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'Vikings' Interview: Alexander Ludwig On Bjorn's Season 6B Fate

Vikings Alexander Ludwig Bjorn Ironside History
Bernard Walsh / History

It is tough to believe that Alexander Ludwig has not been on “Vikings” since the beginning. His take on Ragnar Lothbrok’s eldest son has been that indelible. Ludwig took over the role of Bjorn Ironside in Season 2 when the character aged, and viewers caught back up with him and his mother, Lagertha. Four seasons later, Ludwig opened up to Eclectic Pop about Bjorn’s ultimate fate in Season 6B.

Part 2 of “Vikings” Season 6 is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and viewers are finally getting a chance to learn what befell Bjorn in the final episodes. It was a story six seasons in the making, and in this interview, Alexander Ludwig digs into Bjorn’s biggest life regrets, reveals the souvenirs he took home from the set, and much more. First up, a spoiler warning.

Spoilers for Bjorn’s fate in Season 6B do get discussed below. So, do not keep reading if you do not want to know “Vikings” fans!

In case you missed it, Bjorn died on “Vikings” but not before leading the charge for Norway to drive out the Rus. His final stand got a full recap here. The end of Bjorn Ironside’s saga did not come without a lot of foreboding context and in this interview, Alexander Ludwig takes a deep dive into Bjorn’s psyche as Bjorn ventured into his and the show’s final season.

How angry was Bjorn that he ultimately died from injuries he sustained during that clash with the Rus, while King Harald ended up making it out alive? Alexander Ludwig laughed before telling me, “I would say that he’s probably not the happiest at the moment.” What else did Ludwig have to say? Here is Eclectic Pop’s full interview with the “Vikings” star.

Eclectic Pop: So, having binged all of the episodes, Bjorn’s death definitely marks the end of an era in that he is the only surviving character from Season 1 when the second half of Season 6 premieres. Did the weight of that hit you hard when you were filming?

Alexander Ludwig: I would say it was much more just the weight of just knowing that, as you said, it was the end of an era. But knowing that what had been previously my home for six years, the family we had created on that set, and just the incredible opportunity I was given as an actor was about to come to an end. So, for sure, there was a weight to it, but I wouldn’t say that the pressure of concluding Bjorn’s story weighed on me as much. Simply because, as a fan myself, I was really proud of the way we were ending it.

And I had always had a hand in discussing how this was going to end for him, which Michael [Hirst] was so generous to include me in the process. It was really important to us that we did it right, for the fans and for myself. So, I would say the weight was more so, you’ve created such a family, and Ireland was my home for six years.

I was shooting for eleven months out of the year. So, though it was a bittersweet ending, it was also [that] I wasn’t just leaving this wonderful character. I was also leaving my home. But that being said, it felt right. Like it just felt like there was nothing more I could have done as an actor, and I felt like Bjorn’s story naturally had come to an end. So, I was really proud of where we ended the show and ended Bjorn’s story.

How did you feel knowing you were not going to make it far into the second half of the final season?

Alexander Ludwig: That was actually something that we had always planned. I had talked to Michael [Hirst] like a year before we even ended up shooting this, and we talked about Bjorn’s ending, and I think collectively we all felt that it was really important that we gave space to the other characters’ stories to also come to an end.

And at this point for me, I just felt like him dying in the first episode of the last season as opposed to the last episode of the season before made so much more sense. Because they wanted Bjorn to help carry it over, but also, I feel like it’s so much more unexpected. Because usually, at the end of every season, you would expect a big death. You would expect something kind of really tragic to happen.

So, I thought it was kind of an ingenius idea to move that to the beginning of the last season. As a fan of the show myself and somebody who is incredibly critical of everything that I do, I will say that I’m so proud of the way this show ends, and I think that the fans are going to be really happy, and a fan favorite may or may not return. 

So, what was it that you think in the end made Bjorn [lose]? He’s won so many battles, but what was it in this particular one that you think might have played into why he didn’t come out of this one alive?

Alexander Ludwig: I think it’s kind of this heroic ending for him finally, and it’s like he wasn’t ever a selfless human being, but he certainly wasn’t a perfect human being. And I think that at this moment, it is the most selfless act he could ever do, which is why it would be his end. At this point, he’s not trying to prove himself as a king, as a leader, or a legend.

He’s simply a man and a dying man, who wants his people to flourish whether or not he’s still alive, which is why he has to give the ultimate sacrifice because he knows that [is] the only way that will happen. So, for me, I just felt like it was really a fabulous ending to what has been previously the greatest experience of my career. 

Part of that journey is that Bjorn had many loves, and I know that during the Comic-Con@Home earlier this year, you answered the question of who the greatest love of Bjorn’s life was, and sadly your response had to get cut out due to spoilers. But now that the final chapter is out, can you reveal who Bjorn’s greatest love was?

Alexander Ludwig: I think that’s kind of the tragedy of Bjorn. So much of his arc has been stepping out of his father’s shadow and becoming his own man, and for me, what was so, so challenging was also what was so exciting about the show. [It] was being able to hold back until these little milestones throughout the show where I got to show these big leaps in his character. But unfortunately, as he’s growing as a leader, he’s failing as a father and as a partner.

So, when you talk about a great love, I think the tragedy in Bjorn is that he never had one. I think that he used his partners, and he found different things in different women that reminded him of what he admired about his mother. But I don’t believe he ever found the true love of his life, though at times he may have thought he did, and again towards the ending of Bjorn, I would say that it is so important to me that he admits his faults before he goes because not only is it the conclusion of his story. But it’s also emotionally, the conclusion of his struggle.

I think that in this final episode, he’s finally come to terms with the fact that he can forgive himself for being imperfect. And despite all of his failings, he leaves a great man, and I think he finally becomes the man that he always wanted to be and the man that his father always knew he could be. But in terms of his great love, I think he’s going to have to wait for Valhalla.

Well said, and you spoke about him as a man and him coming to terms with that. When he was speaking to his wife, he seemed to have a lot of regrets or feelings of his failing but was there one thing in particular that you think he regretted there at the end? 

Alexander Ludwig: Absolutely. I think the most prevalent one was his failings as a father. Given the way this show happens, there are so many things that I wish we could have explored more, but I think we did the best we could with what we were able to do. With so much history to explore, there was only so much time to do so. I do believe that his biggest regret isn’t his failings as a husband. It’s his failings as a father.

And I think that he finally comes to terms with that in the last episode, and I was really grateful for Michael [Hirst] for being able to write such a fabulous scene where, though it is quick, I think it gets really to the point of you really [seeing] that Bjorn has a lot of regrets. The most important thing was not that others forgive him but that he can finally forgive himself, and I think that is so right. He’s been kind of plagued by this guilt of not being good enough, and finally, he is. 

And with Bjorn’s final chapter happening and it also being your final chapter on the show, did you get to take any souvenir home from the set? And if so, can you share what that was?

Alexander Ludwig: I did. It’s actually tradition on the show that after everyone dies, they get a shield signed by all of the cast and the crew. And then Michael [Hirst] and the producers so generously gifted me the Sword of Kings with Bjorn’s name, his Nordic name, on the sides. So, I still have both of those.

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You can watch Bjorn and Alexander Ludwig’s entire journey on “Vikings” by streaming every season of the series on Amazon Prime Video. To learn if the final season made it onto Eclectic Pop’s Best TV of 2020 list, click here.

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