Interview with Jessalyn Gilsig of "Vikings" on HISTORY - Primetime Article From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Jessalyn Gilsig

Interview with Jessalyn Gilsig of "Vikings" on HISTORY 2/21/13

Moderator: Jessalyn Gilsig
February 21, 2013
2:30 pm CT

Gilsig from promo shotOperator: Please standby, weíre about to begin.
Welcome you have joined a conference call with Jessalyn Gilsig of Vikings. Jessalyn plays Siggy Haraldson a wife of Viking Earl Haraldson whose character is played by Gabriel Byrne, Vikings premiers on History Sunday, March 3 at 10 pm and 9 Central.
Please ask only one question initially for the Q&A session. Once everyone has a chance to ask a question, we will prompt everyone for follow-ups. Again we ask that you please limit yourselves to one question initially and then we will prompt for follow-ups later.
Just a reminder todayís call is being recorded and we will end the call at promptly after 30 minutes.
And at this time weíll open up the call for questions. Again that is Star 1 if you would like to queue-up.
And an additional reminder if you have yourself on speakerphone, please make sure you have your mute function turned off to ensure that your signal will reach our equipment.
Okay, we have several questions in queue at this time weíll move to Suzanne Lanoue with The TV Megasite. Please go ahead.

Suzanne Lanoue: Hi. Thanks for speaking with us today.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Hi.

Suzanne Lanoue: Itís great to talk to you and Iím looking forward to the new series. Can you tell us anything about why History has decided to go into a scripted series?

Jessalyn Gilsig: Well I donít know if I could speak on behalf of The History Channel but I donít know, they didnít tell me but I think itís really exciting, I mean for me itís such a illustration of where television is and television right now is at such an exciting moment where we have all these - thereís so many obviously platforms and theyíre - and people, viewers have been very specific about ((inaudible)) down material that they respond to and thereís so much choice now.

And it seems natural that The History Channel seeing so many period dramas that are doing so well on other networks, letís say hey we have this open audience of people who are passionate about history, letís marry that with scripted material and kind of give everybody the best of both worlds and it just seems like a good, natural evolution for television and one I think we all benefit from.

Suzanne Lanoue: All right. Thank you. I look forward to it.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: At this time we will go to Pattye Grippo with Pazsaz Entertainment Network. Please go ahead.

Pattye Grippo: Hi. Thanks for talking with us.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Hi.

Pattye Grippo: So can you tell me a little bit about your character?

Jessalyn Gilsig: Sure. So I play Siggy Haraldson who is the wife of Earl Haraldson, played by Gabriel Byrne as we mentioned and itís such a fantastic gift this character, she comes in with a lot of backstory having lost their son in battle and having only a daughter and the Earl has not been able to - they havenít been able to produce an heir and so sheís in an incredibly vulnerable and precarious position but that the way that we conceived of her was that she was also really has always lived a life of privilege and a life of power and status and itís incredibly natural to her, itís something that she feels sheís inherently born in to.

And there are many, many obstacles that she encounters as the series goes forward as perceived but sheís driven by this really inherent belief that sheís a woman of importance and a woman who needs to survive and has incredible strength and conviction and I just felt very lucky to get this - to play her.

Pattye Grippo: Well thank you very much.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: And moving forward, we will hear next from Monique Jones with
Monique Jones: Hi.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Hi Monique.

Monique Jones: When you were working on this series, did you learn anything about Vikings that you didnít know before?

Jessalyn Gilsig: Absolutely. I learned so much I mean I had to throw out all my preconceived ideas. You know, for me one of - from the vantage point of my character, one of the resources that they gave me was there had been a burial sight that they had found that would have been - they believed were the womanís - who would have been in my position, the wife of an Earl or somebody of great importance and a lot of what we learned was first of all that there was - you know, thereís this stereotype of Vikings as if - that theyíre sort of this filthy, ruthless, totally unkempt people.

And in reality we saw a lot of evidence that they practiced really good hygiene and this woman, you know, they always had a change of clothes, they were buried with a change of clothes and that a woman in her position had, you know, very intricate and complex hairstyles and that there was evidence that they had used kind of very primitive kind of make-up.

And so for me that suggested that as the day, a woman had a public face, that there was something very deliberate about her appearance and that she was communicating through how she chose dress and ordain, you know, and what she wore and how did her hair and sort of that sense of there being a public self was really helpful for this role and that all came out of artifacts that they had found in burial sights and information that was shared with us.

