Is Ragnar Lothbrok plotting to invade China in Season 4 of Vikings? New cast member Dianne Doan was mum on that possible plot point, but the character she plays, Yidu, certainly casts Ragnar’s eye in that direction. The Vancouver actress says Yidu, who was captured in Paris and brought to Kattegat for sale, makes an impression on Ragnar because of her look, education and strong will. Ever curious, he’s fascinated by her background, religious beliefs and the Tang Dynasty she’s part of.
With Vikings returning Thursday on History, we got Doan to give us a sneak peek into what Yidu is up to.
Yidu certainly catches Ragnar’s eye pretty quickly.
Dianne Doan: I haven’t seen the final edits yet, other than the official teasers online. They’re keeping things under wraps, even for the cast!
Can you give me some background on Yidu? I’ve read some stuff online and done a little bit of research, but what’s your description?
She was kidnapped on the Red Sea and brought to Paris. When the vikings raided Paris, they captured her and brought her back to Kattegat. Viewers meet me when Aslaug purchases me as one of her new ladies.
I read about Yidu’s world views and beliefs. Can you talk about that?
I made sure to do my background work on the character, and to find out what dynasty and era she came from. Back in the Tang Dynasty, where she is from, women were allowed an education and a profession. Women of that time had a voice and I wanted to bring that. As a slave, she still wants to keep her individuality and empowerment within Kattegat. Right off the bat when Ragnar meets her, he’s interested in where she comes from, her religious views … he wants to learn, as he usually would have through Athelstan.
Was there anything that surprised you as you did research for the role?
I was shocked to learn that, in that time period in Asian culture, I could have a voice. That was the main thing that I found and what I wanted to incorporate into Yidu.
Joining an established show can be tough at first, because the cast and crew already have a shorthand. What was that experience like? Did your Canadian co-stars Alexander Ludwig and Katheryn Winnick take you under their wings?
It was really intimidating walking in. Alex called me ‘Vancouver’ for the first week because we share that common fact. Katheryn was great; she gave me so much advice because I’ve never been on a TV series before.
What was Ireland like?
In Vancouver you’re either on a sound stage or, if you’re lucky, on location. With Vikings, they’re taking advantage of every landscape that they can. It’s unbelievable how beautiful it is there.
What’s interesting about Yidu is that she’s from further east. Ragnar, to this point, has been exploring Britain and France. Does meeting Yidu turn his eye towards that part of the world?
I don’t know! She definitely creates some sort of curiosity. Whether or not he does travel east, I couldn’t tell you. There is more raiding and battles in this upcoming season.
Had you watched Vikings before you were cast on it?
To be honest with you, it was so violent and visually appalling sometimes … after a few episodes I wasn’t sure I could keep watching it. But after I got the role I wanted to make sure I knew every storyline and every character, so I did watch it all. And that’s where I found the beauty of Vikings. There are so many intimate relationships and storylines. It’s not just what you think when you see the title, Vikings.
Vikings airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on History.