We talk to WWE star Adam Copeland about his time as the deranged madman Kjetill on Vikings. You can watch the final season now!
Former WWE champion Adam Copeland, aka Edge, joined Vikings during its fifth season, playing Kjetill Flatnose. A part of Floki’s settlement of Iceland, Kjetill shared Floki’s vision of a new world, but soon found himself taking up his old, bloody ways.
Copeland was gracious enough to sit down and discuss his character’s journey, what he’ll miss most about the show, and why that last haunting shot of Kjetill required a Snickers to complete.
SPOILERS follow below!
WINTER IS COMING: What did you take from your wrestling career into your acting?
Adam Copeland: “I think the performance aspect. It’s from the same entertainment tree, just different branches. There are elements from acting that I’ve used in wrestling since, and there are elements from wrestling that I used in acting. The biggest difference is that wrestling is more like theater; that’s the closet comparison I can think of. You’re trying to make everything bigger and larger than life because it’s a live audience. You wanna reach that back row, which could be 80,000 people away, so you have to make it big, your facial expressions, everything has to be larger than life.
“With acting, you have to pull that back. That was the biggest difference for me. They all come from the same cell, they are all performance based, and that takes away nerves. Coming into Vikings, I had kind of fallen into acting, it was a happy accident. I realized my second episode into a show I was doing called Haven, ‘This is good, this hits that same creative vein.’ So by the time I got to Vikings, I felt comfortable walking into it. It was such a physical show, and I was a fan of the show, so I knew that the wrestling base that I have, from the physicality aspect, was really gonna go a long way on this show.
“Little did I know, that my character wouldn’t get physical until this final season. Kind of a nice surprise honestly. With a lot of the gigs you get, you assume there must be something physical involved, that’s one of the reasons they are hiring you. So in the first season when Kjetill was in Floki’s settlement in Iceland it didn’t really break off until the end, and that was a pleasant surprise, because that meant it was acting and not just physical acting.”
WIC: What led to Kjetill’s extreme paranoia bordering on jealousy?
AC: “As a performer I had to find a reason for it, and to me the reason was that all of his children were murdered. That broke his brain. And I think [creator] Michael Hirst had this in mind too, when Kjetill originally went with Floki, he really did want to be the man that Floki thought he was. Kjetill wanted to be a pillar of the community, he wanted to be Floki’s right hand, and be part of the bedrock of that community. I truly believe that. I came into it with that mindset, but as soon as his pregnant daughter was murdered, something snapped.
“I think Kjetill realized Floki’s vision of this paradise without violence, without manipulation, without stabbing each other in the back to get ahead, and the politics he left behind with the Lagerthas, the Ivars, the Haralds and the Bjorns of the world, Kjetill realized he wasn’t gonna get away from it. That I think, broke his brain. At that point, Eyvind’s family had killed Thorunn, and Kjetill was going to get revenge, and he would manipulate everyone to get that revenge.”
WIC: What was Kjetill looking for after avenging his family?
AD: “After Kjetill got the revenge, part of him thought it felt good. Kjetill just wanted more and more and more. If he didn’t have power, he felt jealous. I think it was all rooted in power once his family was destroyed.
“I think because he has a little family left, Kjetill wants power. Kjetill thinks that while somehow make him whole, it will fill that hole of all his children being gone, except for Frodi. Kjetill just wants to be king, wherever that is. King of Iceland? Sure. King of somewhere, of something. That’s his driving force from that point forward. As soon as he killed Eyvind’s family, that was the new goal.”
WIC: “What were your thoughts on how Kjetill’s story arc closed out?”
AC: “When I read the final script, I immediately thought of the Metallica song, ‘King Nothing.’ By the end, he ends up being the king in his mind, but the final shot drives home that he’s King Nothing. When I read it, I thought, ‘this is epic, this is an epic way for this character to leave the show.’ It’s one of the only open ended characters, and to me that’s very cool. As a viewer you can ask, ‘I wonder what that dude is doing? What is going on in Greenland right now?’ [laughs]. To me, that’s pretty cool. You can’t tie all of the knots. You need to leave some loose threads, and I was really happy that Kjetill was one of those. Especially when I read, and talked to Michael Hirst, who said, ‘We’re gonna be building a sixty foot whale. We’re gonna try one continuous fight scene shot.’ And you read how the character leaves the show, I thought, ‘Wow.’
“Now, would I have loved to go to the golden land and run into Floki, and see what happens there? Absolutely. But I think Kjettil’s ending, which isn’t an ending, is really very cool. I’m not gonna complain that the send off for the character was built around a sixty foot whale. It’s ridiculous, in a good way! Generally the villains don’t live on. It’s nice to throw that on its head sometimes.”
WIC: How difficult was it to film that film the scene where Kjetill and Ubbe fight around the beached whale?
AC: “My final scene, was so based on movement, as a continuous shot. My character drives that movement, and that is a tough thing to pull off when you’re in a bog in Ireland that is trying to pull the boots off your feet. You still have to do these movements, keep moving forward while killing other characters [laughs], but keeping the camera movement the same. So it was a very intricate pocket to find. You get with your camera operator, you nod and catch eyes and go from there. All the while, you’re trying to give your all to this Viking fury, rage thing you’re trying to portray alongside a wet whale. Made of rubber. And you have to climb up on it. There were a lot of difficult aspects to that one, but it was so much fun. You realize how many pieces of the puzzle have to fall in place for that to work, but when it does, it feels so good.
