Interview with Frida Gustavsson and Caroline Henderson

Vikings: Valhalla stars Frida Gustavsson and Caroline Henderson have found camaraderie on and off screen while bringing Viking women to life.

Vikings: Walhalla focuses on a crucial period in history, largely focusing on a Viking invasion of England. As the war unfolds, the show also explores the growth of legendary figure Freydis Eriksdotter and unique (and largely fictional) Viking leader Jarl Haakon. Played by Frida Gustavsson and Caroline Henderson respectively, these characters provide the show with several unique avenues to explore, especially when compared to the more overt war sequences. Along the way, the two women have had the chance to shine on screen together.

In an exclusive interview before Vikings: Valhalla Debuting Feb. 25 on Netflix, CBR spoke with Frida Gustavsson and Caroline Henderson about bringing new female voices to a largely male-dominated environment. The duo also dove into what it was like to lean on each other during the show’s production.

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RBC: The world of Vikings: Walhalla tackles a very unique perspective on femininity in a setting that doesn’t always lend itself well to telling layered feminine stories. What did you, as performers, really want to bring to the show with your personal points of view?

Frida Gustavson: That’s really a good point. Unfortunately, when it comes to this type of genre or historical shows, women are usually seen as objects of desire or almost objects of property that men might marry to get something from them. What I love about it is that Jeb Stuart, our showrunner, created these very complex women who are allowed to be flawed, who are allowed to be human in the same way that men are still allowed to be humans. We can do wrong. We can be ugly. We can be mean. We can fight. We can growl and do all these things that… I wish we were living in a time where it wouldn’t be surprising or it wouldn’t be unique. Hey, here we are. We get to play these characters. I’m really, really thrilled and proud of Freydis and Jarl Haakon.

Caroline Henderson: The same for me. If it happened 400 years ago or something like that, it will be a different story, right? It will be another story. A thousand years ago was actually probably very close to what happened. To be able to portray something like that was amazing because we can play these really strong Scandinavian women, which was probably… We know now through research and DNA that was probably very close to the truth . It’s a gift. Being able to portray that with Freydis has been amazing.

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Due to the nature of Vikings: Walhalla being a spectacle rather than a more finished story like a movie, you have a lot more time to see your characters evolve in unexpected ways. Was there anything about Freydis and Jarl that surprised you mid-production that you didn’t expect to find with the characters?

Gustavson: I am an obsessive preparer. I love to prepare. I love doing everything in an incredibly structured way… Then when you’re on set, it’s really nice to just look at the other person and see what you find. For me, the most beautiful gift and the greatest discovery of [Vikings: Valhalla] worked with Caroline. I feel like we had a very natural connection. For that type of mentor relationship, it was really important to me to have an actor or co-star that I could really work with.

I feel like our working relationship has been very generous. Caroline approaches everything with such peace and integrity. It was really moving and it was really beautiful in some very emotional scenes. I was so moved by her. We had that kind of mix, becoming our character… I think those were my favorite scenes. After the big shield test, Caroline, when you come and say you’re so proud, it’s [amazing].

Caroline Henderson: I was proud of you — on a personal level, because I saw [Frida] work so hard through [the] month. It’s not an easy role to play, Freydis. It has sometimes been a struggle. We have been alone. It was the pandemic – we struggled, we fought and we worked so hard. So we fall together, but we also cry together. I think about my character, both [Frida] and me, we become vulnerable in a way that we’re not when we’re on the battlefield, obviously, or with other characters. When we are together… It also happened with friendship, we became very vulnerable and it was a safe space. It also reflects on the characters, I think.

Experience the adventurous growth of Freydis and Jarl in Vikings: Valhalla, which debuts on Netflix February 25.

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