Shield maiden Torvi has been through a lot over the last four seasons of Vikings, and her journey’s not over yet. First appearing as the abused wife of bad guy Borg in season two, she’s survived multiple childbirths, numerous bad relationships (killing one husband herself) and a multi-year time jump that saw her transformed into a fierce warrior fighting alongside her queen.
When we saw her last and the mid point of season six, she’d converted to Christianity and was heading west with husband Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) searching for a new land that’s either the new hope for her people, or a lie that’s sent them to their doom.
That much change is a lot for an actor to take on, but Georgia Hirst, who started playing the then-teenage Torvi when she was 18, has grown alongside the character she plays.
“I feel like Torvi has one of the most epic arcs in the show really,” she says, talking to SBS just before the second half of Vikings’ final season goes to air.
“I really just started off as a glorified extra, with Torvi very meek and mild and in a string of bad relationships. Every single season has been such a journey but I think in the end, the things that mean the most to her is her family and protecting them. That runs throughout with her, but she's definitely a hell of a lot stronger towards the end.”
While Hirst’s career to date has largely focused on Vikings (she also had a role in the 2018 horror film Ravers and the recent lockdown rom-com Five Dates), playing a character that developed so much across the run of the series provided her with plenty of opportunities to show off her range.
“It was definitely exciting as an actor - one minute she was having a baby, then the next she's kicking off on the battlefield. But as the character gets older, that was harder for me.”
The biggest problem came with the time jump at the end of season four, when the series moved forward six or seven years.
“I was trying to make her as authentic as possible, but I was only getting a year older every year and there were times when I didn't know she'd react, because I was 24 at the time trying to play sort of 5-6-7 years older. That was a challenge, but I feel like towards the end, I kind of figured it out. And it helps that they made me look haggard.”
The flip side was Hirst’s growing connection to the character, which led to her having more of an input into how Torvi developed over the course of the series. Though being the daughter of series creator and showrunner Michael Hirst wasn’t quite as helpful as you might think.
“Michael Hirst, who’s my dad obviously, is known for his collaborative work, he loves it when the actors come to him. It wasn't special treatment just for me, we'd all pluck up the courage to take my dad out for dinner and then be like, ‘um, so this storyline, do you think like we could do this?’ He was always willing to take on board thoughts and there were a lot of thoughts that were taken on board - and a lot that weren't.”
“Also,” she adds, “you get to know your character. You feel that Torvi wouldn't do that, you have a much more clear sense of what she’s like. So, towards the end if it was a minor change or a look that you added in, you wouldn't really even need to ask.”
One thing she did ask about was the distinctive tattoos that Torvi and Ubbe have in the final season.
“I really felt like Ubbe and Torvi should get some kind of matching tattoos. I just felt like that was kind of symbolic that they were like in it together. Things like that, I would send it to my dad, send it to make up and say ‘what do you guys think?’ Then the next season, we had hand tattoos.”
Torvi’s life hasn’t been exactly short of drama. She saw one husband tortured to death before her, she killed another herself, she almost died in one battle and saw her firstborn son killed in another. But when asked what was the toughest to go through as an actor, the death of Viking queen Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) is at the top of Hirst’s list.
“That was really tough,” she says. “Katheryn is a good friend of mine and she had mentored me a lot through the show. I suddenly became a strong character which kind of happened overnight and she really helped me get my confidence off screen and on. And so when she was leaving, it was like, Torvi was kind of mourning for her but I also was mourning for Katheryn, so all of the emotion was really real.”
It turned out that having those emotions to tap into wasn’t all bad.
“I love how it came together. At the time I remember thinking it was some of my best work because it felt so authentic and real. All those scenes were pretty much filmed in the space of a week and almost every scene I was having to cry. I was really upset, so it was real - I watched back and I sort of cringe because that is my real crying ugly face.”
The final series of Vikings finished filming almost two years ago, so while Hirst is keen to see how the finished series turned out, she’s already looking ahead to her future acting career. She’s clearly still proud of her work on the series though, especially the way she managed to bring a touch of modern-day reality to the saga of legendary warriors.
“I wanted to make Torvi like a Viking version of a modern-day girl, if that makes sense. She has a relationship that doesn't work out, she meets someone that's great, she has a best friend she gets into an argument with - I wanted it to seem relatable in some ways, as relatable as it could be. I think I kind of tried to inject my truth into that world as someone living as a 26-year-old in London.”
And what did she get in return?
“From her I just got so much strength. Just reading the script, oh, my heart would break for her a lot of the time. But yeah, I think she'll always have that piece of my heart. I'll never forget what it was like playing her.”
Vikings season 6B (season 6 part 2) will premiere with a double episode on SBS at 8:30PM on Wednesday 6 January. Episodes will then air weekly on Wednesdays at 9:30PM and are available to stream at SBS On Demand after broadcast. Catch up on episode 1:
Episodes are only available for a limited time - check our article below for more info.
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