- Actor Alexander Ludwig released his debut country music album, “Highway 99,” in August.
- The “Vikings” and “Heels” star tells Insider that he’s been writing music since he was a kid.
- In Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl” video, she said, “What panties are in your mouth right now?”
You may recognize Alexander Ludwig from his role as the baby-faced assassin Cato opposite Jennifer Lawrence. in the first “Hunger Games” movie, or as the boy heir-turned-king, Björn Ironside, on the hit show “Vikings.” But now the actor is ready to share a new side of himself: Alexander Ludwig, the country music singer.
Ludwig, 30, launched his debut album, “Highway 99”, in August after signing a record deal with BBR Music Group/BMG last year. The Canadian actor-turned-singer is in great company at BBR, which is also home to Jason Aldean and Lainey Wilson.
“Highway 99”, described as a record about “small towns, wild nights, broken hearts, and big dreams, held together by a mix of amped-up guitars, culminating choruses, and heartfelt hooks,” it showcases a softer side to the actor, best known for playing Viking king Björn Ironside in the often bloody and brutal “Vikings” of history between 2014 and 2020.
Ludwig tells Insider that he began planning a career in music while filming the final season of “Vikings,” but despite his acting fame, it wasn’t a guarantee he’d land a record deal.
“By the time I was done with the show, I started making trips to Nashville, with little to no contact,” he says. “I tried to meet as many people as I could, write with as many people as I could.”
When I spoke to Ludwig over Zoom in October, he was in London to perform his first UK performance in front of select media and fans.
Here, Ludwig tells Insider about his foray into the country, his “Viking” legacy, the wrestling drama “Heels”, and how she ended up with Nicki Minaj’s panties stuffed in her mouth in her “Super Freaky Girl” music video.
How did you get into country music?
Many people don’t realize that there is a huge country fan base in Canada. That’s what I grew up on. It has always been part of my life. He was always trying to figure out how to get into the business. When I was filming “Vikings,” on the weekends, I had free time, so I was recording a 10-song demo.
“Vikings” was over when I actually started working on music in Nashville independently. About eight months into my trips to Nashville, I was getting on a plane, and these guys said they were huge fans of “Lone Survivor.” I sat right behind them on the plane. Turns out they produce and play with Jason Aldean, one of my favorite artists. I sent them my demo and within three days they called me and said, “We have to work together.” We started recording, writing and releasing things independently. And BMG took notice.
Did you write music when you were younger?
Oh yeah. I have a folder of bad songs that I’ve been writing since I was a kid. My mom went to this music store and she convinced a guy who worked there to teach me how to play the guitar. For 10 years we ended up playing together. He ended up moving to Nashville and playing for Brett Eldredge, and a bunch of great country music acts. He would always tell her, “One day, when I get my record deal, we’ll play together.” And now he’s sitting right next to me right now.
How did you end up in Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl” music video?
I love doing things that people wouldn’t expect. I love not taking you too seriously. My friend was the producer of that, and he was my college roommate. They wanted someone with a certain notoriety, who was more of an actor. His team wanted me, and that’s how all this happened.
Nicki is great. She is a super talented artist. We had a great time. We hit it off fabulously, and I was blown away by how big it was, that song, that video.
The video is quite risqué. Nicki shoves the panties in your mouth at one point. Have you ever worried about what your wife might think?
No, my wife is the coolest girl in the world and she is very confident in our relationship. I consider myself a professional. When I do these things, I take them seriously. It’s not like when you’re doing a sex scene, it’s fun and games. It’s like, no, how is this serving the story? Does everyone feel comfortable in this situation?
Nicki had this vision, and I’m never one to shy away from that sort of thing. I don’t think there is any need to do so. By now, after “Vikings” and after “Heels”, half the country has seen my ass. What are the panties stuffed in the mouth right now, you know?
It’s been two years since “Vikings” ended. Björn died in the middle of the last season. What did you think of the ending now that some time has passed? Should Björn have lived to the end?
That was actually my decision with Michael. [Hirst, creator]. We were talking about the end of the show and the demise of that character, and how he should come out. I had spent six years in Ireland, 11 months out of the year, away from home. I felt that we had reached a place where Björn had done everything that he expected him to do. We always had this dream for him when we started, and we could see it come true.
So, I thought a more interesting approach would be to let the other characters have their moments as well. Björn had his moment. He came out in such a fantastic way. It was nice, because then you see Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith), Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen)… they all have their own moment to shine. This is how it should be. You want to see the resolution of the whole show.
You now star in the Starz pro wrestling drama “Heels” with “Arrow” star Stephen Amell. What attracted you to that project?
I signed up for the show because the characters were really already on the page, we didn’t have to do anything. Where we really had to collaborate was for the actual fighting. That was on our shoulders and you can’t fake that with a camera. You can’t have a stuntman come in and do that. They can do big things, like when you fall out of a 20-foot cage, but they can’t do somersaults and all that. You need to see the actors do this. That’s where Stephen and I come in: he’s a huge wrestling fan, and he was actually a big help.
I was also calling [WWE wrestler] Adam Copeland, Edge… we did “Vikings” together. She would call Adam and say, “Hey, is this legit?” “This works?” He would literally call him for everything. I even called him and asked if he had to shave my chest.
Stephen has he actually wrestled a few matches, including for WWE. Would you ever do real combat?
100%. In any case, it would be a great promotion. It would have to be with the right company supporting the program.
I do these movements for five minutes and I’m exhausted. 40 minutes… I can’t even imagine how devastated these guys’ bodies must be after that.
“Highway 99” is to stream, download, and purchase on CD.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.