Monique Jones: Thatís interesting. Thanks so much.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: Moving forward, we will hear from Christopher Cheng with

Christopher Cheng: Hello. Thanks for having me. I was wondering if thereís any difficultiesí being gained through this character of being a chieftainís wife?

Jessalyn Gilsig: There were great challenges, you know, I felt really lucky that thereís so much that I got to do in this that Iíve never done before but always, you know, when you become an actress it has a lot of the elements that you hope for as an actress. I mean anything from the period to the accent to as you say playing a role that doesnít even exist in modern society. And so to kind of find a way into the character but then to also make sure that these were human beings that had all the complexities of any mother, wife, woman and to kind of marry those two things.

I felt was the greatest challenge. I feel like Michael gave so many great markers for me to hit because I feel like the relationship with the Earl was so specific and wasnít just sort of man on a throne and the woman who sits beside him but more that there was a deliberateness and a specificity to what their relationship was made of.

And then they had a lot of touchstones as the mother having - with the character having lost her son and the vulnerability of her daughter and how the daughter becomes a, you know, - to marry her would be significant to how our position would evolve but then also, you know, the love of your child, you want to put your child in a healthy, respectful marriage.

And so I love finding the balance of this - of the culture, which was born from ours, but then the humanity, which is universal.

early still from the showChristopher Cheng: Okay, I see. I canít wait to see your performance.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Oh, thank you.

Operator: At this time weíll go to Reg Seeton with

Reg Seeton: All right, thanks for taking the time.

Jessalyn Gilsig: No, thank you.

Reg Seeton: Well after doing Glee, Heroes, Nip/Tuck and more contemporary roles, whatís it like to take on a project with so much history in it, especially filming in Ireland?

Jessalyn Gilsig: It was - funny enough it was something I had - sometimes when, you know, when you come home as an actor and youíre waiting to find out what your next move is going to be, you sort of try I guess make up what you would like it to be and Vikings, although I never imagined necessarily Vikings, but the idea of really being on a cable - what I like so much about cable these days is that theyíre building worlds that are completely seamless and so thorough.

You know, where you canít feel the edges of the set and Vikings in a way fulfilled that dream of mine of that really they built the world and then we step into it and we have to kind of go through the looking glass into a different world and a different time. Thereís so much on this show that supports us as actors, the production design is absolutely transformative, the wardrobe, the commitment of the hair and make-up department, itís standard of the other departments and the determination to create a world that was - that the audience could buy into.

And that we would really love the expectations, it was kind of infectious and I think as actors in a way, we really leaned on those departments to kind of complete that picture and felt really lucky that we were supported that way because it was a big leap I mean, you know, taking on a subject that has a lot of preconceived ideas and then weíre, you know, but we want to carry people into an experience where they canít feel, you know, itís - excuse me sometimes when I finish watching Downton Abbey in Britain and then I go to bed, I find myself sort of moving like Lady Mary.

And, you know, you want to bathe in that and I hope that we kind of give people that same experience where just for a second youíre transported and then you have to bring yourself back down into reality.

Reg Seeton: Thatís great. I look forward to it. Thank you.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: And at this time weíll go to Jamie Ruby with

Jamie Ruby: Hi. Thanks for taking the call. So can you talk about kind of how you got the role and why you chose to do it?

Jessalyn Gilsig: Well I heard about it, you know, as we always do through my agent and I heard that Gabriel Byrne was involved and that sounded really exciting and I had actually been thinking a lot about what I wanted to do after Glee and I had this kind of fantasy for myself that I would get involved in a show that I really associate with cable but are - and that are doing so well in cable like I think of Downton Abbey or I think of Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy, these shows where you canít feel the edge of the set.

Where you really feel like if you sort of went down the road and turned the corner, you know, is they would all, you know, even when we end the show life continues. You know, I think we all like to believe that there all in Downton Abbey right now and about to serve dinner and you just donít feel the, you know, you donít feel the construct and so to me I thought wow this is obviously this is a huge undertaking but we knew we were in good hands with Michael Hirst.

And I just thought that would really be - that would be scary but that could be kind of life changing to be able to participate in a show that was willing to take on the story of Vikings specifically for The History Channel where we knew that peopleís expectations would be very high.

Jamie Ruby: Great. Thank you.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: And moving forward, we will hear from Alex Sternberg with

Alex Sternberg: Hey, thanks for taking the call today.

Jessalyn Gilsig: No, thank you.

