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The Vikings Star You Likely Forgot Played A Villainous Tribute In The Hunger Games

One of the History Channel's definitive series of the past decade, "Vikings" was created by Michael Hirst, who used real-life historical accounts as inspiration for the reign of famous Viking king Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). Spanning for six seasons, the series traverses several decades as it features not only Ragnar's raids and rise to power, but also his ex-wife and shield maiden Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), who gains fame in her own right. The series became so beloved that it gave way to Netflix's sequel series "Vikings: Valhalla" and maintains a healthy 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Moody and violent, "Vikings" weaves an interesting tale, even after the death of Ragnar in Season 4. Though the demise of the protagonist may put off viewers from investing in the rest of the series, the characters are flawed and fleshed out, making them a joy to watch. Lagertha makes it to the final season, as well as Ragnar's firstborn son, Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), who follows in his father's footsteps. With such a host of well-developed characters and intriguing storylines to bring audiences into the "Vikings" world, many viewers may have forgotten the significant role one Viking played in "The Hunger Games."

Cato was essential to the theme of The Hunger Games

Before Alexander Ludwig's long tenure as Bjorn Ironside, the actor played another physically empowered character with a penchant for swordplay. Katniss' (Jennifer Lawrence) first incursion against the Capitol in "The Hunger Games" is littered with bodies, including that of career tribute Cato (Ludwig). Trained in a special academy for the sole purpose of voluntarily entering the games, Cato is a force to be reckoned with. He believes in what he is doing and has become an efficient killing machine. His brutality is so undeniable that it would be easy to delineate him to just a one-note villain.

But as this is "The Hunger Games," characters are never that simple. The themes of corrupt government and torturing children for sport spreads to every character. When Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) enter into the final battle with Cato, it is clear that the tribute is just as much of a victim as every other person in Panem. He too suffers under the culture of violence, just in a different way. He was raised to do just one thing: kill other children. He is manipulated and molded to be a weapon for the Capitol. Though certainly self-aware about this in his final moments, it is still too late to change. Cato's death makes it clear that there really are no winners of "The Hunger Games" — only survivors.

Cato was just a precursor to Vikings

Alexander Ludwig's portrayal of Cato was just the beginning for the young actor. In fact, his career could have gone in another direction if things had been the slightest bit different. Early in the casting process for "The Hunger Games," Ludwig was in the running for the role of Peeta. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Ludwig revealed that he was quite happy to step aside for Josh Hutcherson.

"[Gary Ross] gave me this script for Cato and he's like, 'Would you want to read this?' and I was like, 'Yeah! I'd love to play the bad guy, that would be so fun,'" said Ludwig. It wouldn't be the last time that Ludwig picked up a sword. Not too long after that, the actor took over the part of Viking warrior Bjorn in Season 2 of "Vikings." Even though he had prepared for the role of Cato, the rigorous experience of the series proved to be quite intensive.

"When I got 'Vikings,' I realized how much more I had to learn. It just feels like being in this show now, everything kind of just happened for a reason and I really had to learn what it takes to be great," Ludwig reported. Bjorn is drenched in far more blood than Cato ever was. For five seasons, the actor filmed in freezing temperatures while waging war against his brother, Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen). Though the series has ended, it has left an enduring legacy — and who knows? Maybe Ludwig will pick up a sword again for another role in the future.