'Vikings' Star Alex Hogh Andersen Breaks Down That Insane Torture Scene in Season 5 Premiere (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
Has Ivar totally lost it?
Vikings returned with a vengeance during Wednesday's insane two-hour season five premiere -- and so did Ivar the Boneless.
Alex Hogh Andersen teased a "remorseful" Ivar while speaking with ET ahead of the episode, and while it's clear the character is struggling with impulsively killing his brother, Sigurd (David Lindström) last season, his guilt may make him more dangerous than ever.
As much was clear in one of the episode's most memorable scenes, when Ivar leads his brothers and the Great Heathen Army in a raid of York -- ravaging a church and inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on its priest.
"[We had a] great director, David Wellington, and he was a pleasure to work with. He came in straight away and was a massive champ," Andersen tells ET of shooting the epic scene, which he describes as a crash course in "extremes." "He liked for us to push the limits, and we needed to do that coming off what happened in the [season four finale]."
"In that scene, killing all the civil people in the church, it's quite a tough scene, and while we shot it and realized how horrible it was, we understood that, 'Whoa, OK. People are probably going to hate the Vikings,'" he continues, noting that giving the audience pause on who to root for was exactly the point.
The wrath of the Vikings is clearly no joke -- and neither was filming. Actors and crew worked together to film the scene on a long day inside a 100-degree studio.
"I remember at one point, we had to shut the whole thing down and get some fresh air in there for five minutes," Andersen reveals. "It was very intense shooting with a lot of great, great extras and stunt guys that just worked their tails off, because there was a lot of things happening there. But it was so much fun and very interesting."
The scene ended with a stunning shot of Ivar engaging in what was a half laugh, half cry, staring to the sky with blood splattered all over his face.
"David and I talked about it, what was happening in that little push in... I was trying to kind of be in the balance," Andersen says. "It was towards more of a laugh, because that would be more believable than crying, but it's almost trying to meet the audience halfway, and make them feel like the Vikings know that they are violent and extreme and what they just did is probably not cool."
"I think most of the time, [Ivar] is angrily crying on the inside," he adds. "All of the things that he does are compensating for his disease. On the outside, he's this maniac who nobody can touch, but in the inside, he's a sad, little boy."
On Wednesday's premiere, however, Ivar became a sad, little boy with legs, as viewers saw him really walk for the first time in what Andersen calls calipers. Vikings' art and costume departments worked tirelessly with Andersen to craft Ivar's makeshift legs, which were purposely made with weight (so his facial expressions and body movements would be more "organic" -- "It needs to be viscerally tough," he insists).
"They are so heavy, and it's a love-hate relationship I have with the calipers," he confesses. "For me, personally as an actor, to choreograph my scenes just a tad more, it's great, but when Michael told me about this idea, at the beginning, I hated it, because the entire thing about Ivar is his disease, the one thing to make people have sympathy for him. If you take that away from him, I was scared that he would become too powerful, too one-dimensional."
"It's great for me to be able to stand, but as long as people still believe and understand that it's such an effort and he's still a cripple, then I'm all good. And it's been a great pleasure working with them actually. It's a big challenge," Andersen shares, joking that he still skips leg day at the gym, because even in season six, he's "still crawling around." "We need to keep that in people's minds, what he's been through and what he's dealing with on a daily basis."
The actor's character will undoubtedly become more "active" as he exercises his ambitions to rule over Kattegat and his brothers -- "He's always playing a game...He's going to try to manipulate them to get his way for the entire season" -- but as for Andersen's own ambitions, he's admittedly still learning.
"I'm very excited [for Katheryn Winnick to direct]," he gushes of his co-star, who will step behind the camera to direct an episode of season six. "I think she's going to do a great job. It's a great opportunity for her. I would love to be directing at some point, so I'm very jealous."
"I don't think they'd let me, but I'm a sucker for behind-the-camera work. I just love everything about shooting movies and TV shows," Andersen says. "I will definitely shadow some of the directors if I get a chance, [but] I can't wait to work with her."
Vikings airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on History.