Alex Sternberg: I just wanted to know about working with such a great cast and your experience working with all of them?

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thatís a great question. It is an exceptional cast and I feel like everybody - itís always exciting when people come ready to play because then you really, you know, it pushes you to push yourself and obviously, you know, I was really lucky I got the jackpot because I got to sit, you know, all day every day beside Gabriel Byrne and he really came ready to collaborate and that was such an exciting realization that I had when, you know, we really work together to figure out who this couple was and to make sure that it was very specific and very deliberate and that we had a lot to work with.

And that was amazing and then it was really fascinating for us to sit up on our thrones and then just be Travis and Katheryn who play Ragnar and ((inaudible)) who plays really sort of like the next generation and almost like the new order of Vikings and had a completely different approach to their ambitions and to their hopes, which sort of goes in contrast to ((inaudible)) sort of a more traditional friend.

And, you know, everybody just brought so much so you had so much to play against and that always, you know, makes you feel like you can take risks because everybody around you is going for it.

Alex Sternberg: Yes. Absolutely, well I look forward to seeing it. Thanks so much.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: Just a reminder ladies and gentlemen that is Star 1 if you would like to ask a question.

And at this time weíll take a follow-up from Suzanne Lanoue with The TV Megasite, please go ahead.

Suzanne Lanoue: Hi again. I was wondering, would you say that your character is more of a bad girl than not, I couldnít tell too much from the promo I saw?

Jessalyn Gilsig: Well, sheís not a good girl for sure, sheís not a good girl but - yes, no I wouldnít play her if she was a good girl. Sheís, you know, sheís a survivor and sheís ambitious and I donít think that necessarily makes her a bad girl but it will make her controversial, which I always enjoy and I think itís just always entertaining.

Suzanne Lanoue: So do you think that you at this point in your career you probably wouldnít play the, ďgood girl?Ē

Jessalyn Gilsig: No, I played the, ďgood girlĒ before I guess, I mean maybe more sympathetic would be - if thatís what youíre sort of asking, I always try to work a little contradiction into my characters, I just feel like sometimes, you know, women are sort of reduced to that kind of Madonna/whore kind of concept, you know and in reality of course anybody whose a woman knows that you got your good days and you got your bad days like anybody else.

So I like, you know, what I felt really lucky working with Michael and I think Iíve been lucky with a lot of other shows in Iíve worked where they are comfortable with the idea that weíre not just one thing and we can be contradiction but I certainly have I think specifically like this film I just did Somewhere Slow I would stay in my character. Although sheís got her shortcomings, is all-in-all sympathetic but then sheís more the hero of the story.

When youíre not playing the hero of the story then you have to know that youíre always a foil for the good guy so to speak and I love playing that, I always think that thatís an interesting place to be.

Suzanne Lanoue: All right. Thanks very much.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: And this time weíll take a follow-up from Pattye Grippo with Pazsaz.

Pattye Grippo: So let me ask you, did you have to do any kind of training or preparation for this role?

Jessalyn Gilsig: Well I donít do a lot - Katheryn Winnick does a lot of the - sheís the shields maiden so I think she did a lot of sword training, I did not. I, you know, we had the accent which we all had to immerse ourselves in and we all had to kind of say okay letís go for it, weíre doing this and that was pretty exhilarating but no I didnít have any of the physical training that a lot of the other actors had.

Pattye Grippo: Right. And do - excuse me - do you have any other upcoming projects besides Vikings?

Jessalyn Gilsig: I do. I just wrapped an episode of The Good Wife, which I really enjoyed. Iím such a big fan of that show and thereís a film that I produced that is going to be doing the festival circuit actually starting in March called Somewhere Slow. And Iím incredibly proud of it, I was a part of it since development and it was an amazing cast, we have Robert Forster and Lindsey Crouse and Graham Patrick Martin and Wally Langham and itís just something thatís very special to me because itís the first time Iíve ever produced something.

And it was really fun as an actor to - you never - an actor youíre never there, well Iím never there from the moment of inception, you know, where you ((inaudible)) the last element to the final piece and so to be there from the very beginning and to help crew it up and build the days and be a part of the edit and the mix and the composer and all of that. It wasnít that I learned so much but I also learned how much I already knew and that was really satisfying after having worked in the business for so many years. Iím so excited for people to see it.

Pattye Grippo: Excuse me, weíre looking forward to it, sounds really good. Thanks for talking to us.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: And at this time, weíll a follow-up from Jamie Ruby with Scifivision.

