April 14, 2013

Television: In 'Vikings,' Byrne trades chair of shrink for throne of chieftain

By MEREDITH BLAKE, McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 1)

History Channel's television series 'Vikings'
click image to enlarge

Gabriel Byrne, right, with Travis Fimmel in the History Channel series, “Vikings.” Byrne, a Norse chieftan in “Vikings,” also played a psychologist in the HBO drama “In Treatment.”

History Channel/McClatchy Newspapers

Even a brief conversation with Byrne, who studied archaeology and Gaelic literature at University College Dublin, bears this out: He's prone to articulate riffs about subjects such as the similarities between Viking raids and drone warfare or the current malaise in his native country.

But according to O'Sullivan, he's also a guy "that you've got to convince," and a limited time commitment was an essential part of the deal.

"Vikings" was also something of a homecoming for Byrne.

Though he was born and raised in Dublin, where his father was for a time a barrel maker at the Guinness factory, the New York-based actor hadn't worked in Ireland since filming "Into the West" there in 1992.

In a coincidence of timing, he followed "Vikings" with "Quirke," a BBC series based on the novels of John Banville that also filmed in Dublin, a city that has transformed dramatically over the past two decades.

"Part of me felt like a ghost wandering through the edges of a world that I used to know. It's a very strange experience, the return to somewhere that, to a great extent, exists only in your imagination," he said with the casual lyricism seemingly only an Irishman can muster.

Byrne confessed that he was particularly nervous on his first day filming "Vikings." The home crowd of several hundred extras could have had something to do with it, but then again, he always feels a little jittery at the start of a new project.

"No actor who's any good can say truthfully to themselves, 'Yeah, I'm good, I've got this sorted,' " he said.


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