This Sunday the "Vikings" will set sail once again when HISTORY premieres its nine-part series based on the fierce Norsemen, who struck terror in the hearts of neighboring countries when each summer they would set sail on their annual raids.
The Vikings are famous for their brutality as they raped, burned and pillaged villages in their drive to acquire the wealth of others. The majority of stories about these fierce warriors have been told by their victims. Now, in "Vikings," their accomplishments will be revealed through personal lives.
"Vikings" is the story of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a man who is a cut above average, who believes that if his clan sails west instead of east, it will open up a whole new world of wealth for the raiders to bring home.
"The creator and writer Michael Hirst was amazing," says Fimmel. "He gave us a lot of background on everything. It's our job as actors to humanize it and make it relevant to people today and give them something that they can grab a hold of, you know? Everybody's got families and every family has their own conflicts. My character Ragnar is very ambitious like a lot of people and he's just trying to make a better life for himself."
But in his desire to prove himself right, Ragnar has to go against his local chieftain, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), who continues to send his Viking raiders east every summer, to the Baltic states and Russia, whose populations are as materially poor as themselves.
The first raiding party to the west -- which Ragner leads without permission -- lands on the shores of England, where the Norseman come upon a monastery full of gold crosses, goblets and the like. When Ragnar returns, he knows that Haraldson can sentence him to death for his insubordination, so he offers him the bounty -- keeping only for himself one of the monks that was captured to be a slave.
"When he first captures me, when he saves my life, he discovers I speak his language. At that moment, I think he is so physically intelligent that he decides in that moment, 'This man is going to be useful to me. I'm going to keep him alive and I'm going to use him,'" says George Blagden, who plays the Christian monk Athelstan. "So it really is that sort of master/slave relationship, where he is using me."
It is also Haraldson's wife Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) who convinces the chieftain to give Ragnar a bit of free reign. Siggy likes her position as the women behind the most powerful man in the clan, but she also likes the wealth promised by Ragnar's new discovery.
"Their relationship was a partnership and this was a family of power," says Gilsig, who enjoyed her collaboration with Byrne. "He's the voice and he's the public face of it, but this [power] all came out of a pooling of resources and our intellect. I always thought when I was playing the role that as many scenes as there are where she is not speaking, she's very present. There's a reason that she's in the room and absorbing all of this information. Together they go back afterwards and rehash what they have seen and plan their next move."
Also in the cast are Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha, a fierce shield maiden and Ragnar's wife; Gustaf Skarsgard as Floki, who helps Ragnar build a new generation of boats, and Clive Standen as Rollo, Ragnar's impulsive, wild, care-free brother.
"Rollo is very different to Ragnar," says Standen. "Whereas Ragnar is very much a thinker -- he's on a quest for knowledge and to escape and to rise in the Viking kingdom, Rollo is very different to that. He's an old-school Viking. He thinks he knows what he knows. He's a hedonist, and he's a sociopath and I love him."
"Vikings" will also delve into how the Vikings -- the last pagans -- worshipped ancient gods like Odin, Thor, Freya and Loki. Ragnar claims to be a direct descendant of the Norse god Odin, who, as well as being the god of warriors slain in battle, is also the god of curiosity.
"They were very courageous," says Fimmel. "It's amazing that they had the guts to sail across the ocean when they don't know if something was at the other end. It's sort of a suicide mission in a way. They were just very courageous people and very ambitious and curious people."
"Vikings" premieres Sunday, March 3 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HISTORY.