"Vikings" interview with Marco Ilsø

Marco Ilsø on his journey of playing Hvitserk, the wild card among the sons of Ragnar in "Vikings", Hvitserk's hunt for purpose, and which viking Marco would like to hang out with

Foto: Marco Ilsø - Copyright: HEIN Photography
Marco Ilsø
© HEIN Photography

August 9, 2017 by Nicole Oebel @philomina_

Note: The interview contains spoilers from the scenes in the "Vikings" season 5 trailer.

Your first acting credit I could find, "Mikkel og guldkortet", has you as a 14 year old in the leading role in 24 episodes. How did you get into acting and looking back what did you learn about the job in this first project?

When I did my first acting job I had very limited experience. When I conducted my first audition I wasn't even acting I was saying every line like I would do it myself. They were so impressed by my ability to be natural and organic that I got the job. Honestly, I had no idea what it meant to be an actor, to perform and create a unique character. I did learn a few things though. I learnt how the business works and what kind of people I was going to meet. But most importantly my caretaker on set, told me to always stay true to myself, never putting others down to gain an advantage.

When you found out "Vikings" was casting the sons of Ragnar as young grown-ups, can you walk us through what happened? Like were you watching the show before, did you specifically go for the role of Hvitserk, did you know other actors who were auditioning?

I watched the first 2 seasons of Vikings and I was really enjoying it. A lot of my friends were watching it as well so I thought I'd give it a try. I've been blesssed with a great agent firm for a long time, so when they asked for a prepared selftape for Vikings I thought to myself, "Hahaha not a f**king chance I'll ever get that." "But then again what do I have to lose." I was auditioning for Ubbe for a while, but when I performed the last audition in Ireland, they changed the character to Hvitserk. I knew Alex [Høgh Andersen] was auditioning as well. We were doing a movie in Denmark together and we flew to Ireland together to do the last audition as well. Alex is a good friend of mine and I'm happy we both got the parts. When my agent later called me and said, "I had secured the part" I literally activated the airbag in my car from excitement and from acting like a lunatic whilst driving.

Coming on to a show in season 4 playing four brothers, who the viewers knew as kids, how did you, Alex, David and Jordan work on building the shifting dynamic between them?

Building the dynamics between the brothers was a little rough in the beginning. We had to watch the scenes with the kids and try to recall that as the adult version. We did a lot of work at our hotel where we were based in Ireland. Practicing the scenes over and over again, while concurrently getting to know each other. We believed, that by knowing each other better as people and talking about each others characters off-set in greater detail, it would only enhance our relationship on-set & the overall outcome for the series.

In the very first scene, where Björn goes to see his brothers, Ubbe kind of mirrors Ragnar the farmer, Björn mirrors Ragnar the Earl. In what way, do you think, Hvitserk resembles Ragnar most?

Hvitserk might not seem to resemble Ragnar at first, but if you look closer you'll notice the same introvert personality, curiosity and maybe catch a mysterious vibe. I've felt for a long time that the character wasn't as developed as Ubbe, Ivar and Sigurd. He's always been quite a wildcard.

It seems Ubbe is the most reasonable one and Ivar the most dangerous, but even when Ivar kills Sigurd, Hvitserk's facial expression doesn't give too much away. What was it like for you to play a character who really is a bit of a wild card?

It is challenging for an actor to create a personality based on little information. Itís a lot of work and can at times be a little frustrating, but at the same time itís also fun to be able to keep the mystery and play around with different possibilities.

Will we learn more about Hvitserk's motivation and what drives him? What makes him grow up and choose the side of a brother he hadn't been so close to before?

In season 5 we will learn a lot more about Hvitserk, although with that being said he will always be the brother you don't quite get. You won't understand his motivation and what he wants from life. Hvitserk is on a hunt for purpose and he's driven by faith, and it won't be until later in season 5 that you come to realize what he wants.

The season 5 trailer shows the civil war with Ivar, Hvitserk and Harald on one side and Lagertha, Ubbe and Björn on the other. What do you think Ragnar will say about that in Valhalla?

I think Ragnar has the same feeling every other father would have if they saw their children being confrontational. No one would be happy watching their boys being energies and slaughtering each other on the battlefield.

Learning Old Nordic and reading the Íslendinga sögur was part of my studies at uni. Did you read them at school, too, and are history and the nordic accent a special part of the job for you?

Every kid from Denmark has been taught a little bit about the Vikings and about the old Nordic gods and language. It's hard to recreate the old Nordic language on set but luckily for us brother's, we have an amazing voice and language coach teaching us and fixing our mistakes.

If you could hang out with one of the "Vikings" characters for a day, who would it be and what would you do?

If I had to hang out with one of the characters from Vikings I think I would go with Ivar. The pros would be drinking and doing all kinds of batshit crazy stuff. On the other hand, it would be a pain in the ass walking slowly, supporting him, so he could keep up with me.

At a convention Clive Standen talked a bit about Travis, pranks and PTSD = Post-Travis Stress Disorder, so of course I have to ask, what was it like with Travis on set?

The thing about Travis is, you always know that he's going to be incredible when the cameras are rolling but when they're preparing for a new shot or the actors have a 10 minute break you always watch your back for a flying sandwich. You must be sharp when you're talking with him otherwise he'll take the piss out of you. He has a spider sense for good pranks.

The mockumentary "Koldt på toppen" - shooting that must have been so much fun! How did that come up, can you talk a little bit about it?

"Koldt på toppen" was a project from Alex's mates, who was studying at a film school in Denmark. They just asked me to jump in so I did. The mockumentary actually received a lot of attention in Denmark which is awesome, and I hope they keep up the good work in their future projects.

What do you like to do in your sparetime? What music, tv shows or sports do you like?

In my spare time I love to travel, hang out with my brothers and play football. Right now I'm watching a lot of different series. "Westworld", "Gomorra" and "Suits". I think I enjoy good films the most though. I watch series mostly for inspiration and improvement. I'm always working on getting better.

Thank you so much for making time for us, Marco!

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