Jeb Stuart’s career has taken some twists and turns over the years, as he first established a name for himself writing a little film called Die Hard, following that feat up by working on Another 48 Hrs. and The Fugitive. But after stepping away from the business for personal reasons, Stuart has returned to writing for the screen. His current project is spearheading the new Netflix series Vikings: Valhalla, which has been greenlit for a three-season run, the first season of which has just premiered on the streaming service.
Vikings: Valhalla is a continuation of fan-favorite historical epic Vikings, but set in a different period of time for Viking society with a brand new cast of characters — meaning that newcomers don’t have to have seen the original History Channel series, while fans of the original will still find plenty to enjoy about the story of Leif Eriksson (Sam Corlett) and his fellow Vikings as they battle amongst themselves over religious differences, while also running up against a new outside threat: the English.
In a one-on-one Zoom interview with Consequence, edited and transcribed for clarity, Stuart explains how he came to work on the series, what elements of the original Vikings show were important to bring into Valhalla, and what it was like mining real history for the action set-pieces. He also teases what to expect from Season 2, set to begin production in Ireland soon.
[Editor’s note: The following contains mild spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Vikings: Valhalla, “The End of the Beginning.”]
To start off, talk to me about how you ended up taking on this show?
Morgan O’Sullivan, who was an executive producer on the original and had worked with Michael Hirst on Tudors and obviously all the Vikings shows, he came to me. I was working with Morgan on a Netflix project — well, he was no longer involved, but I had met him on a project called The Liberator that he was going to produce, and I got to know Morgan pretty well.
We started The Liberator in Ireland and then I would come and go and I would always drop down in Dublin and spend some time there. But when he came to me, he said, “Michael is wrapping up Season 6, his whole show is reaching a wonderful conclusion, but we think there may be another show beyond this. If Michael’s show was the start of the Viking age, what does the end of the Viking era look like?”
I was not interested in doing Season 7 of Michael’s show because I thought he had really reached a beautiful ending to it. The sixth season wasn’t out then, but I wanted to know how he did it. So I spent a lot of time talking with Michael — we were working on another project together, a feature, and he told me the idea was to find a place out in history beyond where that show had ended — that we could plant a flag and go “let’s go forward.”
And 1002, which is where we start our show, has a nice thing because it brings into play a lot of new Vikings. There’s nobody 125 years later who exists from the original show. So, we can create new characters and have a different tone to the show, and at the same time keep the DNA from the original show, because I was a real fan of the original.