The Norsemen invade Netflix

NRK’s award-winning comedy Viking series is now available to stream in English

Photo courtesy of Glenn Meling / Finn Erik Johannessen / NRK
The Norsemen is now available on Netflix.

Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn.

If you liked Lilyhammer, you’re going to love The Norsemen. It debuted in Oct. 2016 and took Norway by storm. Described as a cross between Monty Python and Game of Thrones, the comedy is set in the year 790 at the start of the Viking Age when an egotistical Roman actor named Rufus is kidnapped and taken as a slave to the Viking Village of Norheim. At first, of course, the Vikings see him as insignificant, but times change.

Rufus finds a friend and admirer in the chieftain’s cowardly and exploited brother. Together they steer the small village of Norheim away from raids and war toward a new, but not necessarily welcome, path of arts and culture that will turn out to be more than 1,000 years ahead of its time.

The Norsemen deals with the everyday challenges of the village: love entanglements, gender role changes, friendships, power struggles, and a bitter family dispute between two brothers. Set in an era where the strong always win, it is up to Norheim to defend its existence as either a fierce Viking village or as a cultural capital.

According to Anders Tangen, series co-producer and Lilyhammer co-producer, The Norsemen is unique. “The series was simultaneously filmed in Norwegian and English. It is not half English and half Norwegian like Lilyhammer, but each shoot is in one language. It is not dubbed. Filming the Norwegian version almost served as a dress rehearsal for the English version,” Tangen laughed.

Tangen told the Norwegian daily Dagbladet, “We hope we have set a precedent for dual filming in English and Norwegian for many programs. It makes it easier to sell series abroad and Norwegian actors are showcased worldwide.” Viewers also will find that humor does not depend solely on language and will appreciate the hilarity of slapstick and cartoon-like antics, which have universal appeal.

The concept for The Norsemen, known as Vikingane in Norway, was the brainchild of Jon Iver Helgaker, co-creator and director, although he doesn’t take credit for its development. “I came up with the basic idea,” said Helgaker, “but the moment we [Jonas Torgersen, also co-creator and director] started discussing it, it was ‘our’ idea. Jonas and I think alike, enjoy the same things, and, most important, dislike the same things. It took 18 months from conception to filming. It’s been hectic.”

Today when we think of the Vikings, we tend to see them as merely barbaric. But according to Torgersen, “When doing research we found that the Vikings actually sat down and carved harassing messages to one another that were also humorous. It gave us insight into the Viking personality and found them to be much like us. We are able to see our characters as modern people in a Viking setting and view their reactions to gruesome and illogical rules much like we would.”

The Norsemen is available now on Netflix.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 25, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.