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Morgan O’ Sullivan, ‘Vikings’ Executive Producer, speaks to IFTN
24 Jan 2014 : Deirdre Molumby
It was almost a year ago that ‘Vikings’, shot in Co. Wicklow, with approximately four hundred Irish people involved in its production, premiered on the History Channel in the USA. Now the highly anticipated series will see its first Irish screening on RTÉ2 this Sunday at 9.30 p.m.

A solid Irish team was involved behind the scenes of ‘Vikings’, including director Ciarán Donnelly (‘The Tudors’, ‘Stardust’, ‘Titanic: Blood and Steel’), Emmy award-winning Joan Bergin (‘Tudors’, ‘David Copperfield’, ‘The Prestige’) and production designer Tom Conroy (‘Tudors’, ‘West is West’, ‘Breakfast on Pluto’).

The executive producer of the show, Morgan O’ Sullivan, said that he and Michael Hirst, partner, creator and writer of the show, “wanted to get in and tell the story from inside the Viking community.” He also said the fact that the series will finally be seen by Irish audiences is “most exciting” and “is probably more important to us than anything else”.

The show has thus far been hugely successful in the USA, where the season 1 finale drew impressive ratings with 3.6 million viewers in total. O’ Sullivan stated that this was the most important market for the series, as “these shows are not cheap. We spend between 40 and 50 million a season on a series. So in that sense, we are out to make significant drama.”

‘Vikings’ has also aired in Denmark and Scandinavia where the show has been praised for its accuracy. The TV series has aired in Romania and is currently showing as far as Dubai. O’ Sullivan commented “With the costumes, the sets, the locations, we’re really trying to make event television for a global audience.”

On what to expect of the show, Morgan O’ Sullivan answered “entertainment first and foremost” as well as something, in spite of comparisons with shows like ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Camelot’ (both of which O’ Sullivan previously worked on), that is original – “this is fresh and it’s new in terms of its look.”

Because it was picked up by the History channel, the show has been marked for its historical accuracy. O’ Sullivan commented that achieving this was quite difficult at times due to the majority of the texts based on Vikings coming from a negative Christian point of view which usually depicted the people as pillaging murderers. O’ Sullivan praised researcher Justin Pollard, who went through hundreds of books and documents as research for the show.

Between the success of ‘Tudors’ in the past and the continuing popularity of ‘Game of Thrones’, it would seem that historical dramas have a guaranteed popularity with viewers. “I think we’re all interested in our past, and we’re interested in other people’s pasts,” O’ Sullivan commented, “and the drama in some of the historical material is really, really exciting.”

As for the characters that populate the TV series, O’ Sullivan commented that “I think we have some extraordinary characters in this, they’re very unusual. Ragnar Lothbrok [the main character, played by Travis Fimmel] is a complex individual – he’s a vicious human being in one sense but at the same time he has this interest in everything abroad… The women too are really interesting in this show because they fight side by side with the men.”

O’ Sullivan concluded by urging audiences to not judge the show too quickly as due to its unique character, it takes time to adjust to the tone: “I would love people to not judge it on the first episode… you’ve got to buy into this in the long term as a viewer, you’ve got to watch the six episodes and then you’re in the environment. Because it’s not formulaic in any way, it’s very different.”

TV channel History has picked up ‘Vikings’ for a second season of ten episodes. Season 2 has completed production and will be shown on US screens this year.

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