Vikings Interview: Jessalyn Gilsig on Becoming Siggy

Jessalyn Gilsig Vikings

Vikings will soon be entertaining the masses on History, and TV Equals was happy to join a chat with Jessalyn Gilsig about the miniseries and her role, Siggy. Read below to see what we learned from the conference call.

Who is Siggy?

Gilsig revealed what her character, Siggy, is all about.

“…I play Siggy Haraldson who is the wife of Earl Haraldson, played by Gabriel Byrne as we mentioned and it’s 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…they haven’t been able to produce an heir and so she’s in an incredibly vulnerable and precarious position,” she said, “but…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 it’s incredibly natural to her, it’s something that she feels she’s inherently born in to. And there are many, many obstacles that she encounters as the series goes forward as perceived but she’s driven by this really inherent belief that she’s 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…to play her.”

History delving into drama

History is known as a television resource for credible historical facts, but now, it’s beginning to be known as a destination spot for dramatic programming.

“…I think it’s really exciting, I mean, for me, it’s such a illustration of where television is and television right now is at such an exciting moment where…there’s so many obviously platforms,” said Gilsig. “[A]nd…it seems natural that The History Channel, [after] seeing so many period dramas that are doing so well on other networks, [would] say, ‘Hey we have this open audience of people who are passionate about history, let’s 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.”

Learning about Vikings

Gilsig talked about what she learned through her experience playing Siggy.

“…I learned so much I mean I had to throw out all my preconceived ideas. You know, for me…from the vantage point of my character, one of the resources that they gave me was there had been a burial site that they had found that…they believed [belongs to a] woman…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, there’s this stereotype of Vikings…that they’re sort of this filthy, ruthless, totally unkempt people,” she said. “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.”

Getting into character

The information Gilsig learned about the Viking woman similar to Siggy helped her better understand how to get into character.

“…[F]or me that suggested that…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…what she wore and how did her hair and…that sense of there being a public self was really helpful for this role,” she said. “[T]hat all came out of artifacts that they had found in burial sights and information that was shared with us.”

Siggy’s hardships

Gilsig talked more about the trials Siggy faces in the miniseries.

“I feel like [Vikings Michael Hirst] gave so many great markers for me to hit because I feel like the relationship with the Earl was so specific and wasn’t 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,” she said. “And then they had a lot of touchstones…with the character having lost her son and the vulnerability of her daughter and [giving the daughter away in marriage] 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…the culture, which was born from ours, but then the humanity, which is universal.”

The challenges of playing Siggy

There were a number of hurdles to overcome when playing such a historically-based character. Gilsig talked about a few of the challenges she had.

“There were great challenges, you know, I felt really lucky that there’s so much that I got to do in this that I’ve never done before but…it has a lot of the elements that you hope for as an actress,” she said. “I mean anything from the period to the accent to as you say playing a role that doesn’t 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.”

Vikings airs March 3 at 10/9c on History.