'The Last Kingdom': Alexander Dreymon Breaks Down Alfred & Uhtred's Relationship in Season 3
The third season of the celebrated BBC-turned Netflix series The Last Kingdom has finally arrived, and after the tense and tragic Season 2 finale, what's next for the characters is very much up in the air.
TV Insider chatted with the show's very own Uhtred of Bebbanburg, played by Alexander Dreymon, about what to expect from what is sure to be a tumultuous third season.
This season centers a lot on Alfred’s (David Dawson) reliance on Uhtred to fight against the uprising and finally unite the two kingdoms. Uhtred is facing an inner battle that will test his loyalty — could you tell us a little about his internal dialogue?
Alexander Dreymon: Well, first of all, I want to say, Alfred can’t do s**t without me! [Laughs] It’s been like that for the last three seasons, with him just shutting me down and then realizing he needs me again. So, that theme definitely continues, and I think it definitely comes to a climax this season. I’m excited to see the scenes between David Dawson and myself because they were so much fun to play with him.
And I think Uhtred’s loyalty — you hit the nail on the head — that’s one of the major themes this season, how that loyalty gets tested and how much he can stick to his promises and to his oaths, which were obviously a huge deal back then. Uhtred is very conflicted about that; that’s one of the character traits that he has that I am particularly warm to, that he is so loyal. Even if he doesn’t want to, he is going to stick to his promise. He’s a man of his word. This season is about whether he can keep doing that or not.
In the new season, will Alfred's appreciation for Uhtred become evident? How will we see their relationship shift on a personal level?
Their relationship gets heavily tested this season, and pretty much comes to a break. The question is, is there going to be redemption or not?
You’re playing a character that, on the surface, leads a very different life than you do, with very different challenges. What common ground have you been able to find between Uhtred and yourself?
The truth is that, whether it happens in 9th century AD or now, it’s still the same stories, and it’s still the same human needs that we’re catering to, you know? We have the same drives, the mind isn’t that different now. I think that one of things I can identify with is not really being from a particular place; I’ve personally grown up in lots of different countries, and I don’t identify with one particular country. I think that, for Uhtred, it's a little more difficult than it is for me, and it’s more heavily on his mind just because of the religious aspect. He’s always being faulted for being a Pagan in a mainly Christian-dominated environment. So I don’t have to struggle with that, but I know exactly what it feels like to always be the outsider, and I think Uhtred makes the most of that.
I think that’s what is making him to valuable to Alfred — because he has that foot in the Danish camp, and he knows how the Danes think and fight. Especially at the beginning, in Season 1, when it’s very much at the beginning of the Danish invasions and the Saxons don’t necessarily know how the Danes fight yet. I think they learn that very fast and surpass it, but during that time, it’s what makes him so attractive to Alfred. And at the same time, it's what Alfred hates the most about him. So I can relate to that part, and I think that Uhtred, despite all the dickish moves that he might be pulling off, has a good heart. He’s got values that he sticks to and I can relate to that, as well.
This is such a historically-heavy show. What was your relationship to history when you were younger? Was it something you were interested in?
My mom was a history teacher, so I made a point of not being interested! [Laughs] But that changed very quickly as soon as I started working. It’s become one of my favorite parts, actually, researching a character, because it’s no longer something theoretical, you get to live it. You get to spend time in it, especially on a show like The Last Kingdom where there are 360-degree sets. You can really live in most of our sets. It’s so immersive.
I think it’s such a privilege to be able to have these experiences and shed a little light on what it must have been like living back then — the hardships. So for me, the historical aspect has become extremely important, and I love discovering what the political situation was like, and the social situation, in a particular time. It’s become an important part of my life, but I think that, on this particular show, David Dawson is the history buff. I think that he was a huge fan of history on his own, before we started filming.
Of course, you know The Last Kingdom has a following of especially-dedicated and passionate fans. What do you think it is about the show that has struck a chord with viewers and gets them so hooked on what’s coming next?
Well, we do have a very loyal and tight-knit fanbase, which I’m extremely grateful for. I think that there’s a little bit of the aspect of being the underdog, a small show. We don’t really have any advertising, and we kind of made our little niche in this world of millions of shows, which I’m very grateful for and proud of.
I think that the realism of the show is something that gets me when I watch it, just in terms of the grit and the hardships that these guys are going through. All the scenes that you see in winter when people are struggling in the mud, and the red noses, I mean, all of that is so real, you know? We go through that, we live these experiences. Most of our scenes are shot on-location, where we’re out in the forest or next to the campfire and spending nights outside. I think that comes across in the show.
And I think the historical aspect has something to do with it, as well; it’s a part of history that is not explored, and it’s certainly not taught in the rest of the world. Even in England, it’s not something that’s really touched upon in the curriculum. The only thing that people know about Alfred the Great is that he burnt the cakes one day, and that’s about it. So I think it’s good to shed some light on that.
What do you think it is about Season 3 that will most captivate or surprise fans?
I think the relationship between Alfred an Uhtred is, in the end, just two guys — never mind that one of them is a king and a warlord — who have deep-rooted respect for each other, and I think a lot of love, as well. But they also have a lot of hate. I think that’s why it’s so interesting, and we get to see that side where all the surroundings and all the ranks are stripped, and it’s just two men having it out.
The other thing I think is going to be very interesting to follow is how Uhtred deals with a new character who comes on the show and has a huge influence on him. There’s sort of a cat-and-mouse game between them, and I think that’s going to keep the audience on their toes.
The Last Kingdom, Season 3, Now Streaming, Netflix