Kevin Durand goes from Vikings fan to major player

It would seem like a no-brainer to have Kevin Durand join the cast of Vikings. The Thunder Bay, Ont., native is tall, muscular and has piercing eyes, three prerequisites needed to participate in the Canada/Irish co-production’s pillaging of early England.

And yet Durand—who is currently in production on Season 2 of The Strain in Toronto—was a little nervous about hopping on board the show’s longships as it launches into Season 3 on History on Thursday.

“It was scary to commit to a show that you’re a big fan of,” Durand says with a laugh. “Vikings is way up there for my wife and I, but when I read the words he had written, it just set me afire and I wanted to step up and live up to it.”

The “he” is Michael Hirst, Vikings‘ creator, showrunner and lone writer, the man who has crafted Ragnar Lothbrok’s (Travis Fimmel) journey from lowly farmer to King. Season 3 picks up soon after the events of the last adventures, with Ragnar, Rollo (Clive Standen), Floki (Gustaf SkarsgÃ¥rd), Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), Athelstan (George Blagden) and Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) once again venturing across the Atlantic to meet with King Ecbert (Linus Roache) and claim the farmland he’d promised them. Of course, things never go exactly as planned, and Ragnar finds himself caught up in a family feud between Princess Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey) and her uncle and brother, who have teamed to steal her kingdom of Mercia.

Durand plays Harbard, a mysterious figure who shows up in Kattegat while Ragnar and most of the men are in England, and he has a almost spiritual effect on Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), Helga (Maude Hirst) and Queen Auslaug (Alyssa Sutherland). Punching the name “Harbard” into Google brings up a couple of references, most notably the Norse gods of Odin and Loki.

“It’s so difficult to expand on what you’ve already found out,” Durand admits. “All I can really divulge is that he wanders into Kattegat and there is something influential and magical about him. Some are sucked in by him and others are skeptical. His actions will be felt for a time to come. Who he is will take some time to reveal.”

It didn’t take Durand long to fully immerse himself into the character of Harbard thanks to the show’s incredible sets, wardrobe and, especially, makeup. He recalls the beard created Harbard and thinking how weird it was as it was first being applied to his face. Two hours later and he didn’t recognize himself.

“I’m looking in the mirror at hair that goes down to my waist and a beard that just screams, ‘I am so virile! I will conquer!'”

Vikings airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.