Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
December 17, 1977
2008 - Present
Currently Known For:
Actress and Business Owner
Amusement, Bones, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Vikings and The Art of the Steal
“I was told this is a male-dominated network and the male demographic is stronger than female. This is a show about Vikings and you are just the wife. I remember thinking that was not the way I was going to play it.” Determined to challenge the status quo at every turn in her life, Katheryn Winnick has done that and more over the last 40 years after first proving her talents as a martial artist. Earning her black belt at 13 years old and opening her first martial arts school at 16, Winnick was 21 and had three flourishing martial arts schools to her name when she made the move to acting. Once again raising the bar, she made her debut in 1999 and spent the next few years perfecting her craft with cameos in Law & Order, Bones and Nikita before she was cast as Lagertha in the History Channel drama, Vikings. Still on the series today with multiple award nominations to her name, let’s take a look at Winnick’s journey from a martial artist to a Viking shield maiden!
The daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Katheryn Winnick came into this world on December 17, 1977 in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada. Speaking her native Ukraine until she became fluent in English at eight years old, Winnick had already started training as a martial artist where, despite being one of the few girls in a male dominated industry, she found the competition invigorating and challenged herself to outshine her male peers. “When I was growing up, there were times when I had to compete against boys in taekwondo,” Winnick recalled, “and I’d show them right away that I wasn’t someone to mess with.”
With an obvious competitive streak, Winnick adopted her father’s vigorous work ethic and earned her black belt at 13 years old. “Then, I started teaching martial arts at after school programs and, over time, more and more people asked me to teach them,” she said of the inspiration behind her decision to open her first martial arts school at 16. “My dad was an entrepreneur, so I had a great role model,” she said. “He showed me that if you want to do something great, the best way is to do it yourself. Watching him made me realize that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. He made things happen for himself and seeing that was so inspiring and gave me a lot of confidence… so, the thought of starting a business of my own was really exciting. I knew I wanted to work and I knew I wanted to help people. Starting my own business was the best way to accomplish both.”
With the success of her first school, Winnick’s business blossomed as she earned her third-degree black belt in taekwondo and later enrolled at York University in Toronto. By the time she graduated, she was running three successful martial arts schools when her passion for the sport helped her transition into acting. “I was asked to teach martial arts to actors who were preparing for roles,” Winnick said of her introduction into show business. “I spent time on movie sets and very quickly decided that actors have the best job in the world; every day is completely different, every day is challenging, every day they’re surrounded by all these creative and talented people. I was really inspired and thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
Determined to launch her acting career, Winnick moved to New York where she enrolled in acting classes at the William Esper Studio. While learning the ropes, she auditioned for dozens of parts before she set her sights on Los Angeles where her career truly took off as she made her acting debut in an episode of PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal in 1999. Throughout the new millennium, she made sporadic appearances on notable television series like Relic Hunter, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Oz, Tracker, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She also played Ivana Trump in the biographical television film, Trump Unauthorized, but was still looking to catch her big break as she snagged bit parts in films like Two Weeks Notice, 50 First Dates, Going the Distance, Failure to Launch and Amusement.
Things finally started to improve in 2009 when Winnick landed a starring role in the comedy-drama, Cold Souls, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it received widespread praise. The following year, she had a recurring role as Hannah Burley on the popular television series, Bones. Then, in 2013, Winnick’s luck improved when she was cast as Lagertha on the History Channel’s original series, Vikings. By then, Winnick had paid her dues saying, “I took any parts I could get just to gain experience. I did horror films, student films… I would do almost anything that came along. It was a long process and, in truth, is still a long process and I’m still excited by it. Success is never overnight. It’s a long, slow climb and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Without the tough times, I wouldn’t be as prepared for the opportunities I have now and I wouldn’t be as hungry to do even more.”
Still on the series today after four years, Winnick has earned numerous award nominations for her performance including a WIM Award nomination for Best Actress and a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress. She’s also found the time to take on other projects with a 2015 appearance as Frankie Wells in an episode of Person of Interest in addition to voicing Marie Fischer in the popular video game, Call of Duty: WWII. She also returned to the silver screen in 2017 as Laurie Chambers in the Stephen King film, The Dark Tower.
Apart from her work on television and in film, the 40-year-old Winnick is also a role model for female entrepreneurs and aspiring actresses, which is why she works with nonprofits like Women in Film and Girl Up. Of course, she says her success is all about creating a plan and setting goals, which she encourages everyone to do as a roadmap to achievement. “Most entrepreneurs are very diligent about creating plans and setting goals and sticking to a timeline,” she says. “I’ve been inspired by that and use the same approach to set my own goals.” Having already seen so many of her own goals come to fruition, Winnick also says it’s just as important to be in the moment, the here and now. “Planning is really important, but you sometimes also need to let go and be in the moment because that’s where the gold is,” she says. “Plan and prepare… but when the time comes, trust yourself and let go.”