A new leader is poised to reign in Kattegat on History Channel’s Vikings. One of the most famous vikings in history, Ivar the Boneless, born as a cripple to Ragnar Lothbrok and Aslaug (Travis Fimmel, Alyssa Sutherland), he developed his wits and became a fearsome strategist and leader, conquering much of England.
I had the honor of interviewing Alex Andersen, the young man poised to take the lead as Ivar of this fantastic show. We chatted about his audition, the relationship between Ivar and Ragnar, and his “brothers.”
Check out the interview below.
Alex Andersen: Hey Athena, what’s up?
Geeks of Doom: Oh, nothing much (only interviewing someone from one of my favorite shows). WHere are you calling from? Where exactly is home? I’m from Brooklyn, NY so I assume you are very far away from here.
Alex Andersen: I would love to go to New York. I’m from Denmark. I’ve been studying film and media studies at the University of Copenhagen. Copenhagen is my home.
Geeks of Doom: New York’s ok. I’m sure Denmark is way prettier though.
Alex Andersen: It’s pretty. It’s pretty. NY is on the bucket list for sure.
Geeks of Doom: So… how did you get Vikings?
Alex Andersen: Well, like with every other audition, I had 3-4 auditions and it ended up with like 11 guys in Dublin for 6 hours of casting at the studio where we actually shoot Vikings. And we were almost there, we just needed to get the part. They picked us and mixed us up to find the 4 brothers. I never really auditioned for Ivar.
Geeks of Doom: Wow!
Alex Andersen: Yeah. I auditioned for the other brothers, but 4 1/2 hours in, they came down to me and asked if I could read for Ivar. And I was sitting there sweating, nervous. I had to borrow scenes from my colleagues and learn the part in like a half an hour. And I couldn’t remember the words for the first 3 takes. Then I got it right, and I was playing opposite Jordan [Smith] who ended up playing Ubbe. It was a scene between Ivar and Ubbe, and I remember thinking for half of the day, that I have no idea whats going down with this thing. I ended up getting Ivar and I think Michael Hirst told somebody about that whole audition thing – it was my eyes and my movement. Having a physical challenge. suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta means doing more with the eyes instead of the legs.
Geeks of Doom: Right. That’s what you had to do because Ivar is supposed to be the smart one. That’s so cool that you’re gonna get the lead now. He’s the lead guy. That’s great!
Alex Andersen: Yeah. No pressure at all (We both laugh).
Geeks of Doom: I mean, you do have big shoes to fill. Travis Fimmel… Us ladies are like “Ahhh!!!”
Alex Andersen: It was quite an experience working with Travis. I got the chance to work very closely with him. He’s absolutely outstanding. Just by observing him work, it’s such a learning experience.
Geeks of Doom: I can imagine. So… I looked you up, and it doesn’t say your age and you don’t have to tell me, but is there a father-son relationship there? I mean, he’s made up to look really old, but he’s not old.
Alex Andersen: It really is a father-son relationship, and that’s what I love about it. It’s something that everyone can relate to. Even though it’s over 1,000 years from what real life is now, it’s the same trouble that they go through, the same social awkwardness and obstacles, to get to know each other. Even though it’s old times, you just relate to it. It’s so natural. I loved it.
Geeks of Doom: That’s totally true. I mean that’s why we still have to learn Shakespeare in school. The themes are timeless.
Alex Andersen: Yes.
Geeks of Doom: Did you watch the show before you were cast, or before you started… just to get an idea of him? Because so much of who Ivar is now is because of how his parents treated him when he was a kid. I mean, that wasn’t you (call me Queen Obvious), but then he was mentored by Floki, who walks the fine line between loyalist and crazy fundamentalist. So how much of that do you think you bring to the character? Is that in the back of your head when you’re, I don’t know… emoting?
Alex Andersen: I did study it a lot when I was auditioning for it, before I got the part. I knew about the show, But apparently, for some reason, in Denmark, it’s not that big.
Geeks of Doom: What?!?!?!?
Alex Andersen: Yeah. I guess because it’s our heritage, it’s not a big deal.
