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TV Goodness Q&A: Vikings’ George Blagden Talks Ragnar & Athelstan [INTERVIEW] 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY

Vikings is HISTORY’s first original scripted series and while the drama features plenty of action and raiding alongside a ton of twists, turns and betrayals, at its heart are the characters and the various relationships usually involving Ragnar who is the central figure of the show.

One of the most interesting and unique aspects is the developing friendship happening between Ragnar and Athelstan. They may be master and slave but they don’t act like it. They listen to each other. They’re able to teach each other. They seem like they’re growing into two people who can depend on each other and confide in each other.

This is exactly what they need considering Ragnar’s brother often seems on the verge of betraying him. At the very least Rollo’s envious of what Ragnar has been able to accomplish. And it could only get worse now that Ragnar’s the new Earl. Meanwhile, Athelstan is in a foreign land. He needs to make the most of things and adapt to his new situation. Sure, Ragnar’s the one responsible for taking him away from everything he’s ever known, but he’s also the man that’s quickly shown he’s not a savage. He’s an ally.

At WonderCon 2013, TV Goodness took part in round table interviews with the cast of Vikings. George Blagden (Athelstan) talked about his character’s intriguing connection with Ragnar, whether or not what they have going on is a relationship of fate and also that series premiere “seduction” scene when Ragnar and Lagertha asked Athelstan to join them…in bed.

George Blagden @ WonderCon 2013
Photo Credit: TV Goodness

Does Ragnar trust Athelstan?

GEORGE BLAGDEN: This is a dangerous, enigmatic, mysterious character, Ragnar. And everyone around him — not just Athelstan — his wife, his friends, are always on their toes. And so it kind of gets to the stage where he asks Athelstan to look after his children where it’s sort of — it’s not that surprising because he’s had so many of these sort of interesting, exciting decisions to make with the people and the characters. He really kind of is thrown in the deep end by Ragnar — Athelstan is really thrown in the deep end. And it’s not just the way he treats Athelstan. He is the guy who sailed west for the first time. So it has to be a pretty brave, daring person to achieve what Ragnar achieves.

Why does Ragnar treat Athelstan more like a friend than a slave?

BLAGDEN: The reason why he doesn’t cut my head off immediately is because I speak his language to him. And I think in that moment Ragnar is met with this person who he realizes could really help him. And I think he makes a very quick snap judgment that this man could be very helpful to me. That’s why Athelstan is kept alive and why he takes him as a slave when he could have taken all the other gold. When Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) asks which one piece of treasure he can take, he takes the slave. Because he knows he’s going to be useful to him. And Athelstan is useful. He tells him a lot about England for subsequent raids and yeah, it’s a really interesting relationship and they are…Athelstan needs Ragnar as much as Ragnar needs Athelstan really.

Is it a relationship of fate?

BLAGDEN: I don’t think it’s an immediate bond. I think it’s a very tricky relationship that they’re both trying to manage and don’t really quite know how to. I’ve not thought of it that way, actually. It’s a relationship of fate. Yeah, I think it is. What makes their relationship so interesting is that they come from two completely different worlds but somehow they seem like similar men, maybe. One a lot more physically impressive than the other and very good at sword fighting and one good at crying…

The threesome scene — how awkward was that to shoot?

BLAGDEN: Of course it was very awkward. I’d met them [Travis Fimmel (Ragnar) and Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha)] before, obviously, but it was literally the first thing I shot and when you have your first scene with other actors, you’re kind of assessing what they’re like as well and how you can get some good chemistry involved with these other people. And to throw that scene at us…well, they’d already done some scenes…but first scene with me and these two half naked beautiful people was kind of…yeah, terrifying and very awkward and weird.

Vikings airs Sundays at 10/9c on HISTORY.

Find out more about Athelstan:

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