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The longship lovely

By Omar Robinson
Posted On Sep 01, 2015


By Shirley Venice

We may be dazzled by the northern lights, but the gods clearly knew they were making a bright star when they created Alyssa Sutherland, Princess Aslaug on the History Channel series Vikings. As a top model and in-demand actress, Sutherland could easily believe her own hype. Yet this Australian stunner remains a down-to-earth and determined woman—virtues that make her even more beautiful.

Sutherland plays Princess Aslaug with the knowing, regal demeaner of a true royal, but she’s no ice queen— Aslaug is a controversial seductress and catalyst to much drama, and Sutherland delights in unveiling new layers from her rich character.

The statuesque beauty has appeared in numerous runway, print, and television campaigns for major luxury brands and graced the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle. She served as the Cadbury “Flake girl” in U.K. advertisements, and was vocal within the “Keep Cadbury British” campaign, which opposed the sale of Cadbury to a non-British owner. She has slowly segued into acting since the mid-2000s, even showing up as a high-heeled fashion editor (known as a “clacker”) in The Devil Wears Prada. With Vikings, her abundant talents are on fine display for all to see. Sophisticated, passionate, and disarming, we can see her warrior talents have conquered the Vikings—and they certainly slay us.

What have you learned from being on Vikings?
Playing a character who is all shades of gray, and really having to look at issues from every angle—to understand what somebody’s motivation, desires, and fears are—has actually made me less judgmental as a person in real life. You have real compassion for people when you understand their baggage.

Your character on Vikings struggles to claim her own power in the wake of dramatic life experiences, like having an affair. Do women lose their confidence when they feel a man does not love them anymore?
A little bit, though Aslaug has a lot of confidence. She’s not cowardly. When you’re in a relationship with someone and they do not feel the same about you as you do about them, it is going to have an impact on how you feel about yourself. She has this insecurity at the beginning of the season. That’s one of the things I like about how Michael [Hirst, the show’s creator] writes. You never end up in the same position in which you started. Aslaug had a brief affair with a man whom she believed was a god. It helped to regain her identity. She stepped back into herself in season three, and it’s not just because another man found her attractive.

Princess Aslaug wrestles with some universal quandaries that contemporary women can certainly relate to, like the labels put upon them. What is your advice?
Labels are used much more with regard to women than to men—and it’s very one-dimensional. Labeling someone, boiling them down to one quality, is just not that interesting to me.

Do labels affect a woman’s self-confidence?
Absolutely, and I love to be able to portray that. Whether it’s in real life or taking place in the late eighth century, there are universal themes within Vikings. I love that I get to portray such vulnerability. Such an opportunity is a gift to an actress.

How did your childhood prepare you to do the kind of work you’re doing today?
My parents left me with a pretty good head on my shoulders. They have a great respect for the people around them. They instilled in me that everybody is equal and everybody has their job to do. I understand that the people around me who are working on Vikings are all working really very hard; we should all have a healthy respect for one another.

Do egos get in the way of such harmony, particularly on set?
That normally comes from insecurity. I get it. But where I come from we are like, “You’re not that special. Take it easy.”

Despite such a humble approach to life, you’ve enjoyed quite an extraordinary career. How did you translate your modeling career to acting?
Anyone who wants to be an actress—whether you’ve modeled or not—has to work damn hard. You have to take classes, learn your part, and understand what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. The only thing that will really get you there is time and a lot of hard work. Even if you put in the hard work from the get-go, it still takes you a number of years to understand yourself and what will work for you.

British chocolatier Cadbury cast you as the Flake girl, a coveted representative for one of the brand’s premier chocolate bars. What did that role mean for you?
When I had the opportunity to do the Flake ad, my friends thought it was so perfect for me. While filming the commercial, the crew put a spit bucket next to me and I said, “Oh, I’m not going to need that.” They said, “Yes, we have three days ahead of us; trust us, we’ve seen it before! ” I did not use it once. I ate everything they gave me!

That’s somewhat shocking, considering your incredible physique. How do you keep fit?
Honestly, part of it is genetics. And I find exercises that I like. I really like cycling and swimming; I go back to them over and over again. I would encourage anybody to find some kind of exercise that they honestly enjoy. I find real mental benefits from exercising.

When life feels like it’s closing in on you, where do you go?
If I get a little bit stressed and anxious, a good swim will soothe me. There’s something about being in the water that just works for me.