Women Take Over History Channel: Meet the Badass Women of ‘Vikings’ and ‘Knightfall’

Olivia Ross as Queen Joan and Sabrina Bartlett as Princess Isabella
Olivia Ross as Queen Joan and Sabrina Bartlett as Princess Isabella Courtesy of Larry Horricks/History

When hearing the word “viking,” the world thinks of “hairy men fighting.” The show’s creator Michael Hirst is well-aware, and that’s why he changed the game for his History Channel hit, Vikings. The drama received criticism about featuring strong shield-maidens like Lagertha, played by Katheryn Winnick, but recently that all changed.

“This year, a female archeologist looking again at the skeleton of a brave warrior realized something different about the bones. This was the quintessential warrior, buried with armor surrounding him. And after new tests, it turns out it was a woman,” Hirst reveals in an exclusive interview with Us Weekly. “I felt completely validated in the direction I’d been going. Lagertha was very important and very real. In the show, she goes through all sorts of things that women have to deal with if they’re successful in business and are ambitious. She does what viking women were allowed to do. She’s a wonderful and complex women. I love writing about her.”

In this exclusive sneak peek of this week’s Vikings below, the power of women comes across loud and clear:

That’s part of the reason Vikings leads perfectly into History Channel’s newest series, Knightfall. While it focuses on a different time period, it takes a look at women in history who made a lot of noise.

Sabrina Bartlett and Olivia Ross take on the roles of Princess Isabella and Queen Joan, both of whom largely impacted history and eventually ended up ruling the Kingdom of England.

Bartlett tells Us that playing the 16-year-old version of a soon-to-be powerhouse was an enlightening experience.

“It was satisfying and empowering to play that. It’s interesting because she’s not a golden girl,” she says. “I’m not representing a saint. It’s great that women can be the bad guys. This show proves that women has always been the bad guy. Isabella has this capacity to be bad. We’ll see what she grows into. But its great to look at the anti-hero and the one people love to hate.”

The Royals in KNIGHTFALL.
The Royals in KNIGHTFALL. Courtesy of Larry Horricks/History

Ross adds that for her, it was important to join a show where the female characters weren’t “empty-headed,” as many are in film and television. “You want them to be rich and full and have depth and be dimensional. I met with the showrunner and director and said  that I was interested in being more than just a love,” she tells Us. “I felt straight away that that’s what they had in mind. That’s what she is.”

The real Queen Joan was “under-written,” as most books about that time are about the King. “That woman was just amazing,” Ross says.

Vikings airs on History Channel on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET, followed by Knightfall at 10 p.m. ET.

For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!