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
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
WILL TEST LIMITS
VIKINGS, SBS, WEDNESDAY, 8.30PM
Alyssa Sutherland; (below) with
Travis Fimmel and Dianne Doan.