Few are better suited to play a Viking than the Norwegian actor Thorbjørn Harr; when you have a name that means “thunder bear” and a beard to go with it, becoming a Viking is easy. Or was it?
In the Irish-Canadian TV series Vikings, Thorbjørn Harr plays the Swedish king Jarl Borg, who entered the series towards the end of season one. In season two, filmed mostly on Ireland, Jarl Borg is more important and a bigger character, and becomes the nemesis of Ragnar Lodbrok, the main character of the series.
In the series, Jarl Borg’s weapon is either the sword or the axe, and the axe is the weapon that Harr trained the most with. In fact, it was Harr himself who pushed for Borg to be using an axe. -He has got a sword, since he is chieftain, but I talked them into giving him two axes […] What is fun is that a fight has been choreographed, which I learn. And then you can make an input yourself. That is perhaps the biggest difference between making a Norwegian movie and an American production, Harr says to Norwegian broadcaster NRK. The shooting of the series involved many hours of battle training for the actors, which was an important skill to learn. Harr says there is some of his own blood on the screen too, as actors tended to continue even if they got hit for real. He was careful to not get mixed up with the extras though; their fighting was not as skilled as the stuntmen that actors played against.
On the question why one should watch the series, Harr says to NRK that it is interesting when someone else interprets your own history. He adds: -It’s about our history, about Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and the expansion to England. Later they go further out in the world, so it’s really fun to see that they interpret our history in full seriousness. I think it is a blast, and very proud to be part of it.
Still, even though he became friends with star Gustav Skarsgård, being away from the family for 5-6 months was not the best part of the experience. -It is tough to be away from your family that long. It is not fun to have an ocean between yourself and your three kids. I am very lucky to have a wife that supports me, Harr said to Serieuniverset on NRK.
The 39 year old Thorbjørn Harr was in his teens an amateur actor on TV and had a small role in a 1991 romantic comedy for teens. He got his official cinematic debut in 2003 but has been a professional actor in stage plays, films, TV and radio since he graduated from the National Academy of Theatre in Oslo in 2000.
Vikings season two premieres on February 27 on the History Channel in the US and across the world on various channels.