A WALK IN THE DARK

It took Alyssa Suther­land some time to come to terms with be­ing iden­ti­fied with her Vik­ings char­ac­ter, writes Shan­non Mol­loy

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY -

A lot of Alyssa Suther­land’s life has been spent get­ting ready to travel some­where, from ex­otic photo shoot lo­ca­tions to glitzy Euro­pean run­way shows.

When we sit down, it’s the day be­fore the 33-year-old model and ac­tor is due to fly back to Los An­ge­les. The Vik­ings star is feel­ing a lit­tle melan­choly about it.

“I spent Christ­mas in Bris­bane with my fam­ily and it was re­ally lovely,” Suther­land says. “Not too hot, which is al­ways good.”

She reaches for her phone and shows off a video of her nephew, in which ich she en­thu­si­as­ti­cally y teaches the tod­dler how w to say “selfie”.

While talk­ing ng about Aus­tralia — and nd leav­ing once again gain — Suther­land sub­con­scious­lyy brushes the faded South­ern­hern Cross tat­too onn her wrist.

“I got it for­ever ago,” she says. “I was in New York and 21. There’s no funny story be­hind it, I’m afraid. It’s just my lit­tle piece of home. I’ve al­ways liked find­ing the South­ern Cross in the sky when I’m back here.”

At that stage of her life, she had al­ready been work­ing for six years. Suther­land won the Girl­friend mag­a­zine model search in 1997 and quickly be­came sought-af­ter around the world.

Life has changed dra­mat­i­cally since then.

Suther­land took some­thing of a gam­ble a few years ago when she scaled back her in­cred­i­bly lu­cra­tive modelling ca­reer to fo­cus on act­ing.

“It wasn’t a jump to per­form­ing. It was a slow frickin’ daw­dle … years of hard work and train­ing.”

Those count­less classes and work­shops gave her the skills to nail an au­di­tion, to play As­laug in the hugely pop­u­lar his­tor­i­cal epic Vik­ings.

While the Queen char­ac­ter is a viewer favourite now, , with blogs and memes de­voted to her, that wasn’t al­ways the case.

“She sure got a bad wrap in the be­gin­ning,” Suther­land says.

“When I first came on, a pic­ture of me was posted on the show’s Face­book page and I was so ex­cited to see it. Then I saw what peo­ple were say­ing in the com­ments … it was like, oh, oh my gosh, I’m done.”

Her ar­rival at the end of sea­son one ruf­fled many feath­ers, with some fans de­scrib­ing the char­ac­ter as a “home wrecker” af­ter she hooked up with Rag­nar, a Vik­ingg war­rior and the hus­band of her friend Lagerth Lagertha.

“She is very com­plexcompl and multi-lay­ered,” Suthe Suther­land says. “I love delv­ing into th that. That side of it is in in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing re­ward­ing.”

The n new sea­son of the d drama will see As As­laug go “into even darke darker ter­rito ter­ri­tory”, she hints — a di­rec­tion that may once ag again test her l lik­a­bil­ity with view­ers.

“For some rea­son, so­ci­ety has this thing where women aren’t al­lowed to do ter­ri­ble things on screen. Men can do it, that’s OK and can be un­der­stood. But peo­ple are get­ting used to women do­ing ques­tion­able things.

“I re­ally wanted to push that and show a darker side to this char­ac­ter. One of her re­la­tion­ships in par­tic­u­lar … is ques­tion­able.”

Play­ing some­one who sparks con­ver­sa­tion and de­bate, mak­ing peo­ple think about how they’d re­spond in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, gives her a thrill.

And get­ting to know As­laug so well over the past few sea­sons has changed her.

“This role has made me a less judg­men­tal per­son. I can’t judge As­laug, be­cause if I do then I can’t por­tray her prop­erly.

“I have to un­der­stand her, have em­pa­thy for her.

“It’s made me look at things a bit dif­fer­ently, more broadly.”

When she’s not in Ire­land film­ing the show, Suther­land is in Los An­ge­les with her hus­band, Lau­rence Shanet.

It’ll be a lit­tle while un­til she knows whether there’ll be a fifth sea­son of Vik­ings. If it’s picked up again, she’ll head back to Ire­land al­most straight away to start film­ing.

If not, 2016 is a lit­tle more un­cer­tain.

“I don’t like the whole not know­ing part. Not at all.

“I wish I knew what was go­ing on in my life.

“But I love my work, so it’s all a trade-off. It’s worth it.”

“Women aren’t al­lowed to do ter­ri­ble things

on screen”

ALYSSA SUTHER­LAND

WILL TEST LIM­ITS

VIK­INGS, SBS, WED­NES­DAY, 8.30PM

Alyssa Suther­land; (below) with

Travis Fim­mel and Dianne Doan.

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