Spoilers for the January 22 episode of Vikings Season 6, entitled “Valhalla Can Wait,” are discussed below!
Lagertha’s time on Vikings may have come to an end, but the actress that captivatingly brought her to life for nearly six seasons remained a part of the series for the latest episode, "Valhalla Can Wait." Katheryn Winnick got behind the camera as director for the January 22 episode of Season 6, and she has revealed a pretty intriguing detail about the episode's big battle, beyond all the other behind-the-scenes details she's already shared about Season 6.
During the Vikings episode, a huge battle scene broke out when members of the Rus army attacked a small village, and apparently a famous actor was originally supposed to be among the cast during that action sequence, though it didn't work out. Here's what Katheryn Winnick had to say:
I don’t know if there’s one particular one. The opening scene with Bjorn slapping Hvitserk was very powerful. I really wanted to show Bjorn in a different light. Also the, the fight sequence that you’re talking about. God, I can’t even tell you. I was thrown for a massive curveball the night before. We had a famous person who was supposed to be in that scene and he canceled on me the night before. So I had to rewrite the entire scene and I remember trying to get ahold of Michael Hirst and I think he was at a funeral, and it was one of my last days of shooting. We spent a lot of money building this set and all of a sudden I had no actor at all. Being a new director, it was like, “How am I going to make this scene work?”
Fans already knew that Katheryn Winnick had to deal with the challenge of hiding another show’s set, and we can now add "the last-minute cancellation of an undisclosed famous person for the climactic and terrifying Vikings brawl" to the list of setbacks she overcame. But in dealing with the unexpected casting fail, Winnick’s struggles didn't end with the directing side of things.
Winnick ended up having to re-write the entire scene to account for its famed cast member's absence. Think about all of the efforts that were done to make that Vikings scene happen. An expensive set was constructed and everyone went through rehearsals, only to have things turn on a dime. So how did Katheryn Winnick make the scene work? She explained how the significant sequence got revamped, telling Variety:
The fight for no reason doesn’t really make any sense when your lead actor doesn’t show up the night before. So it was one of the most challenging things I’ve done as a director. I ended up taking one actor who had one line or something and I made him the center point of it. And then for the young girl, I called up my costume lady, I said, 'Okay, make her eight months pregnant,' just to create some kind of heart in there. They’re like, 'Wait, we have a costume.' So she was originally written in for more episodes, but since the actor didn’t show up she had to be cut out. So it was a big change that nobody ever expects or wants the night before shooting. But I hope it turned out great.
Katheryn Winnick previously shared how proud she was of the Vikings episode she directed, and now fans can have a whole new respect for what she did. Having to rework an entire scene due to the sudden loss of its “famous” star had to be overwhelming. I think she did a spectacular job bringing it all together.
During the Vikings scene, a Rus raiding party attacked the village as an older man hid and watched the destruction and mass murder of his loved ones. In a riveting sequence, there was one guy in the village who put up a prolonged and valiant fight against the raiders. The young girl that Katheryn Winnick referred to was presumably related to the older man and the famous actor's involvement. Though Winnick revealed her storyline was initially set to span more episodes, those plans ended when the actor dropped out of the Vikings arc.
Harald, the newly-minted King of Norway, learned of the slaughter that occurred in the scene at the end of the Vikings episode. Thus, a potential collision has been set up between Harald and Oleg’s respective forces. The trailer for Season 6 definitely hinted that a clash involving Oleg is coming.