Vikings season 4 begins tomorrow on The History Channel, and Geeks of Doom was invited to a roundtable interview with one of the new faces we’ll see – Dianne Doan who plays Yidu, a new slave of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). Doan had most recently been on the explosive phenomenom, Disney’s Descendants, as Lonnie (Mulan’s daughter). Doan dishes on viking life, the transition from Disney to Kattegat, and what it’s like working with Fimmel.
Check out the interview below.
Q: Whatâ€™s it like to take the leap from Disney royalty to Viking slave? Was it a challenge?
Doan: I couldnâ€™t have asked for a better transition out of that Disney experience just because the audience range is so limited, I guess? Challenge-wise, I think I was definitely pushed in my work as an actor, coming on to a show thatâ€™s already been so established with the course of three years, working with Travis and then numerous directors that I was able to come across. It definitely was intimidating, and it pushed my limits, I would say that, but it was so rewarding.
Q: You mentioned working with Travis as Ragnar. It seems like heâ€™s enamored with your character a bit, and so without spoiling anything, can you tell us anything about the relationship?
Doan: I come on pretty early on this season, and right off the bat, itâ€™s not just Ragnar thatâ€™s intrigued or curious. Itâ€™s definitely all of Kattegat just because from my sheer appearance, itâ€™s so different than what theyâ€™ve seen around them but with Ragnar specifically, we know throughout the season he is a person who seeks to learn about different cultures and different religions which is why I think he does raid lands. Off the bat, from my appearance to the way that I carry myself, he questions it, which is why I would say our initial relationship starts out of that curiosity.
Q: Because your character is new and my readers donâ€™t know much about her at this point, can you describe her backstory and what her trajectory is for the season?
Doan: Iâ€™ll tell you as much as I can. I think itâ€™s already publicly known. Iâ€™m kidnapped on the Red Sea and then brought to Paris, and itâ€™s presumed that from their raid last season, they bring me back to Kattegat where Iâ€™m sold to Queen Aslaug as a slave, so Iâ€™m one of her new ladies for this season. My back story, I definitely did research for my character just to make sure that I knew what era and what dynasty I come from, the rights that women had during that time, how I would react in certain situations, I want to bring that. What was fascinating to me was I found out during that research that in fact, women at that time in my dynasty had a voice and had an opinion and had rights to an education. I wanted to make sure that Yidu was a strong character coming into the show even though in certain circumstances, sheâ€™s
Q: I was wondering, do you think heâ€™s going to hold her on a pedestal because she has seen things that he hasnâ€™t? Is she going to become his right hand man or woman?
Doan: I think thatâ€™s established within episode four and definitely youâ€™re on, if itâ€™s a pedestal. Definitely, he holds me higher than say a regular slave just because I do come from somewhere else. If you watched episode four, there is that moment of interaction when I almost stand up for myself and as a slave, I have no right to really speak to a king, yet I do, so he questions where I get that power from.
Q: The last time we saw Ragnar having a personal slave was Athelstan and he eventually freed and befriended him. Will we see some interesting parallels between Yidu and the late Athelstan in terms of how he views her? Are we going to see more parallels drawn between those two as far as a relationship from Ragnarâ€™s point of view?
Doan: Athelstan meant so much to Ragnar. I donâ€™t know if it would be parallel like a repetition of that relationship. I do think that you will see some sort of relationship whether itâ€™s intimate, unfold between Yidu and Ragnar. I would like to assume that it is a place of – I take his like Iâ€™m a confidante in sort just because he is so alone in Kattegat. He doesnâ€™t feel like he has anybody to talk to. Everybody just talks at him and not with him, if that makes sense.
Q: Iâ€™ve got to say that this is probably the most difficult set youâ€™ve been on. Can you talk about being there, what it was like physically for you to take on a role like this?
Doan: Iâ€™ve never moved across the world to work before and so that was definitely a game-changer for me. Like I said earlier, it was really intimidating and nerve-wracking coming on to the show that is so well-established and respected in the industry. Luckily, the cast and crew are phenomenal over in Ireland that it wasnâ€™t so much a challenge working at all. The only challenge I would say was the elements.
Q: Was it more physically demanding for you than you expected it to be as far as getting used to that weather and being able to act through the cold?
Doan: No. If anything I can get help with the work. Weâ€™re put in a position where we got to play around with so much. The sets were made beautifully. Everything felt that you were transformed into this world. If anything, the weather would help. It was difficult as I said earlier, just like being pushed out of my comfort zone acting-wise. Iâ€™ve never been challenged like that before. I couldnâ€™t have asked for a better project.
Q: Do you have a favorite scene that you shot without revealing anything, but is there a favorite episode that you feel like that you feel like that â€“ you mentioned, you were challenged? Is there one that you are especially proud of, that youâ€™re happy with?
Doan: Yes. I would say episodes four and five were really special for me. I got the chance to really play around and explore with my character and I think youâ€™ll really learn a lot about Yidu. Also, that I got to work with an amazing director during that time and I learned the most probably then. Itâ€™s the start of my story arc, I would say, during that time, those two episodes.
Q: I have to ask, you got a chance to work with Travis so closely and he is known to be a huge prankster. Did he ever prank you? Did he ever get you on set during filming?
Doan: Yes, he did. Of course, he did. Luckily, I didnâ€™t actually get it that bad. I think I earned a place at the table pretty early on so he never bugged me too much. I just got to witness all the pranks. I think the worst that I got, and I donâ€™t want to get anybody in trouble, but he definitely tied me to a boat and I am going to be dramatic and say that I could have possibly died. Iâ€™m just kidding. I didnâ€™t. But yes, he tied me to a boat by my life jacket and as I was trying to exit off the dock, I got pulled back, and everybody laughed at me.
Q: We were talking earlier about different cultures and with every new character, thereâ€™s always some kind of exploration of the theme of faith and what they have as a spiritual background. Whatâ€™s Yiduâ€™s contribution to that, if any, that weâ€™ll see this season?
Doan: Thatâ€™s definitely talked upon in my storyline so I canâ€™t share with you but I will say it happens in episode four and five. Is that enough of a spoiler for you?
Vikings season 4 returns tomorrow, February 18th at 10pm ET on The History Channel.