Peter Franzén (King Harald) talks to us about the end of Vikings

Image: Vikings/History
Image: Vikings/History /

Legendary Finnish actor Peter Franzén looks back on King Harald’s adventures Vikings, and reveals what other part he auditioned for.

With the final 10 episodes of Vikings now available on Amazon Prime Video, the man behind King Harald Finehair, Finnish actor Peter Franzén, sat down with us to discuss his character’s journey. From being the King of all Norway, to just a man looking for love, Harald’s story was a long and eventful one. (Everything below is spoiler-free.)

WINTER IS COMING: King Harald was a complicated man. What did you admire about the character?

Peter Franzén: “What’s not to love? He’s a horrible guy like so many other dictators, but if I have to admire a person like that I have to admire his persistence. Harald once said (courtesy of Michael Hirst), ‘When a fool persists in his folly, he’s no longer a fool.’ So that’s one of the good things about him. In a way, Harald is loyal to the ones he loves. Persistence is the main thing though. Of course, Harald is also a person who actually feels very deeply. Harald is looking for love, which is what we can all relate to in Harald.”

WIC: Harald also appears to be a man with deep insecurities. What do you think that stems from?

PF: “Well, everything starts from home. We all know that if someone is emotionally challenged or lacks empathy, something has happened in one’s childhood. In my childhood, I’m from a family that had a problem with domestic violence and alcoholism, but I was lucky, I was loved by people close to our family, grandparents and so forth. So I was shown emotion and empathy, and that is lacking for Harald. Harald and Halfdan have a background with that somewhere. They always talked about their mother, but I think they have been through a rough childhood. Which affected something.”

WIC: With that sort of emotional damage, is it possible for Harald to ever be truly happy?

PF: “I think you find out in the latter part of season 6. It was wonderful as an actor to sort of go through those emotions and that fulfillment. I think the last 10 episodes take the fans deeper into the characters, and the characters really reveal themselves. Michael wrote this for all the characters, that at some point they ask each other, ‘What is it that you really want?’ And the last 10 episodes answer a lot of those questions.”

WIC: What would Harald consider his biggest moment? Proudest? Biggest Regret?

PF: “Harald found true love in his mind, which must have been one of the highlights in his mind. I think Harald was truly in love with Queen Astrid. Of course, Harald being crowned as king of all Norway must have been the biggest moment of his whole life. The way Harald ended up being a king was kind of a surprise, I’m sure even to himself in a way, even though he was scheming behind Bjorn and all that. But that must have been the biggest.

“I think that pivotal point for him must have been Halfdan’s death. Something broke in him, or maybe it was broken already before that, because Harald knew he had to kill Halfdan.”

WIC: Was there any other character on the show you would have liked to play?

PF: “I really liked watching Linus Roache play King Ecbert. He’s a fantastic actor, and Linus didn’t do any battles or moments like that, which I enjoy, as well as the more dramatic moments, but Linus lit up his character in a way that was very interesting. The more years that I got to play Harald though, it sort of dawned on me that this was the part for me. So I’ve never really given it much thought, since it was already a prolific series when I got in. I tried to fill Harald’s boots, it didn’t slip my mind that I would want to do something else.

“Harald became a very interesting character. Michael (Hirst) told me, ‘It’s a slow burner,’ but he promised there would be multiple levels. And he kept his promise in my mind, because I got to play Harald on a lot of different levels. From the softer side, his love and yearning to have kids, and of course the horrible murder and rapist side, was difficult to play, but the scale of that is just, I don’t think I’d want to play any other character.

“I did audition for the first three seasons, I even auditioned for Ragnar’s part when the show was in its baby steps. I auditioned for a couple other parts as well, but there are things that you feel, ‘Well I could do this, but there’s something missing,’ or that it’s not my role that I feel.”

WIC: Looking back, what was your favorite scene to film?

PF: “There are so many, but one I’ve mentioned before, is the entrance scene of Harald, in season 4. When Harald comes into Kattegat and walks into the great hall, and Queen Aslaug wants to meet Ragnar, but he’s not there. That was my first day on set, and that was pretty amazing to see. Everything was like being in a time machine, that’s as close as you get to time travel in my mind. My character led the scene, and it was sort of a big scene, and it was sort of overwhelming to step into a production like that and the first day you get is, ‘Get it right man,’ [laughs]. I just had to let it all out. But it sort of worked out.

“Some of the battle scenes are unforgettable. You can’t forget a scene where you are on the other side of a bog or a marsh and there are four hundred enemy soldiers charging at you. Actors, horses slamming into one another, eight hundred people or however many altogether.

“I loved the scenes, the nice emotional stuff with Halfdan, with Jasper (Pääkkönen) my brother on film. Of course with Astrid (Josefin Asplund), there were some nice scenes too. But that first one, was the most memorable scene.”

Image: Vikings/History /

WIC: On the flip side, were there any scenes you look back on with dread? 

PF: “We try not to moan in our profession, because in a way, it’s a privilege. I’ve been in this business for such a long time that I’ve pretty much seen it all. But I guess some of the boat scenes, when you don’t have a lot to do. You just sail on a boat, and they adjust, reposition the boats and you’re in a boat that’s a hundred yards that way, so anybody could be standing there, your body double, a doll with your hair on. But you’re there for 10 hours anyways. I know I’m not the only one that felt that was kind of hard what to do on the boat for that long.

“Usually though, I’m very much alive on the set. The energy that you feel around you when everybody, hundreds of people, are honing in to do this one scene trying to make it stand out and make the best out of it. So the energy that is on set, even on those boats, everyone is still focused, and when that camera rolls, that energy is just amazing. You can sense that more in a smaller production, when it’s contained and just 30 people, but you could feel that even in this humongous scale production, it’s a powerful feeling.”

WIC: With such a huge cast in so many storylines, was there anyone you wish you could have worked with more?

PF: “Oh yes. They are all fantastic actors. I would have loved to have done more scenes with Travis (Fimmel), we had a few dialogue scenes together, but that would have been great. More scenes with Gustaf (Skarsgard), there are so many people that I would have loved to work with more. All of them! [Laughs]. It’s such a well cast production, the characters are alive  and when you throw them into a situation, something sparkles. Doesn’t really matter which one of the characters start talking to one another, there is a lot of draw in that.

“It would have been fantastic if we could have chosen, ‘My character would like to communicate with this character.’ [Laughs.] One actor I would have liked to have more screen time was Harald and Kjetill, Adam Copeland. Just a wonderful guy and actor, that would have been really interesting to play more with Adam. Hopefully in some future project. I loved his storyline! His character is nuts [laughs].”

WIC: Finally, what were your thoughts on the final 10 episodes?

PF: “The last ten episodes are probably the best TV they will ever see or have seen in this kind of production and subject matter. It’s so beautiful, all the bits and pieces are in place. The scripts are better than ever I think, they are more wholesome. The characters are becoming themselves, they are realizing what they want, and who they really are.

“Of course there is plenty of gore, and beautiful fights and battles. Some amazing new characters come in and take their places, they’ve been there in the back, but now they come to the forefront. Amazing new characters that come out, and people are gonna fall in love with the characters and the actors who play them. We succeeded in making it more beautiful than ever for the finale, so that’s good. It was such a pleasurable thing to know.”

We thank Mr. Franzén for the time. Fans of his won’t have to wait long to see him on the small screen again, as he’s set to appear in Amazon’s upcoming The Wheel of Time show. The final 10 episodes of Vikings are available now on Amazon Prime Video, and are being aired one at a time on History.

Next. Whales, Snickers and wet suits: Adam Copeland looks back on his Vikings journey. dark

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