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Interview: Gaia Weiss talks playing a slave girl on History's hit 'Viking' show

Gaia Weiss as Porunn on "Vikings."
Gaia Weiss as Porunn on "Vikings."

"Vikings" introduces a potential new love interest for Bjorn Lothbrok (Alexander Ludwig) when French beauty Gaia Weiss joins the cast as Porunn, a slave girl, on tonight's episode of the History Channel series. But as with any good drama, the road to romance is a bumpy one!

"It kind of breaks or challenges the taboo or conventions, because Bjorn is from a higher rank and she's a slave," Weiss told reporters in a conference call to promote her first appearance. "They are not really clear about their relationship. At first, it's a secret. Porrun has only really known serfdom and brutality. She can’t really believe that someone like Bjorn is genuinely interested in her as a person. Things are quite complex."

Weiss, who is best known for role as Hebe in "Hercules, the Legend Begins," also reveals learning about Vikings as child because of her mother, the physical challenges of the role, how she sees Porunn and more.

How does your character get introduced to this crowd of Vikings?

Porunn is a slave to the Lothbrok family, so she’s been around, but you haven’t noticed her. She’s just been part of the picture, but she gets introduced in the show when Bjorn notices her when he comes back home. He starts showing interest in her.

What was your first day like on the "Vikings" set?

As every first day is, it was really stressful. Most of the cast already knew each other from the first series and the beginning of the second, so I didn't know anyone. My first day on-set was really physical. You’re going to see it in the first episode. I spent the first day doing lots of sports, mainly dancing. It was a bit nerve-wracking to dance in front of everyone.

Can you tell us a little bit about Porunn and what motivates her as a character?

She is really complex and challenging. She's not 20 yet, because she’s around Bjorn’s age, but she's always been a servant. Her parents were captured in a raid, so, therefore, she has been a servant all her life. So, she's one of these teenagers that's a lot more mature She’s already a woman. She’s been through quite a lot, and like all of the women in the village, she’s fascinated by Lagertha.

You posted a photo on Twitter of your bloody hand. How physical was your role on the show?

I was just coming out of another physical movie, called "Hercules." I was training everyday at the gym, and all the guys were fighting. It was fun to watch, as well as train with them. You’ll see in the first episode and as it unfolds, if I’m not dancing or doing things like that, I’m carrying really heavy stuff, I’m a slave, so, yes, I had to build up some muscles.

Does Porunn have any interest in becoming a shield maiden herself?

Well, as a slave, I’m not sure it’s possible, and it’s something really abstract, but she can dream of it.

What was the most surprising thing that you learned about Viking culture and being a Viking woman from this role?

Actually, when I was little, my mother was really interested in Viking myths, so I was raised on them. I reread the myths because it really inspires the show because they are talking about Odin and all the gods that are watching over Vikings. I read the Icelandic Saga, which was mind-blowing to be honest. What I learned recently, though, is that Lagertha was a typical Viking woman of the time. Even though they were not all raiding, they were ruling men in the village. I thought they exaggerated her, but, no, these were strong women.

What was the most difficult part of the role for you?

I am learning everyday on "Vikings," because it is my first TV show. It is full of amazing actors. As I am learning every day, I am always 100 per cent present. I also have to go to the gym quite a lot because she is a slave and has to carry very heavy stuff. It is physical.

"Vikings" airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.

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