What’s an Asian woman doing in a show about Vikings?

Dianne Doan as Yidu in Vikings Season 4. — Picture courtesy of  TM PRODUCTIONS LIMITED / T5 VIKINGS PRODUCTIONS INC
Dianne Doan as Yidu in Vikings Season 4. — Picture courtesy of TM PRODUCTIONS LIMITED / T5 VIKINGS PRODUCTIONS INC

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SINGAPORE, Feb 15 —In the upcoming fourth season of Vikings, audiences will be introduced to a character who plays a pivotal part in the sequence of events.

The twist?

It’s a Chinese character. Surprised? Well, you wouldn’t be as surprised as Dianne Doan, the actress who plays her.

“I was really shocked that they were bringing on an Asian character,” said Doan, who also starred in the Disney Channel original movie, Descendants.

“(But) I thought it was great they were taking on that risk and opening up different storylines and opportunities for a change on the show.”

Doan plays slave girl Yidu, who is kidnapped on the Red Sea and brought to Paris.

After Viking king Ragnar (played by Travis Fimmel) successfully raids the city, she is taken back to Kattegat, where she catches Ragnar’s eye.

While she was excited to play the part, Doan admitted that it was “definitely nerve-wracking” too. “Being the only ethnic character on the show and being of Asian descent, there’s a bit of pressure to represent a whole ethnicity, if you will,” she said.

The 25-year-old Canadian actress isn’t technically Chinese, but of Vietnamese parentage — although her grandmother is half-Chinese.

“I’m one-eighth Chinese,” she said, although she added that, growing up, she had a “very typical Asian upbringing”.

“(My parents were) very strict,” she said.

“I couldn’t sleep over at friends’ houses and my only slow dance was high school at the prom. I had to become a lawyer or doctor.

"But obviously, that didn’t happen!”

Instead of plying a trade in a clinic or courtroom, Doan finds herself making a living covered in fake dirt.

“There was a lot of make-up dirt,” she said with a chuckle.

“They spray it on your hands and it literally looks like grease, and you’re not allowed to wash your hands.”

She confessed that the idea wasn’t so appealing at first. “I have a little bit of OCD tendencies,” she said, “so I was thinking, after I booked the role, that I would really have to get over it. Because on the show, you’re stuck in dirt and mud all day. (But) after a week, you kind of get used to it!”

Fake dirt aside, Doan said that it was “cool to be part of a show my friends are obsessed with”.

Apparently, it’s also cool to have a co-star whom her friends think is hot.

“My oldest sister thinks (Fimmel) is very beautiful,” she said, laughing. “My sister told me she had a little bit of a heart attack (when she met him). She was like, ‘I couldn’t look into his eyes.’ She’s going to be so mad I told you this!”

But Doan herself, having worked with him daily, isn’t susceptible to Fimmel’s charms.

“It’s so funny because I know every woman in the world probably thinks he’s beautiful, but as a Viking and as Ragnar – there is a lot of beard. And he’s very dirty the whole time.”

She makes a good point: Hygiene does top the list of desirable qualities in a man, Viking or no Viking. — TODAY

* Catch the fourth season of Vikings on Fridays starting Feb 19 at 10pm on HISTORY (StarHub TV Ch 401).

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