Clive Standen and his fellow actors on the hit History Channel series “Vikings” are now into their second season. Fans are loving the series and if you have seen the show you know why. Clive plays the role of Rollo Lothbrok, who is the main character’s brother. Rollo is based on the historical figure, who was the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror.
I was able to talk with Clive about the success of “Vikings,” fatherhood, fans obsession with the crew’s hair extensions, fight choreography, and more.
Art Eddy: Season 2 is now here for “Vikings.” I loved Season 1. You guys got a lot fans of the show. As an actor do you feel more pressure to live up to the hype for this season?
Clive Standen: Oh definitely. The pressure really came from Season 1. We didn’t know if anyone was going to watch it. As soon as we got picked up for Season 2 some of that pressure was taken away. The reason is that you have that faith underneath you. You are riding into battle so to speak. You have a responsibility to get it right. You have to be thankful for the fans because they are the ones that made another season come about.
There are nerves and trepidation obviously, but a lot of it has been okay lets knuckle down and make this story explode. Judging by the first episode this season anyway people will hopefully agree with me and say it is bigger than the first.
AE: Speaking of fans. I see that you do some interaction with fans on Twitter. Do you like having social media as a way to chat with your fans?
CS: I do, but sometimes it can be your worst enemy. (Both laugh.) You can sometimes hear just as many bad comments as good comments. You can’t please everyone, but it is nice to have that sort of feedback. With social media these days it is good in a sense that you can switch things up a bit if you can get a handle on what people think of it. Producers of the show I am sure listen to everyone’s comments on Twitter. We give people a show that they want to watch. So I think it is a good tool to have.
AE: I want to know who is talking bad about the show. (Both laugh.)
CS: It is not necessarily who is talking bad about the show. Some people aren’t a fan of Rollo. I think that sometimes is a good thing. When people say, ‘Rollo is such a whatever,’ I tend to favor those comments. That is what people should be thinking. Hopefully by the end of this season people will feel sorry for Rollo. I think he is going to surprise some people.
AE: Rollo is based on a real historical figure so how much research did you do for the character of Rollo?
CS: I never stop researching any role that I take on. Even if it is not a historical role I try to do everything I can. I need to immerse myself in that world. I like to lose myself. I am still doing that now. Michael (Hirst) can write anything. This world is so unworldly. It is so visceral and fantastical that anything can feasibly happen. Any of these sagas Michael can latch onto and say this is the way we are going to go with an episode.
I want to feel like I am at least ahead of the game. I want to know what I am doing here. I want to be in that world instead of something hitting me from left field. So I am always researching Rollo. What is different from Rangar and Rollo is that Ragnar was a real Viking. He really did live it. A lot of what is documented of him is in the sagas. Some of those are fantastical. They are almost like Arthurian legends.
For Rollo in history books a lot of what happens with him is in France. It is all there. There is so much documented there. He is the great, great, great, great grandfather of William the Conqueror. There is a lineage there that I can draw off of.
AE: Your fighting scenes are intense on the show. I take it your background as a Muay Thai boxer and fencing has helped you out with those scenes.
CS: Definitely, but the people that should be given credit for that is Franklin Henson and Richard Ryan. They are our stunt coordinators. They have worked on films like “Troy” and the modern “Sherlock Holmes” movie with Robert Downey Jr.
We all sat down and talked about things. There are a lot of things on TV and film where the battle scenes look like they are too choreographed. They are almost like a dance. It works for “Lord of the Rings.” He can spin around and do all sorts of things because he is an elf. It is fantasy.
We want to bring the audience into the shield. We want to bring them right into the action. We want to make the audience feel like these characters can die at any minute. It has to be brutal. It is a land of kill or be killed. These characters might not come out of it alive. They are not superheroes. Lagertha (Lothbrok) is not “Xena: Warrior Princess.” She is going to get smacked in the face. If she is going to take on these guys she is going to go down fighting. You got to feel that.
We work on the choreography. We work tirelessly with Richard to kind of choreograph the scenes. When it comes to the day the weather in Ireland is always changing to say the least. What you learn in the comfort of a studio you suddenly are out on the landscape and it is pouring and the mud is up to your shins. You are slipping and sliding. That choreography that you learned on your feet now might be done on your knees. You just carry on. You do not want to be that guy that puts his hand up when there is a 100 stuntmen running around behind you and say, ‘Hey can we do that again?’ You just adapt and overcome.
AE: I have been checking out the press for this season. It seems like a lot of people are infatuated about you and your fellow actor’s hair extensions. Did you ever think that would be a topic of conversation for the show?
CS: I know exactly, but it is also a thing where you are an actor. I am filming a movie called “Everest” at the moment. It is set in 1996. We are all mountain climbers and I had to get my hair cut short for the role.
Sometimes people are like, ‘Whoa.’ “Vikings” is six months of my year and I got the other six months of the year to fill up my calendar. I can’t go around looking like a Hell’s Angel all year. I have to adapt to the character I am playing. The only way around that is to keep my hair long enough to be able to have hair extensions. Otherwise I have become easily typecast as either a Hell’s Angel, a Viking, or an 80’s rock star.
I do understand the questions though. Some people might not understand that some of this stuff is not real. We finished filming this in November of last year. It is very weird when you see a guy and he has long hair and then the next moment he has short hair and then back to having long hair. I understand why it doesn’t add up.
AE: Well thank you for answering that. I just found it weird that people were obsessed by the hair extensions. Let’s talk a bit about fatherhood. What are some of the morals that you look to teach your children?
CS: The biggest thing for me is that as a young dad, I am 33 and I have an 11 year old boy, a seven year old girl, and a 3 year old little boy. I spent a long time in my younger years with Hayden my eldest, trying to make him like a mini-me. He is so different than me. When I was a kid I was a running, jumping, and climbing trees type of kid.
Hayden is a bookworm. He has read the “Hobbit” already. He is quiet. He is not going to be little Clive. For a long time I used to give him a hard time. You realize that they are your children, but you can’t make them into anyone. Let them do their own thing. Some of the things that he is amazing at, I am still awful at. I just learned to just encourage him to be just who he wants to be.
That is all I can say as a parent. I just want them to be happy in what they choose to do. I support them wholeheartedly. I wasted far too long trying to morph him into something I wanted him to be. I now realize that he is twice the little man that I was. He is fantastic. That is the biggest lesson I have learned as a parent.
Never let anyone tell you that you can’t have something that you really want. I try to tell my kids that and to never give up on something that they believe in.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
CS: (Laughs.) My wife would say something completely different. Since I work away a lot my wife would just want to sit by the pool as the holiday and say, ‘You look after the kids.’
My idea of a holiday is going on excursions, climbing volcanos, and scuba diving. We both want two entirely different holidays. It is just about being with the kids. It doesn’t matter where you are. It is who you are with. I do miss my family a great deal so it doesn’t matter where we go on holiday just as long as I am with them. That is my selfishness coming out. I spend so much time away from them that I just want to be with them. So the perfect holiday is just us all being together.
AE: What has surprised you the most about fatherhood?
CS: One thing that really hit home is that there is no real right or wrong time to have children. As an actor you say that it is not the right time. I have got so much that I want to achieve. It is going to hold me back.
It is just the exact opposite. It makes you work so much harder. When the children come along you realize that there is no rule book to becoming a parent. Sometimes you mess up. The next morning they tell you that they love you. It has changed my life completely. I think it has made me into a completely different man.
I go to work and battle for work because I have three children to feed. They look at me as a role model. They changed my life completely.