When watching Vikings, History Channel's first scripted drama series, we were tempted to make comparisons to Game of Thrones (it was, after all, in the same Sunday evening time slot) and peg the historical drama as an epic fantasy show, but "fantasy" is certainly the wrong descriptor. Vikings, which is centered around the tales of the eighth-century Norse warriors, is based on actual Viking people and relies on a great deal of historical research.
The historical foundation makes the pillage-and-plunder show riveting — but especially thrilling to watch are the series's two female leads: shieldmaiden Lagertha, played by Katheryn Winnick, and earl queen Siggy, played by Jessalyn Gilsig, who shatter every preconceived notion that the women in ancient times were weak and submissive. We had a chance to speak with the cast at Comic-Con to find out why the women of Vikings have captivated TV audiences (and conquered our hearts).
Series creator Michael Hirst, who wrote The Tudors and the film Elizabeth, told us, "It so happens that I like to work from real things . . . In the case of Lagertha, she is exactly as she is represented. She was a famous mother and wife, and eventually became an earl in her own right. I didn't realize I was being revolutionary." Legions of fans have rallied behind Lagertha, wife of the show's protagonist Ragnar and famed shieldmaiden, which is a women who elects to fight as a warrior.
During the Vikings panel, History Channel executive Dirk Hoogstra called out a particularly zealous fan who wrote extensive episode recaps and instigated insightful discussion through the show's social media and community channels. That fan happened to be present, and when she stood up dressed in Lagertha cosplay, the room gave her an uproarious round of applause.
"It turned out that there aren't any women characters like her [Lagertha] on TV," Michael said. "It's good for History Channel, because it's bringing more women to the platform." Vikings, which received an impassioned following after its first season, was just picked up for a second 10-episode season, slated to air in 2014.
Gilsig's Siggy (yep, same woman who played Mrs. Schuester on Glee) is another gripping female portrayal. The earl's beautiful, cunning queen is anything but passive. Siggy has her own agenda, especially when it comes to her relationship with the Viking chieftain.
We talked further with the show's leading ladies to discuss female characters on TV, which superhero they'd be, what's in store for season two, and more.