Vancouver's Alexander Ludwig gets big 'Vikings' plotline he's been waiting for
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TORONTO — "Vikings" star Alexander Ludwig has been waiting four years for this week.
The Vancouver-born actor says when he first signed on to play warrior Bjorn Ironside on the hit History series, he was told he would get a major storyline that's finally playing out with Wednesday's season 4 return.
"This is what I was promised, this season, and I stayed on it for this reason, for (season) 4-B," he said during a recent stop in Toronto.
"It's some of the best work I think I've ever done and I'm just very happy for the whole audience to get to see a side of Bjorn that I don't think anybody really knew existed."
The mid-season premiere sees the unexpected reappearance of Bjorn's father, Viking hero Ragnar, played by Travis Fimmel. Ragnar disappeared after being defeated by his brother Rollo, played by Clive Standen.
Meanwhile, Bjorn shows a dark side as he prepares to step out of his dad's shadow and fulfil his epic goal of sailing the Mediterranean, a storyline that's inspired by real events.
Bjorn also finally gets his revenge on someone in a scene that "was the two hardest days I've ever had filming and I think very possibly the two hardest days I ever will have filming," said Ludwig of the shoot in Ireland.
"It was snowing and we were filming in the mountains, it was so ... cold. I mean, you were getting frostbite on your feet, your hands, you felt like you had trenchfoot.
"I'm from Canada and I've never felt this much pain in my bones from cold, so much so that I thought people were going to be seriously injured when we were filming this."
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson makes a guest appearance as a Viking in this new batch of episodes.
"It was so funny seeing somebody who's so talented in his field come in with so much humility and put himself out there for our show," said Ludwig. "It just shows the kind of impact we're having on people, which I love."
Overall, the shooting schedule for the Irish-Canadian co-production "has been just mad lately," said Ludwig.
"There's so much stuff we're covering over 20 episodes that just the work schedule lately has been 4 a.m. calls, five or six days a week," he said.
"It's the best season we've ever done, I think. As an audience you're going to be super invested in these characters, and they're so on the fringe of destruction internally and externally. As a fan myself, it's just constantly a cliffhanger and it can be very troubling as well."
Beyond the tough shoots, Ludwig has also ventured around Iceland to learn the history of Vikings and wears his head shaved at the back and sides for the role.
He also lives in Ireland 11 months out of the year to be near the set — not that he minds.
"Being a Canadian boy and loving the outdoors and the wilderness the way I grew up, I love that part of the show," said Ludwig, who was once a competitive freestyle skiier in Whistler, B.C. and has his licence for skydiving.
Ludwig admits there were times in past seasons that he feared he'd never be able to film the big Bjorn plotline, noting you never know if a show is going to get renewed.
"But I tried to play the slow game and show a naive kind of perfect little boy to showing this ruthless explorer that Bjorn Ironside became," he said.
"It took a lot of patience and it was very frustrating at times but now we finally have reached it."