Jamie Ruby: Hi again. So on set, are they strict with the script? Do you guys kind of adlib at all?

Jessalyn Gilsig: No it is pretty strict, you know, if you, you know, maybe made a substitution here or there but for the most part when youíre dealing with something like this and itís always exciting when you work on a show thatísí written by one person because you know that theyíre vision is so specific and I always think of it as a actor I would, you know, that itís my job, you know, when Iíll say when you do a play you donít never act, you could change your mind and I like it when you work with a television writer who you think gosh this isnít sitting with me - thatís my problem.

I need to find out why this person has chosen ((inaudible)) of words to communicate this thought. So we were very - we stayed true to what Michael had written, we knew that he was very, very deliberate and that it was our job to kind of meet his material.

Jamie Ruby: Okay. Great. Thank you.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: At this time we have one more question in the queue, just a final reminder that itís Star 1for questions. And at this time weíll go to Christopher Cheng with Everythingaction.

Christopher Cheng: Hi again. So I heard that you were excited to work on this project because also actor Gabriel Byrne was part of it but anyone else that you would prefer to work with?

Jessalyn Gilsig: Well I didnít know, you know, I didnít know anybody else. I will say that it was really amazing to watch Travis work, he was so committed like you rarely see and he was completely integrated into the story and the character and the life and I think for those of us who were there in support of him, that was so inspirational, you know, he just - he went into almost like somebody - like an athlete entering a marathon.

And I feel like he kind of went underground into the story and didnít surface until we finished and we needed that because we couldnít have any goals, you know, we all have to commit and so to see him commit so deeply I think really gave everybody else the strength to immerse themselves. And I think he should be given a lot of credit for setting that bar.

Christopher Cheng: Great. I canít wait to see this film - I canít wait to see this.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Yes I hope you like it. Thank you.

Christopher Cheng: All right.

Operator: And we have an additional follow-up, this will be from Jamie Ruby with Scifivision. Please go ahead.

Jamie Ruby: I get - so is there something specific that youíre like excited for fans to see coming up? Doesnít have to be real specific I know you canít, you know, tell details but.

Jessalyn Gilsig: I think, you know, Michael Hirst said something to me when I first met him and sometimes a writer or director will say something and it becomes your touchstone for as you go forward into your role and he said, you know, there are all these assumptions that we make about Vikings and there are all these stereotypes and he said weíre not doing a re-enactment, this isnít a documentary, this is a story told in a particular period.

And he said one thing that is universal from the beginning of time and has never changed, it doesnít matter where you are in time and it doesnít matter what culture you come from, we all love our children. And to me that kind of told me exactly what we were in for as an audience that these arenít people who are completely (unrelatable), their time is (unrelatable) just like Downton Abbey or Mad Men and you think gosh it was so different then I mean people smoked indoors or, you know, didnít wear pants or, you know, all these things but ultimately, you know, we have a universal human experience.

Which is we all want love and we all want acceptance and we all want security and we all want our children to do well and we all feel jealousy sometimes and we all feel resentment we all have irrational thoughts and thatís all in this show and I feel like in a way itís kind of the best way we could serve the Vikings or just humanize them.

Jamie Ruby: Definitely. Thank you.

Jessalyn Gilsig: Thank you.

Operator: And at this time it appears that we have no further questions in queue. Miss Gilsig did you have any closing remarks?

Jessalyn Gilsig: No, just hope everybody enjoys it and thank you for your interest.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen this does conclude todayís conference call. Thank you all for your participation, you may now disconnect.

Gilsig Vikings Promo:

HISTORY's first scripted show - VIKINGS. The word "Viking" has been synonymous with brutality, terror, and mystery ever since the first Norse warriors appeared along the coasts of England and France at the end of the eighth century. Their notoriety for barbarianism without pity was an important part of the mythology that grew up around them. And while Vikings are still characterized as such in popular culture, the reality is much more complex, visceral, and powerful than their reputation suggests.

The extraordinary tales of the lives and epic adventures of these warriors are told in VIKINGS, a new nine-part scripted series premiering Sunday, March 3 at 10 p.m. (ET) on HISTORY(r). The drama portrays the world of these Dark Age raiders, traders, explorers - not from an outsider's view, but, through the eyes of Viking society.

Official Site:

VIKINGS Preview Clip

Preview Viewable Here: 

They Were the Fiercest Warriors of All Time...

