Alexander Ludwig is a big, strong dude who starred on “Vikings,” a History channel show about big, strong dudes. These days he’s a lead on Starz drama “Heels,” a show about professional wrestlers — big, strong dudes (and women) who take big time punishment, regardless of the scripted nature of a match.
Ludwig is an athlete — he grew up skiing competitively — and a self-described “adrenaline junkie.” (“I skydive recreationally,” he told TheWrap, quickly adding: “When I’m not under contract.”)
The 29-year-old, who plays local wrestling rock star Ace Spade opposite big brother and DWL (Duffy Wrestling League) Champion Jack Spade (Stephen Amell), said that training for and shooting the in-ring scenes for the new Starz wrestling drama “Heels” was “more painful than anything I’ve ever done.”
“My response to anybody who says wrestling is fake is, I go, ‘I dare you to run the ropes and take a flat-back bump and tell me that you think this is fake,’ because the only thing that is fake about this is the storyline,” he said. “That can go haywire and the point of the show is exploring that. But it’s an incredible stunt performance. And the only thing I can say is it was more painful than anything I’ve ever done.”
Ludwig grew up a wrestling fan, but not one that followed the sport “religiously,” as he couched it in our conversation.
“But, regardless, I loved this show and I loved the characters and the world,” he continued. “And it was so important to me that we do right by the wrestling community. This is a hard one to fake. You can’t really hide yourself. So to me, I knew right off the bat, Stephen (Amell) and I kind of both felt the same: We need to earn our stripes here, we need to work our asses off to make it look as legit as possible.”
“Vikings,” which came with its own kind of special misery, has nothing on the “Heels” training, Ludwig said. “Vikings” was “exhausting” and “the elements were terrible,” he told us. But, “you bonded over the fact you were making a great show.”
The “Heels” unpleasantness was “a whole new world, because you have to build your body up to a point where it can withstand these bumps.”
“It’s the ones you don’t expect that hurt the most,” Ludwig said. “Like hitting the ropes, which isn’t actually a rope — it’s a cable. And hitting the mat, which isn’t actually a mat — it’s wooden boards that have a little bit more give in the middle.”
Ludwig said for the first couple of “Heels” training sessions, he had “the worst headaches.”
“My neck was just wrecked because kind of immediately, my ego tested me, and I was like, I want to go straight to the top rope and I want to start doing all this,” he said. “I learned my lesson quickly, just how far I had to go.”
“Heels” episodes air Sundays at 9 p.m. on Starz.