Vikings star Georgia Hirst has been watching a lot of television lately. “In lockdown there was nothing to do,” she says from her home in London. “So me and my parents, we bought a massive projector. Obviously, with my dad [Vikings series creator Michael Hirst] being a writer, he had a film every single night for us to watch. We definitely ended up watching a lot and often we were like, let’s go back and watch things we might not have seen.”
As Torvi, a warrior, mother and shield maiden, her character has often been at the heart of the action. Georgia sees the role on the historical epic as one that’s helped broaden her small screen tastes. “A lot of people would say to me ‘Oh, this reminds me of this,’ or ‘Oh, you should watch this if you’re in Vikings’. It kind of started a dialogue and it definitely opened me up to some more historical things.”
Historical dramas are inevitably about how people live within society, highlighting the way other societies often seem so different while in many ways remaining the same. No surprise then when asked to pick her faves from the SBS On Demand line-up that would appeal to Vikings fans, Georgia focused on two series that use the darkness of a different time to reflect on our own.
“Taboo and The Handmaid’s Tale are both gripping in their own ways but they share very dark undertones,” she says. “Whilst sometimes hard to watch, the acting is phenomenal and carries you through the different journeys.”
What they have in common with Vikings is a commitment to being more than just a gripping drama. “I know people just assume Vikings is a drama, which it is, but there is a lot of truth behind the storyline. There’s a lot of history there.”
The Handmaid’s Tale
While they both present a harsh and often violent time, Georgia sees one major difference between Vikings and The Handmaid’s Tale – and it’s not that the latter is set in a chillingly plausible future. “The Handmaid’s Tale’s representation of women is hugely different to that in Vikings. They’re obviously set in totally different eras but the thing I loved about being in Vikings was that it championed strong women and showed them equal with the men on the show, which was also accurate of the times back then. Of course, The Handmaid’s Tale is so different in this way. However the portrayal of these poor women is so insightful and well acted that I would still have jumped at playing one of the characters!
“Ultimately in history, women have had a harder time to be taken seriously. In Vikings and The Handmaid’s Tale women still have to work to get to where they want to be. I admire that drive in the characters on both of the shows. And Elisabeth Moss is an actor who I really admire so much. She has so much depth and honesty in her performance, when you watch it you feel like you’ve never seen her in anything else and you just believe she is the character.”
Watch season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale at SBS On Demand (expires by 28 February). Season 4 is coming this year, and season 5 has been confirmed.
The story of a mysterious and violent man who returns from overseas to take over his family’s business at the dawn of the Victorian era, Taboo was a passion project for star Tom Hardy, and that passion comes through on the screen. “I am a HUGE fan of Tom Hardy, I think he is so great at the gritty, dark roles and this was the perfect one for him. I feel he just completely brought that character to life, and somehow makes him so likeable even though at times in the show he can seem awful.
“I think working on a historical series definitely opened my eyes to other period dramas out there. Whilst it never used to be my favourite genre, now that I’ve starred in one I realise how amazing it is to be able to tell history in this new format – adding drama and excitement. Who knew you’d be able to have a history lesson watching film or television!
“A lot of historical shows can’t be married to the history too accurately as they’re also making a drama. This was the same with Vikings. You’re not going to please everyone and the audience will always end up picking faults in a storyline but that is why I love watching other historical shows – to see how they manage the portrayal of real-life events.”
Watch season 1 of Taboo at SBS On Demand now.
Vikings (season 6B)
When we last saw Torvi, she was sailing with her husband westward, past Iceland towards a fabled land that for all they know might not be there. The series has always been about the Vikings’ expansion across Europe, but while the rest of the cast battle for supremacy back home, her journey across the final episodes takes them the furthest yet. And it seems like it’s not going to be all plain sailing.
“There are certainly threats, there’s a lot of life-and-death situations that we come across. But while there are lots of fights and things like that, you’ll see when you watch it that it’s just very different to any other season – I’d say it’s completely different to anything that the audience will have seen.”
It’s been almost two years since Vikings finished filming, so for Georgia this season is one last chance to look back.
“I’ll never forget what it was like playing Torvi, but already the memory is sort of fading a bit. So I’m excited to watch the new season, pick all those things back up and remember the good times.”
Stream episodes of Vikings season 6B at SBS On Demand. Episodes air on SBS Wednesdays at 9:30PM and are available to stream at SBS On Demand after broadcast. Episode 1 will expire from SBS On Demand by 3 February.
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