Vikings, the gritty historical drama from Tudors creator Micheal Hirst, launches its second season onto Blu-ray and DVD this week. Having redefined our perception of Viking culture and delivered some epic battles, expectation is high to see where the show can go next. Screenjabber's Paul Anderson was invited to the show's Ashford Studios at Ballyhenry in Ireland to see Ragnar and Co in action and was given access to key cast and crew members to see exactly what was in store for the troubled Viking clan.
Screenjabber was lucky enough to visit the set of Vikings as the cast and crew were shooting scenes for the show's third season. While we can’t talk about that on pain of death we certainly can give you an insight into Season Two and the production of the show in general.
On arrival at the studio the first thing that strikes you is the scale of the production with full size replica Viking Long Ships having been constructed and the village of Kattegat created in minutiae detail. It’s certainly an authentic set up and gives an early indication into the effort and attention that is evident in every scene of the show.
A tour of the on-set armoury only serves to reinforce the effort and craft that is on display here, racks of meticulously designed Viking shields line the left hand wall and these are adorned with the markings of the Viking tribes. A little more intimidating is the wall of weapons hanging on the opposite wall.
While they certainly look deadly on screen, we are reliably informed by weapons maker John Mckenna that the swords used are in fact crafted from bamboo and that the blades can be swapped in and out of the handles with a twist of an allen key.
The axes are scary looking replicas too but created with rubber blades that still pack a punch in the hands of stuntmen. All the weapons start life in steel form but sensibly these were kept out of the less than trained arms of your Screenjabber journalist.
The aforementioned village of Kattegat was our next stop and this was seriously impressive, far more than just a few hastily constructed building fascias the village was full size and the buildings were fully functional and meticulously detailed. The market stalls felt like they could open at a moment’s notice and it genuinely felt like taking a trip back in time. A brief drive away from the studio took to us to an equally impressive location shoot, surrounded by some beautiful Irish countryside we were witness to a pretty intense looking Viking party around a huge bonfire that again gave a sense of actually being there rather than being witness to a TV production.
Vikings once again reunites Micheal Hirst with veteran costume designer Joan Bergin and it certainly was a privilege to be given a tour of the costume workshop, (although a lot of what we saw was specifically for season 3 so we can’t talk about that in any detail). What we can say though is that again the effort put in by the team is second to none. With a small group hard at work on a vast array of costumes, effort is made to individualise everything that the main characters wear, Bergin explains, ‘One of things we specialise in doing in this workshop is leather work because you do get a little tired sometimes looking at everybody as if they look like Roman Gladiators’.
It's little details that help bring the characters to life and we’re shown some intricately detailed hand-woven leatherwork alongside some beautifully customised dresses that have all been painstakingly modified. There is one team responsible for going out and picking up suitable clothing and jewellery and then bringing it back to the workshop to be ‘vikingised’. One of Ragnar’s signature outfits for example is being modified with symbols representing the Viking god Odin and this attention to detail makes all the difference. This outfit also shows us an example of an interesting and very effective technique that means a lot what looks like metallic armour on screen is in fact treated leather that even up close looks utterly convincing.
As you can tell from the brief insight here and in the series of interviews with cast and crew that will follow, whatever you make of the end product Vikings is undoubtedly a labour of love for everyone involved and this passion for the project is impossible not to get caught up in. In a cynical world of entertainment existing solely as product this is something that should be applauded and for this reason alone Vikings deserves your attention. • Vikings Season 2 is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 3 November with interactive features only available on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
As you can tell from the brief insight here and in the series of interviews with cast and crew that will follow, whatever you make of the end product Vikings is undoubtedly a labour of love for everyone involved and this passion for the project is impossible not to get caught up in. In a cynical world of entertainment existing solely as product this is something that should be applauded and for this reason alone Vikings deserves your attention.
• Vikings Season 2 is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 3 November with interactive features only available on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment