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Vikings - Series 1 - Interview With Actress Roanna Cochrane

Photo by John Clark
Vikings is nearing the end of it's first season and things have been heating up in the last few episodes. Episode 6 in particular was full on tense moments, lots of action, and a few surprises as well. In writing the reviews each week I've gotten the wonderful opprotunity to get to know many of the actors on the show, and I have been awed by their absolute admiration and love for the show. Episode 6 introduced us to the lovely Roanna Cochrane, who played the sacrificial slave girl. Although her time was short lived, she gave a captivating performance and remains an avid viewer and fan of the show. I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her experience filming the show, her thoughts on the role of women in Vikings, and her work in period dramas. She offers an insightful look on what it's like to film such an intricate show that's full of historical detail and tense action.

 SpoilerTV:   How did you get your start in acting?

Roanna Cochrane:  My first professional acting job was playing Ariel in The Tempest dressed, head to foot, in bandages, in a small theatre above a pub.

 STV: Have you always wanted to be an actress?

 RC: Yes, I have really. I'm a Taurus, so I'm pretty stubborn when it comes to pursuing something I'm really passionate about. I was so keen to join drama classes aged 12 that I phoned up and booked myself in! 

STV: How did you get involved in Vikings?

RC: I remember hearing Clive Standen talking about his new TV project Vikings whist we were working on The Heart of Dicken Partridge. I thought this sounds like a cool TV series, and luckily enough, I was seen for it.

STV: You've done a few period pieces, how do you feel about the genre in particular? Do you enjoy it?

RC: It's a great excuse to learn some history and get out of jeans and trainers. And sometimes it is easy to forget how far we've come with technology, how a woman’s place in society has evolved, how different things were to how we live our lives now.

STV: There is a difficulty in historical dramas in balancing historical accuracy and entertainment value, as someone who had a role in the show and is also a viewer, do you feel that Vikings achieves this balance?

RC: Absolutely. We can see History's fine detail when watching Lagertha teach Gyda how to work the loom, Bjorn's acceptance into society with his ceremony, to unanimous voting for sentencing a villager to death. MGM wanted to retain the drama of a TV series and I really think they have achieved this balance. The raid in Episode 5 was so exhilarating and the duel between the Earl and Ragnar was pretty tense.

STV: What sort of research was involved for this role? Did you research Vikings in general or anything specific to you character? 

RC: The producers decided that my character should be Slovakian, as she is a slave that was captured by the Vikings on a raid to the East. I had to understand her cultural background and the journey she must’ve experienced to become such a part of the Viking community, her belief in Valhalla and total commitment to the Earl.

STV: What was the most interesting thing you learned about Viking culture while working on the show? 

RC: I was really interested in Valhalla, the Viking afterlife. The Vikings didn’t fear death. If they were brave warriors they could feast in the Great Hall in Valhalla.

STV: What was the atmosphere like on set?

RC: It was a very happy set to be on. Despite the torrential rain, the cast and crew were optimistic and had a great sense of humour. There was great camaraderie in The Green Room with games of Viking Scrabble and Truth and Lies going round.

STV: Was there anyone you particularly enjoyed working with or learned the most from? 

RC: I was impressed how focused Travis Fimmel was on set and how still he could be on camera yet always commanding authority. He makes it look so easy! I was equally impressed with the extras and how wonderfully optimistic they were whilst dancing and splashing in the mud soaked field with constant smiles on their faces.

STV: When watching the show as a viewer you get the sense that a lot of care and detail goes into the making of this show, did you feel that on set? 

RC: Oh yes. From the attention to detail in Joan Bergin's costumes to the dialect coach, Poll Moussoulides, working with the actors on their authentic Norwegian accents, to the lyrics and tune for the traditional Norse song I sang. Having the show on the History Channel meant we had to be authentic which in turn strengthened the plot, themes and general integrity of the series.

STV: Women on this show are portrayed as very strong, do you think that's an important message to send to young women today? 

RC: The role of women is an interesting one in this series. Lagertha is a brave shield-maiden, loyal wife and loving mother. She is as skilful in battle as any of the men but still has to have Ragnar's permission to join them on their raids. I am sure modern women of today can understand her struggle to be accepted in a male dominated environment but also to be a loyal wife and mother. Katheryn Winnick portrays her beautifully.

STV: Although your character is being sacrificed as a slave she is someone that is still showed as a strong character, someone who has accepted her fate but meets it bravely. Was there anything in particular you drew on in order to portray this? 

RC: The Slave Girl chooses to die, as she would never get the chance to live in Valhalla if it wasn't for this opportunity. I think it’s a very important distinction: that she chooses to be sacrificed. I suppose it shows how much she’s accepted the Viking way of life, their customs and religious beliefs. But have I personally ever been kidnapped, forced to live a life of slavery, and then desired to be sacrificed as a means of absolution? No, not really.

STV: As someone who watches the show and someone who portrayed a slave, how do you feel about how the show portrays the relationship between Vikings and slaves? 

RC: I think the show is very honest about the relationships. There is the Slave who gets raped by Rollo; we see the role of the Slave through the character of Athelstan who tries to accept their culture in order to save himself and we see the fateful end of the Priests who are captured as Slaves and then hung as a reminder to those who do not conform.

STV: What was your favorite moment from filming? 

RC: I really enjoyed filming the sacrificial scene. It was epic. The drums were pounding, there were 120 villagers cheering on her death and it was all very exhilarating to film. It was also great fun going round with a slit throat for a couple of days. I got a lot of funny looks!

STV: Is there anything you are looking forward to seeing on the show? Or anything you are really hoping to see? 

RC: I am looking forward to Episode 8. I hear it is quite a climactic episode with many religious elements to it. I am curious to see how Athelstan finds his way in the Viking Community.

STV: You also recently appeared on Mr. Selfridge, obviously it's a bit more elegant that getting down and dirty with the Vikings. Which time period do you enjoy more? 

RC: It's hard to compare really. I suppose the Viking costumes didn’t require a corset, so you could eat your lunch and still have room to breathe! The social class in Mr. Selfridge fascinates me, however, the desire and recklessness of the Viking culture is like no other.

STV: What was the most valuable thing you learned while working on Vikings? 

RC: I learnt that as a supporting character you have to fit into the world of the film as best you can in a short space of time. You need to respect the work already created and then build on it.

STV: If you could play any other character in the show who would it be? (And do you have a favorite character?)

RC: Floki! He’s awesome. He’s my favourite character.

STV: Are there any roles you would love to play, or any genre you would love to get into? 

RC: I've always said I'd like to do a horror film. I'm a complete wimp so I figure it would make for some realistic acting!

STV: We always like to know, are there any shows you are particularly into at the moment? (We are a TV blog after all!) 

RC: I was gripped on Homeland and I'm now watching Game of Thrones, which is great fun. I've also just finished House of Cards. It's interesting to see the way TV series are carving the way as the new cinema and with Netflix producing their own series, I'm curious to see where television goes next.

STV: And finally, what's next on the horizon for you? 

RC: I've just finished a film called Not Very Nice People by Vermillion Films. It's a dark comedy with a masochistic twist. Any girl who has been cheated on will enjoy this. But boyfriends watch out. The lengths that women will go to get revenge...

Thank you so much to Roanna for taking the time to talk about the show, and tune in for the season finale of Vikings this Sunday at 10pm

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