'Vikings' Newbie Ben Robson Talks Kalf, Fearlessness, and Fandom

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  • Ragnar Lodbrok
    Legendary king of Sweden and Denmark
Ben Robson in 'Vikings'
Ben Robson in 'Vikings'

When Vikings premieres Feb. 19 on the History Channel, there will be blood — lots of it. There'll also be some fresh faces in Ragnar Lothbrok's world. One of them is Kalf, Lagertha's new right-hand man. Yahoo TV spoke with actor Ben Robson about Viking ambition and playing a character with no fear of death.

Congratulations on being cast in Vikings.
Thank you so much. I feel quite lucky, as a fan of the first couple seasons. When the audition came up, I was jumping up and down with excitement. You can only imagine what I was like when I found out I actually got the role.

What did you do?
I went and celebrated for a week with friends and got very into the Viking nature of drinking beer and having a good laugh. What was really strange was that, two years ago, I put out a tweet that said, "If anyone's looking for a show to watch, check out Vikings." I was going through my tweets the other day, and there it was, this tweet from two years ago, before I even got the show. That was a really great moment.

Kalf (Ben Robson) and Lagertha (Katheryn WInnick) in 'Vikings'
Kalf (Ben Robson) and Lagertha (Katheryn WInnick) in 'Vikings'

Tell us about Kalf.

Kalf is Lagertha's second-in-command. He's been there for a long time by Lagertha's side in Hedeby. He was born in Hedeby, which is something he's proud of. It's not something that's really shown within the show, but Bjorn and Kalf were probably growing up at the same time, and would've been part of each other's lives. Kalf is incredibly ambitious. He's incredibly calculated. He's incredibly intelligent. You see in the first episode, he wants recognition from the gods, like every single Viking does. I think that's the big thing.

That desire that Kalf has for fame seems part of the Viking culture. Was that something you discussed with series creator Michael Hirst?
It's very much Michael's vision. It was evident in the text. I tried to relate to it in terms of a child, with Ragnar Lothbrok. You're growing up with a legend. I mean, Ragnar Lothbrok at this time was completely redefining the world of the Vikings. He's the first person to travel, going over to England and conquering a land, and then coming back with gifts and gold. The sort of winning that people had never seen before. In terms of using that, someone sets the bar, and you want to pass it. Something that Kalf talks about in the first episode is, "I want the gods to sing my name down the halls, as they do of Ragnar Lothbrok." He wants to be that.

Related: 'Vikings' Creator Michael Hirst Teases Season 3's Prophecies, Romance

Kalf seems to be a character who works behind the scenes. Will we see him take up a sword and fight this season?
It wouldn't be a very interesting Vikings character if he wasn't wielding axes and swords, would it?

Lagertha is a fan favorite. After Episode 1 of the new season, fans may be poised to distrust Kalf. Do you have a plan for when they start tweeting angry things at you?
Yes, unplug the Internet. Put my phone away, hide my laptop, and hide in a hole until things get better!

Vikings stars Travis Fimmel, Alexander Ludwig, Katheryn Winnick, and Clive Standen preview Season 3:

What is the most challenging thing about playing a Viking?
I think the biggest thing about the Vikings for me is their total and utter fearlessness at war. They have no fear of death. For them, death and glory [are] revered, to go up to Valhalla. So how do you fight someone who's not scared to die? I mean, that must be unbelievably terrifying to come up against. And an incredibly interesting mindset to go into when putting on the outfits and the costumes and being a Viking, as it were.

So is that a strange thing to play as an actor? Here's a person and a culture that's completely fearless and embraces death.
I don't think there are many characters that you get an opportunity to play something like that. So that is quite an interesting thing to play. It almost makes you more fearless in terms of the actions and the things that you're choosing to play as the character. It's an interesting place to find fearlessness in your performance, to show and depict the fearlessness that they live in day-to-day life.

It's definitely an interesting aspect of the show and of your character. I'm looking forward to seeing how the season unfolds.
Yeah, I can't wait to see it. I'm going to have to wait until Feb. 19, like everyone else! But very much looking forward to it.

Know all your Vikings terms? Prep for Season 3 with some help from the cast:

Vikings premieres Thursday, Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. on History.