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Vikings: Valhalla Stars Talk Taking Over Beloved Franchise On Netflix, And The Kind Note Alexander Ludwig Sent Sam Corlett

One of cable’s biggest hits of the past — and one that delivered some seriously lethal hits of its own — Vikings wrapped up its six-season run as 2020 came to a close, but with the promise of a sequel series already on the horizon. Netflix subscribers were recently gifted with the premiere of that series, Vikings: Valhalla, and it quickly rose to the top of the streaming service’s ranks. As one might imagine, stars such as Sam Corlett, Leo Suter and Bradley Freegard felt a bit of intimidation in taking over a franchise once fronted by the likes of Alexander Ludwig, Travis Fimmel and Katheryn Ludwig.

CinemaBlend spoke with the Vikings: Valhalla cast going into Season 1, and everyone was absolutely pumped about finally bringing the project to fans after such a long and grueling-at-times production schedule. Let’s dive into what the aforementioned stars told me about coming into an already well-established franchise. 

Leif Eriksson and Harald in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

 Sam Corlett And Leo Suter

In respectively portraying Leif Erikson and Harold of Norway, Vikings: Valhalla stars Sam Corlett and Leo Suter had their work cut out for them. Not only were they now responsible for bringing to life some of history’s most revered legends in Viking lore, but they were also doing so with the intention of living up to the benchmarks previously set by Vikings. When I asked about the intimidation factor, here’s how Corlett responded: 

Certainly, there was a little bit of intimidation. But I think being held by Jeb Stuart, our showrunner, who was taking it from Michael Hurst, and also knowing that we had the same crew as the original series, we felt - I speak for myself, but I'm sure I can speak for Leo as well - felt pretty held in an embrace that we were going to be taken care of, and all we had to do is show up and do the work that was on the page. . . . We really want to honor the legacy of what the original show was, because I also watched it, and am a fan of it.

Vikings: Valhalla is creator Jeb Stuart’s first gig as a TV showrunner, but he’s no stranger to Hollywood at large, having made quite the breakout splash as the co-writer of Die Hard, among other hits in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Thankfully, he had Vikings creator Michael Hirst on board as an executive producer and general guide, so everything definitely felt right in line with what made the flagship series work so well. And critics seem to agree, with the new series garnering largely positive reviews.

Many within the Vikings: Valhalla cast were definitely already fans of the flagship show, and quite a few came into it with a deep prior knowledge of the history, since many are from parts of Europe where such topics are covered in depth more than they are in the U.S. To that end, the show’s presence on Netflix means that a lot of the stars’ friends and family across the globe are able to check it out immediately, which is also the case for the franchise’s massive fanbase. 

Here, Leo Suter reflected on how he felt coming into a project strengthened by Vikings’ popularity and Netflix’s reach.

Yeah, and as well, it's a pretty special thing as an actor to have a fanbase globally already that are so excited about work that you've done. So for that, there's a great excitement to it as well, which is pretty cool.

Depending on how long Vikings: Valhalla stays atop the Top 10 at Netflix, Sam Corlett and Leo Suter might have trouble walking through crowds without fans recognizing them with glee. Hopefully no one presents any challenges for sword fights, however. 

Bjorn in fur and cold on Vikings Season 5

(Image credit: History)

 Sam Corlett’s Message From Alexander Ludwig 

After the subject of Netflix’s global span came up, I asked what they thought about the series being instantly available to those in dozens of countries all over the world. And Sam Corlett revealed that was part of Vikings vet Alexander Ludwig’s congratulation message after the spinoff series was first announced in 2019. According to Corlett:

Yeah, that's the first thing that Alexander Ludwig messaged me. Got a couple messages from the original cast saying congrats. And I said, you know, 'It's an honor to continue your legacy,' and he said, 'Man, all the best to you. It's awesome that you're on Netflix and that you'll have it have a nice global spread for the stories to continue.'

While Vikings aired exclusively on History Channel for its first five-and-a-half seasons, the final batch of episodes (Season 6B) dropped entirely on Amazon’s Prime Video service. So there’s some precedence there for streaming debuts. Plus, Vikings’ popularity only grew once it became available to streaming audiences on Netflix in the first place, so this is definitely a natural fit for the bloody epic.

King Canute behind table on Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

Bradley Freegard

As the confident and conniving King Canute, Bradley Freegard boasts one of this show’s strongest hair games, both in terms of what’s on his head and what’s on his face. (Even his eyebrows appear ready to oust someone from the kingdom.) In that area alone, Freegard had his work cut out for him in regards to following up on Vikings, which featured some wildly memorable hairstyles. Of course, Vikings: Valhalla is about more than all that, and the actor talked about how the intimidation factor was buoyed by the concept of building a new project instead of trying to recreate a past one. In Freegard’s words:

Intimidating, yes, of course. It comes with a certain amount of pressure, there's no doubt. But of course, what we're trying to do is to build a brand new show in Vikings: Valhalla, but at the same time also pay homage to the original show. We're set 100 years after that, and a lot of the characters that feature in that have now fallen into Viking legacy and status of Viking legends, and we do do mention them. The show does go back to Kattegat, and we see how that city has grown over the last 100 years. And it's become this almost Metropolis compared to what we've seen before.

In bringing viewers back into this world further down the timeline, Vikings: Valhalla is quite the exciting opportunity for all involved, in that there’s curiosity and intrigue driving the interest, both in wondering how the new show might reference its predecessor and how the locations and bloodlines will be updated and expanded upon. 

And who better to further these stories than the production crew members who brought the original series to life in the first place? Bradley Freegard echoed Sam Corlett’s words in expressing how much confidence was instilled in the cast by working behind the scenes with creatives who already have insights into creating this kind of world for audiences. 

So yeah, there's pressure, of course, but I think hopefully, as actors, some of that pressure has been alleviated by the fact that it's predominantly the same creative team behind it. So they kind of know what they're doing. And yeah, the pressure's on us - the new guys, I guess - to deliver the goods.

Assuming everyone is okay with those goods being splattered with blood and dirt, and probably smelling a bit rank, then it's all good and well.

Vikings: Valhalla Season 1 is currently available to stream in full on Netflix (opens in new tab), and stay tuned for more info about when Season 2 might be hitting the service. The sequel series is just one of many awesome shows hitting Netflix this year, and our 2022 TV premiere schedule will clue viewers in on everything else that’s on the way.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.