Katheryn Winnick is a Canadian actress who is best known for portraying the legendary Shieldmaiden Lagertha in the historical television series Vikings. Her intense and compelling performance as the formidable warrior won her worldwide acclaim. However, her journey to success was anything but straightforward. Winnick’s early experiences as a martial arts instructor helped land her first roles but it was the groundbreaking character of Lagertha that truly launched her international stardom. Let’s take a deeper look into the fascinating career of Katheryn Winnick.

  • Born December 17, 1977 (age 46)
  • Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
  • Citizenship
  • CanadaUnited States
  • Education York University
  • Occupation Actress
  • Years active 1999–present
  • https://www.instagram.com/katherynwinnick/
  • https://twitter.com/katherynwinnick

Katheryn Winnick (born December 17, 1977) is a Canadian actress. She is known for her starring roles in the television series Vikings (2013–2020), Wu Assassins (2019), and Big Sky (2020–2023), and her recurring role on the television series Bones (2010–2011). She also starred in the films Amusement (2008), Choose (2010), A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2012), The Art of the Steal (2013), Polar (2019), and The Marksman (2021).

Early Life and Martial Arts Training

Katheryn Winnick was born in 1977 in Toronto, Canada to Ukrainian immigrant parents. She grew up speaking Ukrainian as her first language and did not begin speaking English until she was eight years old. From a very young age, Winnick developed a passion for martial arts and began training in Taekwondo at just seven years old. She proved to be a natural and quickly rose through the ranks, obtaining her first black belt at only 13 years old. Winnick’s dedication and talent led her to open her own martial arts school, called WIN KAI Martial Arts, when she was only 16 years old. By age 21, she was successfully running three separate schools.

During this time, Winnick was also pursuing her higher education. She studied kinesiology at York University in Toronto while continuing to teach martial arts. Her background as a skilled martial artist proved fortuitous, as it helped kickstart her acting career in unconventional way. Winnick began getting work as a martial arts trainer and stunt double on film sets that were shooting in Toronto. This gave her the exposure and confidence to start seeking acting roles directly in front of the camera.

Early Acting Roles

One of Winnick’s first major television roles came in 1997 playing the recurring character of Holly Benson on the Canadian teen sitcom Student Bodies. From there, she steadily built up her resume with both comedic and dramatic roles. Winnick appeared in popular sitcoms and crime dramas throughout the 2000s such as House, Bones, CSI, and Law & Order. She also secured parts in mainstream romantic comedies including Failure to Launch, 50 First Dates, and Love & Other Drugs alongside Hollywood stars like Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.

Throughout this time, Winnick remained dedicated to martial arts as both a passion and a tool for her career. Her incredible fighting prowess allowed her to perform many of her own stunts and fight choreography. This helped land her more action-oriented roles like the 2005 horror film Hellraiser: Hellworld and a memorable guest appearance on Nikita in 2011. Winnick also utilized her skills teaching self-defense classes specifically designed to empower women. Despite steadily working as a respected character actress, Winnick had yet to find a true career-defining role. That was all about to change when she was cast in the part that would change her life – Lagertha in Vikings.

Rise to Stardom as Lagertha in Vikings

In 2013, Winnick scored the role of Lagertha in the new History channel series Vikings created by Michael Hirst. The character of Lagertha was based on the real-life figure of the same name, a powerful shieldmaiden and wife to Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) in early medieval Scandinavia. Winnick worked tirelessly to prepare for the audition, even renting a Viking costume to fully embody the character. Her dedication and raw charismatic presence won over Hirst and helped Winnick land the coveted role.

Over the course of six seasons, Winnick’s riveting performance as the complex and compelling Lagertha cemented her status as an international star. She drew widespread praise for bringing the cunning yet vulnerable shieldmaiden to life in a captivatingly authentic manner. Winnick performed all of her own dangerous stuntwork on the show, continuing to push the boundaries of what female leads could achieve onscreen. The most iconic aspect of her Lagertha may have been the character’s evolution from loyal wife to independent Earl and Queen – a progressive portrayal that deeply resonated with audiences around the world.

The massive mainstream success of Vikings introduced Winnick to a new global fanbase. Her fans affectionately called themselves “Lagertha’s Warriors” and even got tattoos of the actress’ face. Winnick proved instrumental in the massive popularity of the show itself. Beyond the intense action sequences, Winnick imbued Lagertha with emotive nuance that anchored the emotional core amongst the all-male cast that included stars like Clive Standen and Gustaf Skarsgård.

Continued Success in Film and Television

Since completing her seven season arc on Vikings, Winnick has maintained a thriving acting career across both film and television. In 2019, she starred opposite Iko Uwais in the Netflix martial arts series Wu Assassins, for which she also served as a co-producer. Winnick has taken on an increasingly diverse range of leading roles in projects like the crime thriller The Marksman (2021), the survival film Wander (2020), and the mystery series Big Sky created by David E. Kelley for ABC/Hulu.

Despite critical acclaim for her dynamic onscreen presence, Winnick’s film career has proved more erratic with movies like The Dark Tower, Polar, and Speed Kills faring poorly both financially and critically. However, one of her most acclaimed performances came in Sean Penn’s 2021 drama film Flag Day, where she starred opposite Penn and received high marks for her nuanced turn as his troubled daughter. Winnick continues to add new producing credits to her resume as well, indicating her desire to spread her creative wings beyond acting.

Directorial Debut and Beyond

In a special treat for devoted fans, Winnick made her directorial debut helming an episode of Vikings in its final season. She has expressed intentions of continuing behind the camera in addition to in front of it. Winnick remains dedicated to championing strong female lead stories and empowering performances through her production company Kat Scratch, Inc. Off-screen, she uses her platform to advocate for various charities and has fundraised extensively for Ukrainian relief efforts in 2022.

Though her early focus was martial arts over acting, Katheryn Winnick’s commanding screen presence and dedication to authentic physicality have taken her career to incredible new heights. There is no doubt that her groundbreaking portrayal of Lagertha will remain one of her defining performances for generations. Now steadily juggling leading roles in film, television, and behind the scenes work – Winnick continues to surprise audiences with her versatility and intensity. She stands among the elite ranks of Canadian talent achieving global recognition and acclaim.

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