Hirst insists on remaining true to history:
Michael Hirst is one extraordinary writer. While many TV shows have a group of writers that are called on to write each episode of any given TV series, for History Channel’s Vikings, Michael is very much going solo. Although it is something he prefers:
I must be a control freak and don’t give away anything … It’s my thoughts and my ideas, and I have very strong thoughts about Ragnar and Lagertha, and all of these characters. I just love these characters and I love being with them, so why would I give that away? … It is hard. I confess, it does get hard. Last season, there was a moment when I was writing, we had a director shooting his two episodes and he wanted rewrites, and we had a director that was prepping the next two episodes and she wanted rewrites, and I hadn’t written the last two episodes. So, I was writing six episodes simultaneously, and that was hard. But in the back of my mind, I always knew what I wanted to say.
While it may be challenging at times, Michael’s admiration for the Vikings occurred long before the History Channel series:
After I’d written Elizabeth, I wrote a screenplay about an English king called Alfred the Great, who fought the Vikings. I did some research about the Vikings and I realized that there wasn’t much to research about them. No one knew about the Vikings, but I was interested in their sagas, their myths and their gods. I hoped that, one day, I could talk about it. Ultimately, two years ago, someone said, “Do you want to write about the Vikings?” And I did. To write about the Vikings is not a punishment. It’s a gift. It’s fantastic.
And his idea to follow the story of viking Ragnar Lothbrok (played by Travis Fimmel in the TV series)? It actually wasn’t his! A Dark Ages historian who is a friend of Michael’s told him to look into the history of Ragnar since he is not only the first viking to emerge out of history, but he was the first person to attack England. On top of all that, Ragnar has a lot of sons. To Michael, this advantage meant he was creating a TV series that could, potentially, go on for a very long time.
While Vikings is a TV show that is set in an era of time which has very little written history, Michael insists on staying as true to history as possible – even when it involves such brutality as the blood eagle punishment inflicted on Jal Borg (played by Thorbjørn Harr) in Episode 7 of Season 2 (entitled Blood Eagle):
It’s a very important episode to me. It’s a very significant episode, and I think that everyone who watched it will never forget it. It gets you deeper into the Vikings experience, and it’s a profound experience that you were witness to, with suffering and spirituality. Those are the two things that are very basic to this show. There is suffering and fighting, and all of that, but it’s always attached to something greater, with spirituality, religion and belief. It was very important to me that it’s not for shock value. It was not gratuitous. I don’t write anything, and I don’t want anything to be shown, that’s gratuitous. What I write is what actually happened. The Vikings were like that for particular reasons, such as their faith.
You can read the full interview Michael Hirst did with Collider by clicking here.
Source: Collider – Show Creator Michael Hirst Talks VIKINGS, Compelling Stories, Finding the Hero, Writing Every Episode, and the Outcome of the Episode “Blood Eagle”
(Photo Credit: History Channel, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.)