“At the end of the day, my voice was gone and I was just exhausted. I had to stay at 190 all day, the scene called for that. I’d lost 37 pounds for this storyline, so I wasn’t eating as much. There was one point during takes when Ray Stevenson (Othere) told me, ‘I’m gonna get you a Snickers, your lips are blue.’ It was one of those. I was already pretty physically depleted because Jordan [Patrick Smith] and I had took it upon ourselves to lose the weight, we’re supposed to be starving, this whale that washes up on Kjettil’s land is what causes this madness, they’re starving. We tried to stay in this accelerated zone of aggression throughout the day because the scene called for it. You can’t really just drop that in-between scenes. There’s only so much Redbull. That was a really challenging day on multiple fronts.
“Scenes without the physicality, you want to be emotionally invested in, but scenes just sitting and talking across the table don’t feel quite as rewarding after the fact, unless you really go somewhere with them. I had some of those with Gustaf (Skarsgard) last season. Those felt great, but when you know as an actor how epic this is going to look, and you have that gut compass that tells you, ‘I think we all just crushed this,’ that feels really good.”
WIC: Any other scenes you did stand out for their difficulty?
AC: “There was the scene where Kjetill and Bjorn were invading, and we filmed it at this quarry in Northern Ireland. It was early December, so pretty cold, freezing, and we’re swimming, wearing our Viking armor, which is leather, wool and all that. We had flippers on, but mine popped off. So in between takes, we’re doggy paddling, and I’m getting really tired. I usually have pretty good gas, but come to find out they put me in a dry suit instead of a wet suit, and it was filling with water. I was treading water with a dry suit full of water, wondering why I’m so tired. By the time filming was done, they had to pull me out of the water, I couldn’t pull myself up. Then they saw the suit was full and I looked like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man [laughs]. So from a physical stand point, that was a challenging one, we were out there for a while.”
WIC: Was there any other role you would have liked to have played?
“Well, I have to look at it from an age perspective, because with Bjorn for instance, he’s a big presence on the show, but just age wise it doesn’t work right? Where would I fit? Floki maybe, but I cannot picture anyone playing Floki but Gustaf. What a fun character, and what made Floki so fun were the choices Gustaf made. What Floki is not on paper. That’s what Gustaf brought to Floki.
“So, maybe Harald. I think Harald is closest in mindset to Kjetill, and I feel like they would have a kinship that would work. I feel like that would be a really fun one to pull off. I love Peter [Franzen], who plays Harald; he’s a beast. I love what he did with Harald. That makes it fun, because of what Peter did with it, I think, ‘What could I do with it?'”
WIC: Was there anyone you would have liked to have worked with more?
AC: “Peter for sure. Peter and I shared two scenes together, but in just those two scenes I felt we could have found a cool groove. We became friends, I think it spoke to a similar mindset; we’re both dads, same age and we could just relate to one another. A lot of the cast are much younger, and they are great, we’re just in different stages of life. And Peter is a boxer, he’s a physical guy, so we’re both in the same pocket. In those two scenes we did, I felt like we really could have had some fun.
“I got to work with Gustaf a lot, which was amazing. You can’t get enough of working with that guy, so I would have loved for his character to have been around in season six. It was a bit of a bummer for him not to be around.”
WIC: Now gives us the dirt. Can you remember any embarrassing stories from your time on set?
AC: “There’s really not much to be honest. Except for me almost sinking [laughs]. It could have ended badly, but I laugh now. I always found what Alex (Høgh Andersen) had to pull off was crazy. When we first met, Alex was in shape, but then I hadn’t seen him for a while since we are in different stories, probably a couple months, and I said, ‘Woah! You been hitting the gym?’ And Alex said, ‘Well yeah I’ve been walking around on my hands.’ So Alex was jacked.
“Usually there’s a story from when it’s veggie burrito day, and there’s something from that, but I can’t remember anything. I remember Scott Graham who plays my son Frodi, he had one line this particular day, from when we came back from this excavation to see what Greenland held, he had this one line. Which is the worst, because you just think about it and think about it, and then suddenly the words are all over the place [laughs]. So throughout the day, he kept screwing the line up, and he could not get it straight. So I was busting his chops throughout the day, and next take, he got like two words out and stopped. They called cut, and he turned to me and just said, ‘You bastard,’ [laughs]. But it’s funny how one line, can trip you up more than a two pager or a walk and talk. And Scott has horrible gas, he had no problem dropping it anywhere. [Laughs].”
WIC: Looking back, what are you going to miss most about the show?
AC: “Just the understanding of how big the show was, not just in its scope. In its work and the shots that we get. It’s a movie every week. That’s the type of thing you are gonna miss. As you’re doing it, you know how cool it’s going to look, and you don’t know that with every job. You hope, but you knew with that one. That’s a great feeling. To go to work everyday and know, “This show is gonna kick ass, and I’m a part of that.” That knowledge, that confidence, I’m gonna miss. You just don’t know from project to project. That was very cool.”
WIC: What do you think fans will take from the final 10 episodes?
AC: “I think they will see where all the characters that they have invested so much time in, go. I think there is a lot of reward for the loyal viewer, who will finally see story arcs end. I think it will be satisfying as a fan of the show. I’m a fan of the show, and as I’ve been watching this season, I’ve really enjoyed it for this character or that character. I think this is one hell of a season. It will answer a lot of questions, but not all of them. I think any good show doesn’t have to.”
WIC: And where can finds find you next?
AC: “I came back to the WWE at the Royal Rumble and blew up the wrestling world for this year, but right now I’m rehabbing a torn tricep. Then it’s just a matter of the tightrope scheduling. Where does this film, and how long does it film for? It’s gonna be the logistics of what I can pull off, but I’m still gonna attempt it. Those are as my manager says, champagne problems.”
Thanks to Adam Copeland for the time! Hopefully we can see him on the small screen again soon.
The final ten episodes of Vikings are available now on Amazon Prime Video.