[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday’s “Scarred” episode of History’s Vikings.]
History’s Vikings said goodbye to one of its original cast members during Thursday’s shocking episode.
Jessalyn Gilsig has played Vikings’ Siggy, a character who has morphed again and again over the course of its three-season run. Siggy has gone from being the wife of an earl to a servant; from grieving mother to seductive lover and political shaker; and from an ambitious social climber to the lone voice of reason in Kattegat with the warriors away. But her endless reinvention came to an end Thursday when Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) left her children behind to further explore the mysterious ways of The Wanderer (Kevin Durand). When Aslaug and Ragnar’s (Travis Fimmel) children ran away and slipped through the cracking ice, Siggy dove in after them and lost her own life.
After saving the boys, in a heartbreaking twist, Siggy saw her own deceased daughter and decided to give in to death’s grip, bidding farewell to the series as The Wanderer watched over her.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Gilsig to get her reaction on Siggy’s swan song.
How did you find out Siggy was being killed off?
In truth, I told them. I had some personal things in my life that I needed to be there for — some family things, which everybody has sometimes. So I approached [Vikings creator] Michael Hirst and said that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to continue living overseas in Ireland, and it was time for me to move on. He was incredible about it. It was really sad and difficult and an incredibly hard decision, as you can imagine. I told him at the end of season two, and he said he really wanted to take Siggy out, to give her proper closure. Of course I wanted to do the same, and so he came up with this storyline to end Siggy’s role in the series.
Before this, did you see her as the ultimate survivalist?
She’s certainly been challenged to go from a position of power to being resourceful enough to figure out how to survive in an environment that no longer recognizes status of her family. I think Michael did such an interesting thing by giving her a pretty complex back story from the beginning. She’d already lost two sons before the series begins, and then she loses her husband, then loses her daughter. So Siggy is a woman who is carrying an tremendous amount of grief, but who also has a very strong sense of self. Part of why I love Siggy so much is she doesn’t apologize for her presence, ever. She’s very confident in her experience and is actually incredibly frustrated by this new regime that seems sort of naïve. I think the evolution has been a sobering one. I always hoped that there would be one more time when we would sort of see Siggy laugh and be happy and feel free and maybe be relaxed. But it just wasn’t meant to be. This is a woman who doesn’t see a lot of opportunities for light moments as time goes on.
Did you embrace her duality?
It was fun because you always knew she could go either way — she could become duplicitous or she could pledge her allegiance to Ragnar. If you remember from the first season when Haralson (Gabriel Byrne) dies, it’s actually Siggy who anoints Ragnar as Earl. So she’s already made the political decision that the best chance for their future is to all get behind Ragnar. She’s five steps ahead until the very end. Even her own death is her own choice. She finally decides to let go and let the Gods take her.
What was it like to film that scene?
We took three days because we did a whole day of rehearsal, which was very useful to me — I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer. I really was grateful for that first day just to get used to being in the dress, the hair and the sensation of being pulled underwater drowning. You have a belt around your waist and you’re on a pulley, and then you have to let go and just let yourself be pulled — I forget how many feet is was, but it was pretty deep. So you hold your breath and if you’re feeling panicky you make a gesture and they release the pulley so you can float yourself back up. To get comfortable with that and then be able to look relaxed — that took a couple of runs for me.
Did she see her own lost sons in going after the boys?
When she first goes after the children it just speaks to who Siggy is. She just does what anybody would do. The children are falling through the ice and she knows that unless she goes in and gets them, they’re going to die. It’s human instinct to save their lives. But then when she comes back up and sees Thyri (Elinor Crawley), her daughter from the first season, that’s when she has the realization that she’s actually now suspended between two realities. She can go forward or she can go under. And she chooses to go under and go to her family. It’s so unexpected and such a great honoring of the back story that Michael created. I remember the first meeting I ever had with Michael It was so important to us that we weren’t doing a comic book, that these people aren’t supernatural or larger than life. These are human beings living in a challenging world. The one thing he said to me is that there is a great universal truth that transcends all borders: we all love our children. Siggy is driven by her love for her family, and that’s ultimately what takes her away.
Does this make The Wanderer a hero or a villain for not pulling her out?
There’s more to come with regards to who The Wanderer really is, and Siggy always knew or suspected who he really is. We talked a lot about the moment there for Kevin — is it an act of aggression not to save Siggy, or is it an act of charity?
How will her death affect the other characters?
There’s a baby coming, and there’s a way that Michael ensures that Siggy lives on through this child. It’s really cool the way he honors the character through the birth. Everybody will — like you do in life — just keep moving and find a way to deal with it. But of course any time something like that happens, it helps to define who everybody is. That’s why I think Michael is such a good storyteller. He will continue to make Siggy’s character a part of the narrative. Her death will help reveal who these characters are based on how they did or didn’t respond to the events. I know that Ragnor owes Siggy a great debt, since she saves his children.
What was it like going from Siggy to back to Terri Schuester in the final season of Glee?
It’s so fun to go from Siggy to Terri for a couple of episodes. It’s hilarious. There are lots of things about being an actress that are difficult, and of course a situation like this where I had to walk away from one of the best jobs I ever had because it couldn’t support what I needed to do on a personal level is so incredibly difficult. But to walk out of Siggy and into Terri — I’m incredibly lucky woman. I was so happy to be able to go back and see everybody at Glee. I’m glad that I got to be a part of the end of what is really an era. I always think there was America before Glee and America after Glee. It’s had such an incredible impact on our culture.
What did you think of Siggy’s death? Sound off in the comments below. Vikings airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on History.