NEW YORK, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Hunger Games and Bad Boys For Life star Alexander Ludwig described the end of his long-running historical drama Vikings as a "bittersweet" experience for him, both personally and professionally.
"It was the greatest gift of my entire career," the 28-year-old Canadian actor told UPI in a recent phone interview.
"I grew as an actor and as a human being," Ludwig said. "You develop such a tough skin, being in front of a camera for that many years, just as an actor, and you develop this willingness to take risks where, otherwise, I believe I wouldn't have. And now I am taking that knowledge to every other project I do."
Co-starring Katheryn Winnick, Alex Hogh Andersen and Peter Franzen, Vikings is set in medieval Scandinavia.
The second half of its sixth and final season will debut on Amazon Prime Video on Wednesday.
A sequel series called Vikings: Valhalla is in the works with a new cast at Netflix. It is set 100 years after Vikings.
Ludwig said he had no idea the original series would become the massive hit it is when he accepted the role of Bjorn Ironside ahead of Season 2.
"That was never a show that I thought was going to be as successful as it was, but I signed on to it because I was a fan. I would watch the show and I loved it," the actor said.
Without discussing the details of Bjorn's fate, Ludwig confirmed he achieved everything he wanted to in playing the character, who was last seen bleeding on a beach after battle, while his two wives suffered separate tragedies.
"I couldn't have asked for more in terms of an arc or a storyline. I'm very proud of what we were able to accomplish," he said. "It's important to just step back for a moment and go: 'Holy crap! Look what we created.'"
Ludwig already is hard at work on a new job -- the upcoming Starz drama Heels, which casts him and Arrow alum Stephen Amell as brothers and rival professional wrestlers.
"Talk about a freaking amazing character," Ludwig said of Ace Spade, the sibling he plays. "That script is unbelievable, and Michael O'Malley, who is our showrunner, is so talented."
Ludwig was just about to move from California to Georgia for the series last spring when the coronavirus pandemic forced film productions all over North America to shut down.
Consequently, most of his time during the lockdown was spent at home studying his scripts, developing his character and training for his scenes in the ring.
He also came to appreciate the pause and reflected on what is important to him.
"And just knowing, at the end of the day, I've got my friends, my family and my health. Everything else that has happened is just a blessing," the actor said.
He announced his engagement to his girlfriend, Lauren Dear, in November.
Looking ahead careerwise, he said he would love to return for the planned fourth Bad Boys movie, since he had so much fun playing an unconventional techie in this year's threequel Bad Boys For Life, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
"It would be cool. It would be the first sequel I ever got to be a part of," he laughed. "I always die before I can get the chance to be part of the next one."
When it comes to seeking roles, the star of Operation Christmas Drop, Midway, Lone Survivor and Grown Ups 2 said he craves variety and material that allows him to connect with audiences.
Among his strengths are his "don't put me in a box" attitude and his willingness to turn down a big paycheck when he knows a project isn't right for him.
In other words, he always tries to trust his instincts and move forward.
"I want to do great films and great content, stories that make people think. I love historical dramas. I love action comedies. I never want to be that guy who is one thing," he said.
"You can always learn more. You can always do better. Whether it is a small film or a huge film, whatever it is, I'm going to put my best foot forward."
He is pleased that the 21st century entertainment industry allows artists the freedom to move between film and television, and to hop from genre to genre.
"Just go make stuff and make it the best you can," is how he summed up the philosophy for creating in Hollywood these days.