Inside Scoop: VIKINGS’ Dianne Doan On Yidu’s Relationship With Ragnar

There is already trouble in the relationship between King Ragnar and Queen Aslaug, but things may be getting worse with the introduction of exotic slave, Yidu. Aslaug is no fool and undoubtedly knew that the young woman would spark her husband’s curiosity. What remains to be seen is how far the relationship will go. OHSOGRAY participated on a press call with Dianne Doan, who talked about her experience joining the show and how Yidu is going to integrate into life in Kattegat.

Vikings airs Thursdays at 10/9c on History.

What’s it like to take the leap from Disney royalty to Viking slave?

I couldn’t have asked for a better transition out of that Disney experience just because the audience range is so limited, I guess? Challenge-wise, I think I was definitely pushed in my work as an actor, coming on to a show that’s already been so established with the course of three years, working with Travis and then numerous directors that I was able to come across. It definitely was intimidating, and it pushed my limits, I would say that, but it was so rewarding.

What can you tell us about Ragnar’s relationship with your character, Yidu?

I come on pretty early on this season, and right off the bat, it’s not just Ragnar that’s intrigued or curious. It’s definitely all of Kattegat just because from my sheer appearance, it’s so different than what they’ve seen around them but with Ragnar specifically, we know throughout the season he is a person who seeks to learn about different cultures and different religions which is why I think he does raid lands. Off the bat, from my appearance to the way that I carry myself, he questions it, which is why I would say our initial relationship starts out of that curiosity.

Can you describe Yidu’s backstory and what her trajectory is for the season?

I’ll tell you as much as I can. I think it’s already publicly known. I’m kidnapped on the Red Sea and then brought to Paris, and it’s presumed that from their raid last season, they bring me back to Kattegat where I’m sold to Queen Aslaug as a slave, so I’m one of her new ladies for this season. My back story, I definitely did research for my character just to make sure that I knew what era and what dynasty I come from, the rights that women had during that time, how I would react in certain situations, I want to bring that. What was fascinating to me was I found out during that research that in fact, women at that time in my dynasty had a voice and had an opinion and had rights to an education. I wanted to make sure that Yidu was a strong character coming into the show even though in certain circumstances, she’s a slave.

Did you have any conversations with Michael Hirst about your character, and did he give you any guidance on what her deal is, what she’s about for this season?

The beautiful thing about Michael’s writing was that it’s all in the scripts, and I was able to play reading between the lines and if anything were not what he envisioned then we talk. He would discuss with all of us whether or not the route that we’re headed. In general, he gives it away for the cast at least, within the script and the storyline.

In some ways Yidu is following in Athelstan’s footsteps as the outsider. Are there expectations she’ll shake things up like he did?

I wouldn’t think so. She wouldn’t have any recollection of Athelstan being in Kattegat. I think the main thing would be just the fact that whether or not they choose to go east, but I don’t think that other than that, that would be an option. I think it’s just I come in as – yes, you’re right a foreigner but it has nothing to do with what I can bring to Kattegat itself. I think for Ragnar, he’s going to be picking my brain to see what information I can give about my past rather than where we’re going in the future. Does that make sense?

Does Ragnar hold Yidu on a pedestal because she has seen things that he hasn’t?

I think that’s established within episode four and definitely you’re on, if it’s a pedestal. Definitely, he holds me higher than say a regular slave just because I do come from somewhere else. If you watched episode four, there is that moment of interaction when I almost stand up for myself and as a slave, I have no right to really speak to a king, yet I do, so he questions where I get that power from.

As an Asian actress, were you concerned about being exoticized?

No, I wouldn’t say that in particular. I think when the opportunity came for this audition, I had seen the show before and you’re right there wasn’t an element of ethnicity quite yet but I didn’t see it as a negative. I definitely saw it as a great opportunity and the fact that they’re willing to add a different background to the show. I just thought it was a great opportunity in general.

What about the kind of training you’ve undergone to be on the show? Did you have to handle any weapons or anything like that?

I don’t know if I can tell you that without being a spoiler.

Will Yidu fill the place in Ragnar’s heart left by Athelstan?

Athelstan meant so much to Ragnar. I don’t know if it would be parallel like a repetition of that relationship. I do think that you will see some sort of relationship whether it’s intimate, unfold between Yidu and Ragnar. I would like to assume that it is a place of – I take his like I’m a confidante in sort just because he is so alone in Kattegat. He doesn’t feel like he has anybody to talk to. Everybody just talks at him and not with him, if that makes sense.

How will Yidu interact with the other citizens of Kattegat?

I don’t know how to answer that question. I’m going to say throughout the season, yes, Yidu does get involved more so in the world of the Vikings.

What is it like working on the Vikings set?

I’ve never moved across the world to work before and so that was definitely a game-changer for me. Like I said earlier, it was really intimidating and nerve-wracking coming on to the show that is so well-established and respected in the industry. Luckily, the cast and crew are phenomenal over in Ireland that it wasn’t so much a challenge working at all. [Laughter] The only challenge I would say was the elements. I think the cast have mentioned it before it’s the weather was probably the biggest thing I do adjust to just because everyone was so gracious and welcoming.

Was it more physically demanding for you than you expected it to be as far as getting used to that weather and being able to act through the cold?

No. If anything I can get help with the work. We’re put in a position where we got to play around with so much. The sets were made beautifully. Everything felt that you were transformed into this world. If anything, the weather would help. It was difficult as I said earlier, just like being pushed out of my comfort zone acting-wise. I’ve never been challenged like that before. I couldn’t have asked for a better project.

Do you have a favorite scene that you’ve shot?

Yes. I would say episodes four and five were really special for me. I got the chance to really play around and explore with my character and I think you’ll really learn a lot about Yidu. Also, that I got to work with an amazing director during that time and I learned the most probably then. It’s the start of my story arc, I would say, during that time, those two episodes.

Did Travis ever prank you? Did he ever get you on set during filming?

Yes, he did. Of course, he did. Luckily, I didn’t actually get it that bad. I think I earned a place at the table pretty early on so he never bugged me too much. I just got to witness all the pranks. I think the worst that I got, and I don’t want to get anybody in trouble, but he definitely tied me to a boat and I am going to be dramatic and say that I could have possibly died. I’m just kidding. I didn’t. But yes, he tied me to a boat by my life jacket and as I was trying to exit off the dock, I got pulled back, and everybody laughed at me.

We were talking earlier about different cultures and with every new character, there’s always some kind of exploration of the theme of faith and what they have as a spiritual background. What’s Yidu’s contribution to that, if any, that we’ll see this season?

That’s definitely talked upon in my storyline so I can’t share with you but I will say it happens in episode four and five. Is that enough of a spoiler for you? This season is definitely going to be something that I think the audience is really going to enjoy and I can’t wait to hear what everybody thinks of the character and of the new season, so thank you.