The Last Kingdom star Alexander Dreymon plays the fierce and conflicted warrior Uhtred. Here he discusses his multicultural upbringing, battle scene training, and the appeal of both the Saxon and Danish lifestyles.
Where is Uhtred in the beginning of the story?
Dreymon: We first meet Uhtred as a boy (played by the wonderful Tom Taylor). He is born a Saxon, the second son of Lord Uhtred. When the Danes invade they kill both his brother and his father, making him the rightful heir to his father’s beloved Bebbanburg Castle. However, he is kidnapped by the Danes and then adopted by them, becoming a Pagan in the process.
What does he like most about growing up with the Vikings?
Dreymon: They have a great sense of humor, a love of life and a love of food. They live to fight and they’re not afraid of anything. They don’t believe in Christianity or in punishment for sinning.
Everyone sees Uhtred as a leader. Is that what he becomes?
Dreymon: Uhtred has the potential to be a leader and grows into this role, but he isn’t one at the beginning of the story. He lost his birth family as a boy and then loses his adopted family as a young adult. When he goes to the allies of his Danish father, he is rejected and considered a Saxon. Then when he’s with the Saxons, he’s seen as a Dane, and so it’s difficult for him to find his identity within these two worlds.
The Danish and Saxon worlds are very different. What does Uhtred get from each?
Dreymon: It’s an interesting question because I was brought up in quite a few different cultures. I don’t really feel an allegiance to any of the countries I have lived in, even though I feel like part of them and part of them is in me. I think you just take what tickles your interest and you make your own mix. Uhtred keeps his sense of freedom and of not bowing down to conventions, and that gives him an edge. He also knows how to deal with the Saxon order. He admires the fact that they are more educated, but at the same time he brings along the freedom and craziness of the Danes. I think that’s what makes Uhtred so interesting in the story.
Did your costume help you get into character?
Dreymon: Uhtred has many scars and wears leather and furs rather than chain mail. My costume was actually quite comfortable, and a bit like wearing a motorcycle jacket. The fur also makes you feel more like you’re a real part of nature, and carrying that weight of the leather and sword changes your whole body language — and definitely makes you feel tough.
Tell us about Uhtred’s relationship with Brida.
Dreymon: Brida is his first love interest, and while they grow up as brother and sister they become closer as adults. They are never destined to marry, but they have a special bond. They meet when Uhtred’s father is killed. She’s a Saxon girl who gets adopted by Earl Ragnar, just like him, so they share the same background. She loves the Danish life, just as Uhtred does, but her allegiance to the Danes never wavers.
What about his bond with the Saxons Alfred and Leofric?
Dreymon: I think the fact that Uhtred loses both his fathers early in life means he is always searching for a father figure. I think even Alfred is a bit of a father figure to him, because he’s the thinker and he’s got a vision that Uhtred admires. The same applies to Leofric, a great warrior that Uhtred admires, just like he admires the Viking warrior Ubba.
Which of your scenes stood out to you the most?
Dreymon: I have so many that it’s hard to pinpoint one, but all of the scenes I did on horseback were utterly exhilarating. Every actor strives to be in the moment, and when you’re on a horse you constantly have to communicate with it and assert your authority. In particular the scenes that involved galloping over the big open plains — those were so freeing.
How much training went into making the battle scenes as realistic as possible?
Dreymon: We worked with a brilliant stunt team lead by Levente Leszák, who practices natural horsemanship and so is very close to his animals. I think he applies the same patience he has with his horses to the actors that he works with. He is a very good teacher and I’m very fortunate to have had one to one horse-riding lessons with him. Having said that, I think most of the stunts you see in the battles were kind of learnt on the job as we went along. The battle scenes were so much fun to film. They required quite a lot of waiting around, but it was worth it.