If actor Travis Fimmel looks familiar, it is probably because he was the face of Calvin Klein products at the beginning of his career. He grew up on a cattle ranch in Australia and was on track to become a pro footballer in his country, but a broken leg ended that career path. He came to the United States to seek his fortune and proved he was more than a pretty face when he decided to leave modeling and get into acting. The 34-year-old is now the lead in the History Channel's drama series "Vikings" as Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking with vision who is ruthless at times but capable of compassion. He is also in production for the movie "Warcraft." No release date has been announced. The second season of "Vikings" premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.
You are totally believable as Ragnar. Was it easy to get into that character?
Thank you for saying I was good in it. I don't know if you are right or not, but the scripts are so good. Michael Hirst, the creator, is so talented, you know? So when you get a script like that, it really helps to play a character like Ragnar.
Your resume of characters is very diverse. Are some more appealing to play than others?
I definitely just want them to be complex. I don't like the average person, you know what I mean? I want to play something more interesting. Once again, the scripts in "Vikings" are so good, the characters are so complex and everybody has their own voice. It's just been a great experience. It's beautiful shooting in Ireland. It's an amazing country.
When you get to wear costumes, particularly period costumes, does that help you get into character faster?
Yes, it certainly does, and everything -- set decoration, costumes, the look of everybody -- it certainly helps get into character. The landscape in Ireland is just -- I've never been in such a beautiful place with the lakes and ocean and everything. And the boats.
Obviously they built the Viking boats you sail in for the show.
Yes, we really go out on the ocean with them. This season, we go out on them a lot more. It's a great experience being out there. You feel like a little kid playing dress-up.
Speaking of a little kid, what was it about your childhood that prepared you for this kind of career?
I have no idea. No idea. Just tried to make some money. When I got to the States, I wanted to travel and ended up just getting in an acting class and have sort of been doing it for the last 14 years or something. I still don't know why I'm doing it.
It has to be fun to some degree, right?
Ah, money is fun, I guess. It's a job like any other job. You try to make some money and not embarrass yourself too much doing it.
Getting famous was not a goal for you?
No, not at all. I just want to be proud of what I do, and unfortunately in this business if you do all right you sort of get recognized a bit. That is the least favorite [part] by far, for me. I just want to do the work and go home. I wish stuff never came out. I wish you could just do the job and nobody ever saw it and you still made the money.
So has "Vikings" made it harder for you to be anonymous?
No, it's not too bad. I dress like a bum all the time. I'm a pretty casual fella. You don't get recognized that much unless you want to get recognized, like if you go to the fancy joints and that. It's like L.A. -- there are 10 restaurants. If you want to be seen, you go. You know what I mean?
Yes, I do. If you really want to be under the radar it is possible.
Yeah, unless you are bloody Clooney.
Did your brothers tease you when you decided to be an actor, and how did your parents feel?
Yeah, yeah. It's pretty different than where we grew up. We all grew up on a farm and still got the farm. They think it's fun. They've got a good sense of humor, the same sense of humor about it as I do.
Do you do any of your own research on Ragnar since he was a real person? Or did you just go with the script?
I spoke to Michael a lot, the creator, and went with the script a lot. Your job as an actor, I guess, is just to make people relate to the character. We do a lot of bad stuff, so it was a good challenge to make him likable and get the audience to follow on our journey. I've got children and a wife [on the show], so you try to make people relate to bringing up a kid in this world and having a wife.
Does it ever bother you that because you are good-looking, some people don't notice what a good actor you are?
I don't know. I don't think about it. I let other people think about that stuff. I mean, I never think about how I'm going to look or anything. Most jobs they don't let you have a beard or any of that stuff, so that was a real attraction for me.
And is your hair really cut like Ragnar's?
Yeah, it is. I have extensions in. It was like only an inch last year, and they put extensions in. It's pretty funny [laughs]. I have to shower in a shower cap.
Is it easy for you to memorize lines?
Um, I'm very bad at memorizing lines, but it depends on the writing. If the writing is really good, which Michael's is, it is very easy. When the writing is not good, it is very hard.
I think that would be one of the harder parts of acting.
Actually, the lines are the easiest part, to be honest. You get used to it. It's like a muscle. If you work it out you get used to it. The lines are the least of my worries, really, when we're on set. But I do struggle if the writing is bad.
What is the hardest part of acting for you?
Normally it is the egos. On "Vikings," nobody's got an ego. Michael Hirst is just so open and so collaborative. A lot of jobs are like, "This is how it is." Michael is a really interesting man and never does anything on the nose [badly]. The hardest stuff on this show is probably just the weather in Ireland. It's always raining and hard on the crew to move equipment. Good shows tend to be more fun to do. If you feel like you are doing something good and making a good show, it is a lot more enjoyable.
How did you build up your confidence when you first became an actor?
I don't know if it ever goes away. I'm always thinking I'm messing up. I did a lot of classes. I can't stand being on stage or the only one talking in a room, so class really helped me deal with that. It doesn't really get any easier but it helps you focus on the acting.
I suppose you just have to think of it as a craft, something you learn and become accomplished at doing.
Exactly, and the more you do it the more comfortable a lot of things are. The first week of shooting, I always want to reshoot. You are struggling and you are not back in your routine. But as soon as you get going, on a TV show especially, you get in the groove and it gets a lot easier.
How do you feel about doing love scenes or sex scenes?
I hate 'em, to be honest. It's very awkward. I'm all for the free kisses, but it's very uncomfortable. It's not a natural thing. You don't do it in front of people in your real life. Not many people do, I guess. It's just very unnatural doing intimate stuff in front of other people.
I had read that you just want to get back to the simple life and living on a farm. Do you still feel that way?
Yeah, 100 percent. That's the only reason I'm doing this, to make some money to get my own farm. I'll make some money and I'll be out.
And you are in production for the movie "Warcraft."
Yeah, I'm up in Vancouver.
So you still don't have enough money for that ranch!
[Laughs] No, I want a big ranch.
Patricia Sheridan: email@example.com or 412-263-2613.