Geeks of Doom: It’s like yeah, yeah, been there.
Alex Andersen: There’s a lot of Scandinavian people on the show now. I had been acting for a long time in small time stuff, and I was studying at the university so I was doing my thing, and watching the show and auditioning for it. You pick up a lot from watching the show. The way that they talk, their accent is something that you really need to study. We’ve been almost copying what Travis did and how Travis spoke.
Geeks of Doom: Well you have to. You’re his kids.
Alex Andersen: When I was watching it and I got further on, and realized that Floki schooled Ivar, I was trying to pick up some stuff from Floki as well. A little sort of way of saying the lines, and being a little bit crazy but not too much. That’s more Ragnar in a way. The whole thing is speaking with the eyes. That’s the biggest trait that Travis has that I really find interesting, more of a mentality. I like that. I was copying a lot from “Poppy.”
Geeks of Doom: (Laughs) So I know you all auditioned together. Are you and the guys like brothers? Alexander Ludwig is supposed to be much older and you didn’t grow up together, so is that more like a big brother? Do you guys get along? You must be together a lot.
Alex Andersen: It’s funny. We almost get into those roles automatically. You work so closely together, so me and my guys – David, Jordan, Michael, and Alex… we’ve become like brothers. It’s a natural thing. We are a bunch of dudes who love our work, and take it very seriously, and are very passionate about it, but we also chill once in a while and have some fun, to create a balance, a light feeling between us on set. They are a bunch of great people, so it’s easy to become fake brothers with them.
Geeks of Doom: I understand. You have to have that lightness because you have to trust each other when you’re in those situations.
Alex Andersen: Yeah. Or you are not going to be as good.
Geeks of Doom: It won’t be natural (you see how we are reading each other’s minds right there?).
Alex Andersen: Just relax and have fun with it.
Geeks of Doom: Is it surreal, like “Oh my god, I’m on Vikings?” or are you past that already.
Alex Andersen: It’s funny because we’ve been waiting for this bomb to explode for like a year and a half. Which is completely everyday life for us. A lot of the media and interviews… we really want to make that story, especially Danish media. I’m really ready for all this to come out.
Geeks of Doom: I know you’ve only had a few scenes aired thus far. Your scenes were powerful though. When you first crawled up… that was a striking moment. When you crawled up and Ragnar went right to you, that was like, “Oh my god!” It did what it was supposed to do.
Alex Andersen: Yeah. And you don’t have that many characters on TV that are that handicapped. Ivar suffers from a lot of the same struggles as Peter Dinklage’s character in Game of Thrones. He’s not a part of society. He has a lot of obstacles to get through before he will be accepted, IF he gets accepted. Being physically handicapped in a Vikings culture is awful. There is a scene where Ragnar places Ivar in the forest as a baby. He’s not going to survive. But somehow, maybe being schooled by Floki and having the genes of his parents, he decides he want to fight it every single day. And I think you will see this in the first episode of 4B that he’s at a point where he really really needs someone or something to push him forward, to give him that extra help, to put some confidence in him. He is compensating every single day. But he is independent.
Geeks of Doom: The best thing his mother could have done was give him to Floki, although I was very mad at Floki for killing Athelstan, otherwise Ivar would have been a total momma’s boy. One last thing. I wanted to know what kind of physical training you had to do for this, because I don’t even want to walk around on my legs.
Alex Andersen: (Laughs) Physical training? I have to do a lot myself, mostly upper body of course, otherwise that would look stupid (I giggle). But we got a personal trainer who worked us hard, and then gave is some exercises that we can do on our own, and we have been working on that for a year and a half, especially because I have to crawl. It is a very big physical challenge. but I prefer to crawl because that reminds the audience.
Geeks of Doom: Thank you so much! Good luck with the season.
Alex Andersen: Thank you!
Vikings returns this Wednesday at 9:00pm ET on The History Channel.
Vikings: Season 4 Character Catch-Up – Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen) | History
Get caught up with Ivar’s journey so far in Season 4 with Alex Hogh Andersen in this web exclusive.