Clive Standen: "I once got headbutted by a great white shark"

Former Viking, currently a member of the Council of Dads – the great Clive Standen talks TV, lockdown and the joys of family in another edition of Lockdown Life

Clive Standen

Picking a dream lockdown partner requires some tough decisions. 

For Clive Standen, the choice is stark. Mum or Elvis Presley?

We won't spoil who he picks but cooking does play a factor... 

Elsewhere, the Vikings star – you can read our interview with his fellow Viking Alexander Ludvig here – shares some fantastic career anecdotes and insights into his lockdown life. 

As Standen says, "Let’s all take advantage of needing each other." 

It's a fine mentality to have, and will hopefully last long after the lockdown does. 


What upcoming project(s) are you most excited about?

I’m excited for people to see my new show, “Council of Dads.” It’s something I think we all really need right now.

It’s a profoundly moving and illuminating story of life and death, love and fatherhood, and it offers inspiration for us all. It’s a story about a group of people who are by and large not biologically related and who do not look or act like the cookie cutter TV family that American networks have sold to us all these years.

I think increasingly we are creating community and family out of people that we choose – people that show up for us, not people that we have stumbled into with biology. And I think it's those choices, those families and those communities that are going to get us through these tough times.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

I think landing my role in “Vikings.” It was a saga in itself that went on for months and I’d never wanted to be in a production so much.

I fought so hard at every step of the process – it ended up being seven different auditions and a rollercoaster process of auditioning and screen testing to then get offered the role of Rollo, which started a six-year adventure of working with an incredible cast and crew. They say you don’t miss something until it’s gone, and I now know how lucky I was to be with those people at that time in my life.

What we all created in Ireland was an incredible accomplishment. It’s the show I’m most proud of so far in my career.

If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?

Oh well we don’t talk about Batman auditions in our house…Ha!

No, in all seriousness, I wouldn’t want to play with fate. You know you make one small change and you could end up in an entirely different place... that’s just playing with fire.

Everything I’ve done I’ve always tried to give it my best shot and worked my arse off to make it work so if it doesn’t go my way, I can walk away knowing I did everything I could and it obviously wasn’t meant to be.

I’m happy with who I am and where I am right now – I’m only looking forward.

What do you hope to achieve that you haven’t yet?

Well my children are my ongoing project for that... who knows where they will end up and what they will achieve.

It’s an ongoing conversation with myself about which way to point them and where to encourage them and when to let them choose their own path. Knowing when to protect them and when to let them fail.

I want the world for them but ultimately I want all three to be happy.

I’m hoping I can teach them with the time I have to follow their heart and passions and never give up on finding the joy in everything they do and seeing the best in even the worst situation.

Outside of your family, who is / was your biggest inspiration?

For the three years I was at drama school I worked at the National Theatre as an usher in the evenings. I may have been selling ice creams and handing out programs, but I had the privilege of seeing every production that came through the doors in all three theatre spaces over and over.

I studied the actors, sometimes the same actors performance on concussive nights to see the nuances and how their performance changed night after night. I think I learned just as much in the darkness of those auditoriums as I did at drama school.

I owe so much to actors like Janet McTeer, Harriet Walter, Juliet Stevenson, Mark Rylance, Simon Russel Beal, Kenneth Branagh, Guy Henry. Simon McBurney… the list goes on. 

Tell us something nobody knows about you…

I once got headbutted by great white shark... it’s a long story and I probably deserved it!


How are you finding lockdown?

Well I can tell you that homeschooling three kids of three different ages at three different schools is quite a feat...

One minute I’m teaching 4th grade math and literacy and then I’m helping on an essay for To Kill a Mockingbird and then researching the American Civil War and the industrial revolution.

Bizarrely, it’s the 4th grade math I find the most difficult. It’s so different to when I was at school. There's nothing elementary about elementary mathematics, that’s for sure!

Best thing about lockdown?

To be honest I love it actually! I’ve been away quite a lot working recently, and spending this time home schooling and being in my kid’s lives without the distraction of filming or chasing a job is a joy... and it’s good for the whole family.

It’s going to be a nightmare for most of us, and devastating for some, when we finally get out and try and salvage jobs and managing debt and mortgages and everything that comes with supporting a family or life in general. But right now if we can try to take the positives, the small moments we can hold onto and that we can control to give us a sense of worth and security. It’s knowing that as a family, as a community, and as a race, we can all come closer to each other – even with the distance.

I, for one, feel my children will remember this time they had with their parents’ full attention. That I became closer to my friends and reconnected with others, and when we come out of this we will be there for each other. We have to be.

Top tip for surviving lockdown?

Use this time for yourself, whether that’s resting or hustling, only you know yourself and each of us needs different things. I needed to reconnect with my kids. Get some prospective – others will need something else, but whatever that is, don’t just let the time go by.

Some days will suck and others not so much. There is no right or wrong so let’s not be too hard on ourselves either. There is no “normal” here. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have. Let’s all take advantage of needing each other.

If you could be locked down with one person, alive or dead, who would it be?

That’s a funny one if you really think about it. If I should choose an idol or an historical figure... I mean... what happens if I really want to meet say, Elvis Presley, (which I do) but if he’s a complete dick in real life, then I’m stuck with him on lockdown for maybe two months. I’d invite him to a dinner party maybe, but lockdown? That’s risky business…

I mean they do say never meet your idols… so I’d go for my mum, who’s stuck in Leicestershire on her own. I love my mum more than Elvis and she makes a mean Shepherd’s Pie… none of that fried bacon peanut butter and banana sandwiches crap that Elvis cooks!

What are you most looking forward to doing once lockdown is over?

Flying back home to see my mum and my gran! Giving every primary school teacher a respectful high five and buying any NHS worker that I bump into in a bar a drink and my immense heartfelt gratitude for all they do!

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Watch Council of Dads on NBC, Hulu or YouTube TV