History's scripted drama Vikings has returned for its second season, with just as much blood and intrigue as its first. To mark the occasion, BFTV recently had the opportunity to talk with two of the show's stars, George Blagden (who plays Athelstan) and Alyssa Sutherland (Auslaug). Here's what George and Alyssa had to tell us about their characters and where those characters are headed in season two.
"I find that on Vikings, what we've been able to do is actually mirror character changes and actor changes," George said. "When we're on set, we get scripts maybe two or three weeks in advance of shooting them, so as an actor you are unaware of what will be happening to your character in more than a month's time.
"Had I known [what] was going to happen to Athelstan when we started shooting the start of season one, I really doubt I would have been able to portray the character as well or as accurately as I have done. It's a real bonus working that way, and it's what's great about episodic television. So we're very lucky that we sort of work in that way with Michael [Hirst] and his writing."
"We leave Athelstan at the end of season one in a very conflicted place," he continued. "The most interesting characters to both play as an actor and to watch as an audience are the ones that have deep conflicts running throughout them. It would have been far too easy for us to have made Athelstan just completely converted Pagan and sort of gung-ho into Viking life. What I think, hopefully, we've been really able to capture throughout season two is this ongoing conflict that Athelstan has. It's absolutely ongoing for Athelstan, this very deep and internal religious conflict."
Also evolving is Athelstan's relationship with Ragnar (Travis Fimmel). "It's changed quite a lot, I would say," George told us. "Ragnar captures Athelstan at the start of season one, and we have this very complex master/slave relationship that develops into sort of friendship and companionship by the end of season one. What we have at the start of season two is a four-year jump at the end of episode one. After this four-year jump we really see Athelstan integrate into the society.
"And also, the way Travis and I decided to play it was Athelstan was the one figure in his life that he could really trust with all of the marital issues that he has to deal with in episode one and moving into episode two. He really is his only sort of strong point to anchor onto," he continued. "I think what you find with their relationship at the start of season two is very deep friendship for each other, and I think as we move through season two, you really do understand how much these two men are connected and how important they are for each other. And what choices they make to try and make sure that they are always constant in each other's lives."
What happens to Ragnar's mistress, Auslaug? "There isn't so much of a change between the last episode of the first season and where we pick up in the second season, but I can tell you she's sure going on a hell of a ride over the course of the second season," teased Alyssa. "A lot happens to her. She goes through a lot. I'm really excited for people to see the different side to her."
Describing the characters' relationship, she told us, "I think when they first meet ,there's a lot of chemistry and they're both attracted to one another and there's this great matching of wits. When you have that sort of intelligent connection with someone, that's a really attractive thing. I think initially that's what happened between the two of them.
"I think reality sort of sets in as well and he's gotten himself into a little bit of a pickle," she continued. "It's kind of interesting to see how all of the characters deal with it. Auslaug, with what she's been through, she was orphaned at a really young age and I think she's a little bit untrusting of people and likes to keep an eye out and sort of wants to be a step ahead of everyone all the time. I think where they end up is a really kind of a nice thing."
"I think what's really cool about the show is that we're portraying a really different time period to a modern audience," Alyssa said. "Right now we're in the late 8th century, and what's really exciting is for me is that we get to show people what possibly would have happened - and back in that time period, there were instances of polygamy. I think it's really cool that we get to bring this idea to modern audiences.
"It's interesting to me how they struggle with the idea and sort of dilute it down to Auslaug being the homewrecker or the other woman. I sort of question whether that concept would have even existed back then," she continued. "I like the complications of that storyline. I became a actress to provoke people and move people and to tell the stories. So for me, it's still quite early on in my acting career, and to have the opportunity to have such a complicated storyline full of conflict and such a layered character, that's so cool."
Vikings continues Season 2 tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on History. For more, check out our news brief on Law & Order's Linus Roache joining the cast.