Why ‘Vikings’ actress Kristy Dawn Dinsmore bit the bullet
Vikings’ mid-season premiere won’t air until late November, but actress Kristy Dawn Dinsmore can already say that the unaired episodes have changed her life in multiple – and profound – ways.
First, a word about Vikings: the hit History Channel series draws its inspiration from the sagas of legendary Norse hero Ragnar Lothbrok, who rose from humble farmer to powerful Scandinavian king (and bane of England and France) during the Viking Age.
Dinsmore plays Amma, a character she describes as “ fierce and strong,” in the final episodes of season five (the first of which airs on November 28) and throughout season six.
“We had a dialogue coach on set, and he told me that, in Scandinavian culture, amma means to nurture or breastfeed, so I played off of that while developing the character,” says the Vancouver actress. Thus, Amma is at once badass and caring. “Although she’s seriously loyal to the family of the Lothbroks, she has a sensitive side to her as well,” says Dinsmore.
Vikings is epic, brutal, and heart-stopping historical television, and the actors – like the characters they play – need to be at the top of their games in every conceivable way.
The series films on location in Ireland, and for the Vancouver-based actress, the experience of production was both extreme and transformative.
“Our set is notorious for being the most challenging,” recalls Dinsmore. “It’s cold and rainy and windy. Most of the time, my feet were frozen. I had two major panic attacks on set. We did some boat scenes, and in one scene, I’m retching and sticking my head out the window. But Vikings is so good because there’s a family aspect and everyone is so supportive and they gave me the time and space to see how much I could take. When I was having a panic attack on the boat, they were like, ‘You can do this,’ and I did. I feel like we all came together in those moments.”
Dinsmore is 5’3”, and her co-stars dubbed her “the tiniest Viking,” but she might just be one of the mightiest Vikings, too: for her stick-to-itiveness (“The show must go on, and I didn’t want to quit, so I pushed through”); for her ability to stand her ground – literally and figuratively – while powerful waves crash against her legs; for her need to reach out and grasp on to people in need.
That last personality trait is evident in Dinsmore’s recent work with Vancouver-based photographer Farrah Aviva. Aviva is the creative force behind Bite the Bullet Stories, a photographic and social media project in which celebs and social influencers are photographed literally biting down on a bullet that represents an issue that’s long overdue for discussion or destigmatization.
Arrow star Emily Bett Rickards bit the bullet to draw attention to gun control. Briana Buckmaster (Supernatural) bit the bullet in support of self-love and body positivity. Dinsmore’s boyfriend – Vikings star Alexander Ludwig – bit the bullet to shine a light on addiction.
Dinsmore bit the bullet in support of Ludwig, as well as people like herself who have supported loved ones through trying times.
“Often when people are going through struggles, whether it’s addiction or something else, there are people behind them who are also going through it with them,” says Dinsmore.
“Our parents’ generation, no one ever talked about those things, and so the first step is getting it out there and talking about it,” continues Dinsmore. “So many people say, ‘Oh, my life is so amazing,’ and they don’t talk about the bad things, and I think opening that dialogue is important.”
Dinsmore was born in Vancouver and began performing at the age of three, when her mother enrolled her in musical theatre classes. When she was six, her mother was diagnosed with cancer; Dinsmore said she kept performing throughout her mother’s illness, “because she saw something in me and I wanted to prove to myself, and also to her, that I could do this.” Dinsmore’s mother died when she was nine years old.
Dinsmore addressed this loss in her Bite the Bullet story, writing: “When I was 9 my mother died from a brain tumour. I’m biting two bullets to express two very different paths I could have taken when confronted with these challenges. I could have succumbed to being a victim, or I could choose to accept that some things are out of my control. When I finally accepted the things I couldn't change, I was able to take the appropriate steps towards changing what I could. One day at a time is my motto.” Read the post in its entirety at https://www.instagram.com/p/Bldgja4njeB/?taken-by=bitethebulletstories
Dinsmore and Ludwig are now ambassadors for Bite the Bullet Stories campaign. Dinsmore says this advocacy work is part of a heightened sense of social responsibility that comes with her Vikings role.
“I feel like the more responsibility you have in this industry, the more you have a voice to help and inspire people,” says Dinsmore.