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Why Olaf From Vikings: Valhalla Looks So Familiar

As was the case with the original "Vikings" series that spanned six seasons, Netflix's new eagerly anticipated show "Vikings: Valhalla" has characters that can be initially distinguished by their ornate hairstyles and epic beard management. Crammed with a barbershop-avoiding band of heroes and villains, "Valhalla" is set 100 years after the events of our first trip to Kattegat and follows the exploits of Leif Eriksson (Sam Corlett) and Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter). Both carrying weight in their name from their respective families, the two set off on a voyage to invade England alongside the king of Denmark, King Canute (Bradley Freegard), to enact some Viking justice.

The mission is unfolding on the cusp of a new era for Vikings, with Catholicism becoming more of a significant faith among the people, much to the frustration of Leif's sister, Freydis Eriksdotter (Frida Gustavsson), who is set in the old ways. Determined to ensure that this dwindling belief is burnt out among Vikings is Olaf Haraldsson (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), Harald's older half-brother and a man bent on making a new world from a throne of his own. But who is responsible for bringing this bold and brash would-be king to life, and where have we seen his intense facial hair before? Well, as much as he's settled into the Viking era for his new role, Jóhannesson has appeared in other epic tales, not just from history but from different worlds altogether.

He was the original doubting Thomas

It's funny how certain career turns can see actors' former roles connect to new ones in the most interesting ways. Long before he played a devout Christian Viking in "Valhalla," Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson appeared as one of the first (albeit brief) nonbelievers in both the 2015 NBC series "A.D. The Bible Continues" and the 2021 Discovery+ movie "Resurrection." After appearing in 9 episodes of the 12-episode series focusing on the New Testament and the life of Jesus, Jóhannesson returned in the feature-length installment, which focuses on Jesus returning from the dead.

The role saw him as the only one of the 12 disciples who doubted his leader's return after witnessing his crucifixion, as told in the original holy book. Coincidentally, Jóhannesson appeared in another biblical adaptation in 2014, Darren Aronofsky's "Noah," starring Russell Crowe, in a brief, uncredited role as Cain, who murdered his brother, Abel.

Jóhannesson got the boot by the Hound in Game of Thrones

Seeing as Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson looks so at home in the war-torn lands of medieval England and Viking-laden Kattegat, it's no surprise that he found a place some years back within the Seven Kingdoms of "Game of Thrones" as well. Though not as prominent in this show as the Netflix epic he'd eventually wind up in, Jóhannesson did cross paths with one of the few big players in George R. R. Martin's epic saga that he'd have been better off avoiding.

As Lem Lemoncloak (brilliant name), he only appeared in two episodes of the sixth season, which is pretty understandable after getting in the bad books of feared swordsman Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound (Rory McCann). His character was ruthlessly extorting a village housing the feared brute, who returned to blood and carnage after his hosts are brutally killed. Eventually, Lemoncloak is killed by Clegane after the famed swordsman catches up with him just as he's about to be executed by his former allies, the Brotherhood Without Banners. Instead, Clegane is given the honor of executing Lemoncloak and stealing his shoes. It's not one of the more prominent roles in the show, but it's certainly a credit worth noting, even if he does exit it barefoot in the process.

He lost his cool in the Ice Age in Alpha

Should you want to see Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson play stoic rather than scheming, a great example of his capability is on full display in the prehistoric adventure film "Alpha." Directed by Albert Hughes ("The Book of Eli," "Menace II Society"), the film is set at the end of the Ice Age and follows Keda, a young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is forced to fend for himself until he joins forces with a lone wolf that has been abandoned by his pack, seemingly establishing the first bond between man and man's best friend.

Jóhannesson plays Tau, Keda's father, who is racked with dread and fear for his son's safety for most of the film. It's a great example of his capability as a towering figure showing heart-wrenching emotion, all while speaking a dialogue that was made specifically for the film itself (via The Washington Post). Add in epic vistas and impressive set pieces, and "Alpha" works as an epic family movie with Jóhannesson providing one great bond between father and son at its core.

Jóhannesson was an Innocent casualty in Netflix's short-lived series

"Vikings: Valhalla" isn't Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson's first time working with Netflix. He previously worked with the streaming giant in the supernatural shape-shifting series "The Innocents." Released in 2018, the show follows teenagers Harry and June (Sorcha Groundsell), the latter of who, after running away, discovers that she has the power to change her shape and size to look like other people.

Jóhannesson played Steinar, the dirty-work handler to Guy Pearce's Bendik Halvorson, who treats people with June's ability. "The Innocents" demanded a little extra of Jóhannesson as well, given that his character is one of the individuals that June could imitate. Unfortunately, the viewership didn't look to be enough for the eight-episode series — it never resurfaced on Netflix for a second season, even with its 86% critical score and 76% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.