In "The Last Kingdom," "American Horror Story" star Alexander Dreymon heads way back in time to play Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a 9th century Briton taken prisoner and raised by Vikings as a boy before returning to help unite the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into what will eventually be Great Britain. And that involves a whole lot of time on horseback.
Was this a time period you were interested in before?
It was always a time that I was fascinated with just because we know so little about it. The Danes didn't keep any records of their historical events, they didn't write. It becomes so interesting because there are so many parts that you have to fill out with your own imagination. What it means for me as an actor is I get to spend a lot of time on a horse, playing with swords and riding through the forest, making campfires — every little boy's dream.
When you sign up for this kind of show, do you consider how much you'll be on a horse?
I spent quite a bit of time riding when I was a kid, but that doesn't mean I knew how to. During that time it was mainly that the brain of the operation was the horse and not me, so I was kind of literally just a passenger. But I always loved it so I was actually begging for more time on the horse during the shoot. I think acting on a horse improves your horsemanship and your acting. It makes you a better rider to act on a horse and a better actor to do it on a horse.
A lot of actors just lie and list it as a skill and figure they'll deal with it if they have to.
Let me be clear, I didn't grow up riding. I did quite a lot of it when I was a kid, but I never learned how to do it. And on set we had an amazing stunt coordinator who does essentially what Robert Redford does in "The Horse Whisperer." That's his way of dealing with the horses and ultimately his way of dealing with actors because I think you need a lot of patience to deal with us. (laughs)
A lot of the names in this sound like mouthfuls.
Yeah, about the names. (laughs) My first thought was who would be cruel enough to name their child Uhtred? I had to get used to the name, and now I'm totally in love with it. I've got to be honest, the names were a struggle because nobody knew how to pronounce them. Everybody had their own take on it. One day this historical adviser comes on set, and I'm like, "Dude, you've really got to tell me, how do you guys know how to pronounce these names?" And he goes, "Oh, we don't know. We just make it up."
Do you think Uhtred will catch on now as a name?
(laughs) I think if I had a wife and I wanted to name my child Uhtred, she'd divorce me. I don't think it will catch on in that sense. I mean, it would be great if it would. I don't think anyone would name their child Khaleesi, for instance. At least I hope not.
I'm pretty sure someone probably already has.
You know, there might be some dogs or cats that are going to be called Uhtred. Like maybe a wolfhound. But it would be way funnier if it was a Chihuahua or a Yorkshire.
"The Last Kingdom" premieres Saturday at 10 p.m. onBBC America
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick