British and Irish actress Emily Cox stars in The Last Kingdom as Brida, a kidnapped Saxon who grows into a fierce, audacious Viking. Here she talks stunt training, her character’s relationship with Uhtred, and reveals why she considers Brida one of the first feminists.
How would you describe Brida?
Emily Cox: Brida is a really strong and unapologetic woman. She fights for what she wants, she’s honest, and she stands up for herself. She really says what she thinks and doesn’t believe that women are worth less than men. As long as they can fight, they’re equal. And Brida can fight! She also has a fantastic sense of humor. Brida is a woman who’s experienced a lot of trauma in her life, but she manages to fight for herself and achieve happiness.
She sounds like a very modern woman!
Cox: I like to think of Brida as the first feminist. She says exactly what she thinks and she isn’t scared of others’ opinion of her. I think she would have made a good politician! She’s a thinker, a strategist and an analyst. I was interested in the contradiction between her being a strategic thinker and also having a bad temper. I found it fascinating that she has both of these elements. I really like Brida.
What is Brida’s relationship with Uhtred?
Cox: Both Brida and Uhtred were abducted by the Danes at a very early age, and from that moment on they spent every day together. I imagine them to have shared everything. For Brida, Uhtred is both a brother and a lover. I think the fact they are not blood-related makes this more acceptable, especially in Viking times. Brida absolutely loves Uhtred and she understands how he thinks. Similarly, he understands how she functions and he respects her. They have a lot of fun together and they’re wild together. They tease each other and laugh about other people. They’re honest with each other and, if I’m being honest, I think she’s the best woman for him!
How does Brida feel when Uhtred decides to stay with the Saxons?
Cox: She feels angry and lost, but really it’s a case of her leaving him. Brida compromises a lot for Uhtred by going with him to the Saxons, even though it’s something she absolutely despises doing. But she stands with him and tries to find ways in which she could make a life there. All she discovers is what she already feared—that Saxon women are not treated with much respect.
What is it that Brida loves about the Viking lifestyle?
Cox: I believe that Brida loves Viking society because it’s wild. People take what they want without asking. Regardless of her gender, she also really counts as something within the Dane camp. When she isn’t taken seriously by the Saxons, it becomes a pretty big problem. The Danes represent family to her, and they are her home.
Tell us about all the series’ stunts.
Cox: Alexander (Uhtred) and I arrived on set a few weeks early and we were trained by Levente Lezsák (stunt coordinator). It’s been lovely being so close to nature and on horseback. I’ve had a few fight scenes which have been fun, one where I get punched in the face! I also had to lie in the mud for three hours in the heavy rain. It’s the most glamorous job in the world! The professional stunt guys, who are amazing, did the really complicated stunts. There was one stunt that was particularly incredible, which was called a full body burn. It’s one of the most dangerous stunts to perform and as soon as it was time to shoot that scene, the whole atmosphere changed. We were all watching, and you could really sense the intensity.
What kind of training did you have?
Cox: Brida has an axe so I learnt how to throw it properly, which was pretty cool. When throwing an axe, it’s really important that you let it go at a certain point and that you keep your hand loose. I also learnt how to fall safely, which I thought I was pretty good at, but Alexander kept saying I fell like a ballet dancer. I used to do a lot of dancing, so maybe that’s why. After a while it worked quite well!
How would you describe Brida’s look?
Cox: I am the only actress who wears trousers. It was important that the costume was functional, as Brida is not the kind of woman who thinks a lot about how she looks. It’s more about being a good fighter and surviving. When I discovered that it took twenty minutes to take my trousers off, I stopped drinking so much water.
What was it like filming your scenes on a Viking ship?
Cox: We went to Denmark and got to sail on a real Viking ship. The ship belongs to a museum and has been reconstructed exactly as it would have been in the Viking era. There is a team of volunteers who sailed on this ship for over five weeks, from Denmark to Ireland. They told me that you can’t go under the deck, and so regardless of the conditions you have to sleep on top in the open sea. It’s incredible to think that these are journeys that the Vikings made all the time. It was an amazing and really emotional feeling to have that insight into how these people lived.
Which themes do you find most relatable in the show?
Cox: The Last Kingdom centers on this very modern premise of people not really knowing where they belong. It’s easy for me to relate, as my mum is Irish, my dad is English, and I was born in Austria and now live in Berlin. I think Brida really wants to survive and she believes that the Vikings will always win.Read More