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Vikings: Valhalla's Johannes Haukur Johannesson Explains The Intolerance Of Olaf - Exclusive

Netflix's new series "Vikings: Valhalla" depicts a fascinating moment in the 11th century when Vikings were split between those who worshipped the old gods and those who embraced the new Christian religion. Although the Christians claimed to be on a quest to convert the pagans, it seems — at least as far as the show is concerned — that they killed and assaulted them just as often. And as the series also makes clear, although the two groups come together early in the story to fight against the English, ultimately they are so at odds, it leads to civil war.

While the historical drama features some Christians and pagans who are tolerant of one another, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson's committed character Olaf Haraldsson is not one of them. The half-brother of Harald Sigurdsson, Olaf doesn't share his brother's live-and-let-live mentality. Yet, even though he claims his mission in life is to convert pagans, his actions suggest he may be more interested in amassing power instead.

In an exclusive conversation with Looper, Jóhannesson shared his perspective on the motivations that are really behind his character's actions in "Vikings: Valhalla."

Olaf is a devout manipulator

The show introduces Olaf Haraldsson as a devout Christian who is disgusted by those who still adhere to pagan beliefs. Nonetheless, when he's called to do so, he agrees to join his half-brother in the Vikings' battle against the English. In this moment, Olaf seems to push his religion aside and put his Viking heritage over everything else. However, it doesn't last, and soon his overwhelming intolerance rears its head again.

Actor Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson agreed that Olaf is remarkably intolerant and explained why he believes that is. "I suspect him of not loving Jesus enough," Jóhannesson observed while laughing. "I have a suspicion he might be using Christianity as a tool to gain power and control over people, to a certain extent. I think there's also some true belief in him, but there's also doubt and the sheer manipulation and using Christianity as a tool of manipulation."

The eight-episode first season of "Vikings: Valhalla" is now streaming on Netflix.