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That HBO show is great and all, but if you like your medieval-style action a little more realistic and a little less…dragon-y, check out Netflix’s The Last Kingdom.
Based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories historical novels, the series follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon-born, Viking-raised warrior seeking revenge and power in 9th-century England. That means plenty of runnin’, ridin’ and ravagin’. Thankfully, Alexander Dreymon, the German-born, internationally raised thespian playing him, is built for the challenge.
What excites you about Uhtred?
I relate to him because I grew up in so many different places, and I always feel like the foreigner, and I think it’s the same for him. He always has to battle to prove himself. I also love that he’s very cheeky—he can be a bit of an asshole.
It’s a pretty physical role. How do you stay in shape?
A good friend once told me, “Every hour you spend at the gym is an hour you don’t spend at the library.” So when I’m not shooting, I do at least an hour of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and then 20 to 30 minutes of weightlifting. On set I do a lot of horse riding and sword fighting. That keeps you in shape. And last season, we had [1998 World’s Strongest Man] Magnus Samuelsson in the cast—one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve met. He has so much knowledge about how to strengthen your body.
What’s the biggest thing you learned from him?
Probably “it’s all in the head” because he’s such an example of perseverance and determination. He’s had moments where his back had bulging discs and he still broke world records.
Do you do a lot of the stunts yourself?
Oh yeah. I’ve learned so much from my stunt double, Tamás Katrics, and our stunt coordinator, Levente Lezsák, who does natural horsemanship. You feel a connection with the animal that goes way beyond anything I imagined—you can influence its behavior by controlling your own energy. That’s one of my favorite parts of the show. When I lived in South Dakota, I’d jump on a horse and just ride for hours, and all I’d see is buffalo herds. It’s the ultimate sense of freedom.
You’ve done your fair share of shirtless scenes. What do you eat to stay Viking-ripped?
I have a natural high metabolism, so I’m one of those types that people hate. But I am drawn to foods that happen to be healthy—vegetables, salads, fish. I think the closer it is to being alive, the better it must be for you.
Do you think the actual Vikings had six-packs?
I don’t know whether they cared much about the shape of their bodies, but they were certainly very strong, much stronger than we are now. You had to be in great shape just to survive the elements and the battles. Try running up a hill or jumping on your horse wearing 40 to 50 pounds of chainmail—it really makes a difference!
Season 3 of The Last Kingdom is streaming now on Netflix.