Now The Untold Legendary World of the Mighty Norsemen Comes Alive in HISTORY(r)'s New Scripted Series VIKINGS Premiering Sunday, March 3 at 10 p.m.

Travis Fimmel, Gabriel Byrne, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gustaf Skarsgard, Clive Standen, Katheryn Winnick and George Blagden to Star

Created and Written by Michael Hirst

The word "Viking" has been synonymous with brutality, terror, and mystery ever since the first Norse warriors appeared along the coasts of England and France at the end of the eighth century. Their notoriety for barbarianism without pity was an important part of the mythology that grew up around them. And while Vikings are still characterized as such in popular culture, the reality is much more complex, visceral, and powerful than their reputation suggests.

The extraordinary tales of the lives and epic adventures of these warriors are told in VIKINGS, a new nine-part scripted series premiering Sunday, March 3 at 10 p.m. (ET) on HISTORY(r). The drama portrays the world of these Dark Age raiders, traders, explorers - not from an outsider's view, but, through the eyes of Viking society.

While VIKINGS is filled with conflict, warfare and bloodshed - for these were extreme times - it is a family saga at heart. It follows the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel, The Beast, Baytown Outlaws), a curious, compelling man who is always looking to break through barriers and discover new worlds to conquer. A young farmer and family man, Ragnar is deeply frustrated by the unadventurous policies of his local chieftain, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment, Usual Suspects, Millers Crossing), who continues to send his Vikings raiders east every summer, to the Baltic states and Russia, whose populations are as materially poor as themselves.

VIKINGS will chart Ragnar's ambitions to discover civilizations across the great ocean to the west as well as his inevitable conflicts along the way. With the help of his jester friend Floki, (Gustaf Skarsgard, The Way Back), they build a new generation of boats - faster, sleeker and more beautifully crafted than anything else on the sea.

The series will also delve into how the Vikings - the last pagans - worshipped ancient gods like Odin, Thor, Freya and Loki. Ragnar claims to be a direct descendant of the Norse god Odin, who, as well as being the god of warriors slain in battle, is also the god of curiosity.

Joining Fimmel, Byrne and Skarsgard are Katheryn Winnick (Bones, Love and Other Drugs, The Black Marks) as Lagertha, a fierce shield maiden and Ragnar's wife; Jessalyn Gilsig (Glee, Heroes, Nip/Tuck, Friday Night Lights) as Siggy, Earl Haraldson's beautiful wife; George Blagden (Les Miserables, Wrath of the Titans) as Athelstan, a young, innocent Christian monk captured by Ragnar on his first raid on England and Clive Standen (Camelot, Robin Hood) as Rollo, Ragnar's impulsive, wild, care-free brother.

Created and written by Michael Hirst - one of the premier historical story-tellers in the industry (Academy-Award winning film Elizabeth; and the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated series The Tudors), Michael serves as Executive Producer along with Morgan O'Sullivan of World 2000 (The Count of Monte Cristo; The Tudors), John Weber of Take 5 Productions (The Tudors; The Borgias), Sherry Marsh, Alan Gasmer, James Flynn (The Tudors; The Borgias) and Sheila Hockin (The Tudors; The Borgias). Dirk Hoogstra and Julian P. Hobbs are the Executives in Charge of Production for HISTORY.

VIKINGS is an international Irish/Canadian co-production being co-produced by World 2000 and Take 5 Productions. HISTORY will broadcast domestically in the U.S. MGM Television will bring VIKINGS to the global audience, serving as the international distributor outside of Ireland, Canada and the U.S. VIKINGS is produced in association with Shaw Media, and the series will air on HISTORY in Canada.

About HISTORY(r)

HISTORY(r) is the leading destination for factual entertainment, including award-winning original series and specials that connect viewers with history in an informative, immersive and entertaining manner across multiple platforms. The network's all-original programming slate, including scripted event programming, features a roster of hits including American Pickers(r), American Restoration(tm), Ax Men(tm), Ice Road Truckers(r), Pawn Stars(r), Swamp People(r) and Top Shot(r) as well as epic mini-series and specials such as the Emmy(r) Award-winning Hatfields & McCoys, Gettysburg, Vietnam in HD, America The Story of Us, and 102 Minutes That Changed America. The HISTORY website is the leading online resource for all things history, and in 2011, the United States Library of Congress selected HISTORY's Civil War 150 site for inclusion in the historic collection of Internet materials related to the American Civil War sesquicentennial.

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