Given the astounding success that History Channel found with its previous based-on-stuff-that-really-happened dramatic effort,“Hatfields and McCoys,” it’s no wonder that the network is throwing such a profound promotional push behind its latest endeavor, “Vikings.” Granted, the cast of this one can’t quite compare with headline names like Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, but don’t be so hasty to dismiss it just because you don’t know as many of the actors off the top of your head. After all, at the very least, it’s got Gabriel Byrne, who’s quite good (as anyone who’s watched him on HBO’s “In Treatment” or any number of his many cinematic efforts can handily testify), but, seriously, there’s a lot of other solid actors in the ensemble as well…like, say, Clive Standen, for instance. Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with Standen about his work on “Vikings,” but we also managed to chat a bit about his work on “Camelot“ and “Doctor Who“ as well as a slightly less fondly remembered effort called “Heroes and Villains.”
Bullz-Eye: To start with the inevitable, how did you find your way into “Vikings“ in the first place? Presumably it didn’t hurt that you’d already worked with the creators.
Clive Standen: It was a long process for me. I was fighting them, kicking and screaming, to try and get seen for this. [Laughs.] I was filming with one of the producers of Vikings, Morgan O’Sullivan, when I did “Camelot,” and I remember him and Michael Hirst talking about it quite a lot then as a new, exciting project they’d been working on for ages. Michael had been invested in the Viking saga for a long time. Right from the beginning, I think they were looking for big names, and they had their kind of wish list, with people like Viggo Mortensen and…well, it was a completely different breed. And I was stuck in “Camelot,” and I was just so jealous. When “Camelot” was finished, I was writing letters and, as I say, kicking and screaming, saying, “Can I get seen for it?” And they wanted to see me for Rollo, which is the part that I played, but for some reason I went on this whole journey of doing screen tests and things for the part of Ragnar. At the very end, though, they offered me Rollo, which was the part that I wanted in the first place, so I must say it made me very happy.
As we enter into the final quarter of the traditional broadcast TV season, where many of the mid-season entries are already beginning to wrap up their runs (“Alcatraz,” for example, aired its two-hour finale on Monday) and most of the series that kicked off way back in the fall are in that depressing twilight period just prior to their last run of new episodes before season’s end, many of your favorite premium cable programs are taking advantage of the semi-lull by coming back with a vengeance.
This past Sunday, of course, AMC brought us the return of “Mad Men,” which you probably already knew, since it managed to pull in 3.5 million viewers, a none-too-shabby increase of 21 percent over the series’ previous season premiere. This Sunday, the network has another series coming back, though it’s probably safe to presume that the numbers won’t be nearly as impressive for this one. But, look, if your excuse for not liking “The Killing” is that they didn’t resolve Rosie Larsen’s murder by the end of the season, go peddle your wares somewhere else, because I’m tired of hearing people whine about that. So what if it hasn’t been resolved yet? A show’s allowed to keep its viewers in suspense, isn’t it? If you didn’t like it because you thought it was boring, that’s one thing. If you’re really complaining because the producers promised “a very, very satisfying ending to Season 1” and reneged on that promise, though, I say that you may be well within your rights to be frustrated, but don’t say, “Ugh, they lied, therefore the show sucks,” because that’s just lame.
I do think AMC must be resigned to the return of “The Killing” being slaughtered both by the critics and in the ratings, however, since even though it’s coming back this Sunday night at 8 PM for a two-hour season premiere, the homepage of the network’s press resource center is still busy trumpeting last week’s return of “Mad Men.” For my part, while I do think the series dragged quite a bit in places and reached the point of ridiculousness with how many times Sarah Linden bailed on her planned departure (if I was Ray McDeere, I probably would’ve broken off my engagement to Sarah somewhere around Episode 1.3), I was perpetually gripped whenever Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton were portraying parental grief, and I am steadfast in my disagreement with anyone who says that Episode 1.11 (“Missing”) was an unnecessary detour away from the case, because that may have been my favorite episode since the pilot. If you didn’t like that episode, you probably also watched “Twin Peaks” and complained about how they spent too much time focusing on Audrey Horne when they could’ve been figuring out who killed Laura Palmer…and I’m here to tell you that you can never spend too much time focusing on Audrey Horne.
Quick sidebar: if you didn’t watch “Twin Peaks,” this is Audrey Horne:
This concludes your moment of Sherilyn Fenn zen. We now return to our regularly scheduled column…provided we can all get our concentration back.