The television has turned for Donal Logue. After the unfortunate cancellations of two promising but slept-on series—NBC's crime drama Life (2008–2009) and FX's comedic crime drama Terriers (2010)—the Irish-Canadian actor, who's best known for the indie comedy The Tao of Steve (2000), the Fox sitcom Grounded for Life (2001–2005), and small but memorable roles in films like Blade (1998), The Patriot (2000), and Zodiac (2007), has found success with a trio of must-see shows that put his range and impressive beard to good use.
On the History channel's historical drama Vikings, which airs its season one finale Sunday at 10 p.m. ET, Logue plays King Horik, a Viking ruler whose people revere him but whose rivals covet his wealth and power. When BBC America premieres season two of its period drama Copper in June, he will appear as General Brendan Donovan, a Boss Tweed-inspired ex-Union Army leader and political figure in post-Civil War era Five Points (that sketchy hood from Gangs of New York). And this fall, Logue returns to FX's biker drama Sons of Anarchy as unhinged former U.S. Marshal Lee Toric, seeking vengeance for his sister's murder.
Complex recently caught up with Logue, who is delightfully down-to-earth, to talk about his slate of great shows, as well as criticism of Vikings' historical accuracy, the magical power of facial hair, and his unique side hustles in Oregon, where he co-owns and drives big rigs for Aisling Trucking, and has a hardwood company, Frison Logue Hardwoods.
Interview by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)
Last week, King Horik memorably entered the picture partnering with the protagonist Ragnar Lodbrok and making bloody sacrifices to the gods. What can we expect from him in the Vikings season finale and next season?
The Vikings were an organized group. A lot of it was on smaller levels, like earldoms, but King Horik was an historical figure that controlled the whole place. At the time, it was just like Ireland, where there were four kings and different warring factions, and he was the most recognizable. So in the show he’s always being challenged. That comes up this season and will carry through the next season.
The beard sends out some kind of pheromonal call to the universe. ... I’m going to stay Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson-style as long as I can.
The most important story is Ragnar Lodbrok’s (Travis Fimmel), because Ragnar says, “Look, we can take these boats across open water, we can take them up rivers.” It’s brilliant, and now there’s no place in what is now modern Europe that these guys can’t go. It hasn’t happened yet [on the show], but it started with these raids on England and ultimately Ireland, and it spread throughout Europe.
What do you make of claims that the show is historically inaccurate?
The show is fairly historically accurate. Ragnar was a real person. His brother Rollo and King Horik were too. This is the time that Montessori’s in England recorded the Viking names and etched them in a fairly rock solid historical timeline. But no one really knows [all the details] because they didn’t have any heavy-duty written records. The Icelandic Sagas record some history but there was an oral tradition of stories handed down, and the Vikings really believed in their mythos, the pantheistic system of different gods like Thor and Odin, and Valhalla, where the slain go after they die, and the Elysian Fields, so those things come across in the literature and you need to weave things in.
I’ve seen people write online “This isn’t real at all,” and it’s like, “What!? I guess you teach at Oxford—the only course in definitive Viking history in the world.” It’s odd to say it isn’t real, since everyone is operating on pretty much the same information. [Show creator] Michael Hirst is as brilliant as they come and he’s done an amazing job with what little historic record there is and weaving a world that is factually pretty accurate but also makes sense for drama.
How was shooting in Dublin? Were Dubliners pleased to host a show focused on men who terrorized the English?
[Laughs.] Well, they terrorized the hell out of the Irish too. Ireland was next on the Viking radar. Dublin, Wexford, they’re all Viking towns. There’s a huge Viking history in Ireland, Brian Boru and all these old tales of fighting the Vikings. All the red hair in my family had to have come from Vikings raping and pillaging.
It’s been a tough time for Ireland, economically speaking and otherwise, and they have such an amazing infrastructure for film over there, they’ve had such a great history of awesome cinema. They have great crews and these great new stages, so it was fun to be back there. My mom lives back there in Kerry.
Speaking of your hair, the beard has worked well for roles on Vikings, Copper, and Sons of Anarchy. Which came first: the beard or the roles?
Like most things in life, the beard always comes first. And it sends out some kind of pheromonal call to the universe that brings the roles appropriate to it. It was funny because I did a cool western called Tin Star where it worked, but that didn’t end up going as a pilot, and then I did this movie CBGB and it worked, and then I agreed to do Vikings, and they said it was great and I should keep it, and then it worked for Sons of Anarchy, and it definitely works for the Civil War-era, playing General Brendan Donovan on Copper. The beard is doing its job, thank God.
Do you generally consider yourself a beard person?
If given that ability, I would definitely be a long-haired, beard person. Ever since third grade, your whole life, there’s always someone who’s like, “You better get a haircut.” It’s no different in acting, especially when you don’t know what role you’re going to do next, a doctor, lawyer, a military guy, or whatever. The beard is working for now, but the next go-around it probably won’t. I’m going to stay Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson-style as long as I can.
What can you reveal about your Sons of Anarchy character Lee Toric’s arc for next season?
We start [filming] in mid May. I think it just starts where they left off: He’s looking for revenge [because Otto murdered his sister] and he’s not just going to stay with Otto in prison. I think some really nasty stuff is going to happen this year. I’m not privy to it, but I’m completely excited for it.
Not many actors spend their downtime hauling big rigs for their trucking company. How did you get involved in trucking?
I always liked to drive. I pulled long distances and when I was in high school. As teenagers, my cousin, who is Irish and came to America to work for my dad with me, and I would work this warehouse and at the end of the day, when stuff had to go up to Los Angeles from the Mexican border, where I grew up, we would drive it and fix the truck if it broke down. They weren’t 18-wheelers, it wasn’t air brakes and the whole shabango, it was just a really big five-ton cube truck. It was fun and I liked being on the road at night, listening to the radio with my cousin, being in my thoughts.
As time went on and I was working in movies, the transportation guys said I should get my CDL [Commercial Driver License], that I could always get a gig with them, and I thought, “That’s not a bad idea.” [My dad] Michael Logue had this weird theory in life, that you need to learn how to drive everything—a motorcycle, a tractor, even a backhoe—just so if you ever have to, you can do it.
I think it’s practical. I’ve got these little things that I’m serious about on the side because acting is so weird. I had two years where I did pilots that didn’t go, and you don’t work for six or eight months; sometimes it’s because you are contractually obligated on a project that isn’t going to end up working anyways, sometimes it’s just because things are slow for you. It’s weird. I don’t like waking up and waiting for someone else to tell me whether I’m busy that day or not, so I get proactive in these different weird things.
And in learning to drive all these different kinds of vehicles, have you become a collector?
I’m into cars and motorcycles but I’m not crazy. I still have a couple motorcycles, but as you get older and you have kids, you develop a little bit of caution on the road. I’m practical. I’ve got a couple of Dodge trucks and I have some old El Caminos. If I was a really wealthy trust-funder, or if I won the lottery, I would have a garage full of muscle cars, for sure. I do regret selling my ’69 SS Camaro years ago…but my cousin and I needed 1,200 bucks.
Interview by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)