After five years as the tortured and complicated Floki on the History Channel’s hit series, Vikings, Gustaf Skarsgård finds himself on another smash hit—HBO's Westworld. The Swedish born actor leaves the rain and mud of Ireland to shoot in the searing desert heat of California. With his acting training in place, Skarsgård muses about his life as an actor and the goals he sets for each role, and finally about the pleasures he enjoys when he gets some time off.
Congratulations on Westworld. You’re moving from cold coastal climate to searing dry heat. Can you talk a little about the contrast and what you did to make the adjustments?
It’s definitely very different to go from trekking in muddle fields around a rainy Ireland to the dry desert heat. I prefer California to the wet Viking shit.
Westworld and Vikings are two shows that heavily use the setting to create that narrative. Was it easy to walk into this futuristic world after leaving 13th-century tundra?
This is what I am trained to do. I rely on my training as an actor, but there is definitely a stark contrast between the two worlds. I have been very fortunate because both Westworld and Vikings do such an amazing job of creating this universe. It is easy to just step in because the sets are so immersive.
Floki’s eccentric persona is striking in the first season, but as the series progresses Floki’s actions show that he is quite calculating and extremely logical. How has it been to play a character that has a robust personality?
Vikings have been a fantastic ride. And Floki is your classic curveball. He is eccentric, but then he has so much depth that is developed by the fantastic writing. Floki is deeply loyal, and he is tormented by his own demons. It allows for a lot of complexity and it has been a great journey and a lot of fun.
With five solid seasons under the belt, Floki has gone from boat builder to Ragnar’s trusted adviser. Have you built some lifelong friendships during that time?
FOR SURE! We’re all away from home. Not Irish, and are constantly going through some grueling and rigorous scenes. You get very close. It’s like going through a battlefield. We are all close and friends on and off the set.
Westworld was very well received both critically and with die-hard fans. What are you looking forward to adding to the show?
The first season was so intense and entertaining that I want to come in and do the series justice. I want to constantly be at my best, and be a part of this rich universe.
What’s it like juggling two hit series? How do you find the time to relax, and what do you like to do?
Hiking with my dogs in Los Angeles, and enjoying California has been a lot of fun. But, I really look forward to traveling. Traveling is a way to feel the world, to learn a new perspective, and it’s a great way to relax.
You come from a very talented, and tall, family. What’s it like when everyone gets together?
We have a big family. So it’s good to catch up, talk, and have a good time.
Swedes are known to hold their alcohol very well. Do you have a favorite drink, or maybe a dish that you dart on the menu?
I love pickled herring. It’s a very Swedish dish.
The one from IKEA is pretty good. (Laughs)
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