The one thing that brought them together was the death of Ragnar. It was also the one thing that separated them, and that is what great storytelling is all about. Thank you, Michael Hirst!

Photo by Jonathan Hession

SB: What’s the most challenging part of playing a character with physical limitations, especially in a battle scene? How has that challenged you?

AHA: It’s hard, and it’s physically tough. It’s more physically tough than it is mentally, I have to say. Because portraying him, that’s not hard on my mental state. I’ve had a lot of people ask, ‘Don’t you get a little crazy yourself portraying him?’ And I have to say no because for me that’s pretending. I’m not a method actor kind of guy.

What I do instead is experience them physically, because I am crawling around and doing everything myself stunt-wise. To crawl 10 meters on the ground is uncomfortable, and you have to do that same scene 10 times in a row, and that’s when it starts hurting. It’s been tough, but every single time you have a hard time accomplishing things when you then accomplish them, that’s when you get real satisfaction out of it. That has been the major thing about portraying Ivar. It’s been such a privilege.

I love those scenes. It’s so visual, it keeps reminding me of what he is going through, and you need to do that. I love the scenes where I’m crawling and showing his disability. Because if I’m just sitting down on a chair, I kinda look like everyone else. But if I’m doing a whole scene where I’m crawling around, people will be reminded about what he is going through on a daily basis. That will help Ivar and me in the long-term with the audience’s respect and love for him because he is challenging them all the time. So every single time I had a chance to bring them in a little and understand why he is acting the way he is and what he has been through, I need to, and I love to because it helps me out and it helps Ivar out.

Photo by Jonathan Hession

SB: In this new season, Ivar meets Prince Oleg, who is supposed to be worse than him. Do you think that him seeing another tyrant through a different perspective having just lost his own battle, will have any effect on him?

AHA: That is so much on point! It’s what is happening in those scenes and what Michael Hirst and I created with that – it’s a reflection. It’s a mirror of him being himself, and that is what season 6 is all about, and that’s what we needed for Ivar. Because if he’s been so horrible, we need to bring him back. We need people to love him again, and how do you do that? Well, you do that by making a person reflect on themselves and look in. And that’s a perfect opportunity when you have to create another character who is just as horrible as him.

When he does all those horrible things, Ivar is now on the outside looking in instead of in the middle of the storm. The eye of the storm, because when you are in there, you can forget everything in the heat of the moment. Now that he’s on the outside looking in, and he’s in a vulnerable position as well. He has no power, and his life is in the hands of another guy, and he’s never been in this situation before. It’s very humbling, and I think that is great. He will be self-reflecting quite a bit, and that is exactly what he needs!

Photo by Jonathan Hession

SB: Do you think in the back of his mind, he is always thinking about how to get back to Kattegat and win it back and get revenge?

AHA: Yea, I think he always has a plan. But he also understands that things take time, especially in this situation where he has no power. He needs to be treating this situation very carefully. He can be very smart and tread carefully. It’s going to take time, but that is what is so interesting about those scenes that I have with the wonderful great Prince Oleg, played by Danila Kozlovsky, who, by the way, did a phenomenal job. Our scenes are great because there is that interesting dynamic between the two of them. They are frenemies, he’s a friend, but he’s also an enemy. Ivar has a plan, and he’s kind of manipulating him, while he’s also getting manipulated himself. It’s that political game that I love and what Vikings does quite well, especially in seasons 2 and 3.

SB: With the show coming to an end in this last season, do you think there is any hope for reconciliation between Ivar and his brothers?

AHA: Hopefully, but he’s done a terrible job. He’s burned every single bridge. He’ll figure something out, maybe? Maybe the brothers need him? I don’t know. They will never admit, but they do need each other. I think eventually the situation will get there, and he will probably try in his very weird Ivar way where he is going to start out by saying, ‘I hate you.’

Photo by Jonathan Hession

SB: Looking at all the characters from the Viking world, if you could have played any other character on the show, who would you choose and why?

AHA: I love Linus Roache’s work, and I love King Ecbert! I wouldn’t be able to do that because I’m not as manly as Linus with that deep voice. I could probably do a younger Floki maybe, but I love Ivar. There are a lot of great characters on the show. I also loved Ragnar. Travis did a phenomenal job with that character. I think he did the show. If it wasn’t for Travis, we probably wouldn’t have gone to season 6. King Alfred is going to have some crazy cool stuff too.

SB: For my last question, I understand you are really into photography, and I’ve seen some of your work on your Instagram account, and they are great! Is there any chance you are thinking of putting together a photography book?

AHA: That is exactly what I’m working on. There are a lot of things to figure out, but I’m working on it. I think it needs some context for the photos. Maybe I’m going to interview some people from the crew talking about their experience working on the show. It’s mainly going to be a massive shout out to all the people who created the show. I mean, I’m an actor, and everyone makes me look good, but all those people in the background are really the ones who created the show. I’m nothing without those 200 extras standing behind me in those scenes and the crew. The crew who make the beautiful sets and do impossible stuff are phenomenal at what they are doing. This book is going to be a massive shout out to them who don’t usually get all the prestige or recognition.

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Tanya, Costume Department. @historyvikings

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A big thank you to Alex Høgh Andersen for taking the time to speak with us and giving us some incredible insight into his character, Ivar! Make sure to follow him on his social media pages:

This season’s final journey for Ivar and his brothers is sure to be intense and brutal. The show also stars Katheryn Winnick, Alexander Ludwig, Peter Franzen, Jordan Patrick Smith, Marco Ilsø, Georgia Hirst, and Gustaf Skarsgård.

Catch up on the season 5 finale and watch a preview of the new season here.

Season 6 of Vikings returns with a two-hour premiere on Wednesday, December 4, at 9 p.m. EST on History.

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