In a December 2020 interview with The Daily Express, Dunford discussed Aethelwulf’s ultimate fate, and revealed that he had a tough time comprehending it at first. “You know, when he said ‘bee sting,’ the producer — I thought he said ‘beasting,'” said Dunford. “So I thought he wanted [Aethelwulf] to go out and get beasted, and I thought, ‘Beasted? I’m playing an English king here. You know what, yeah, let’s beast him.'”
For reference, The Guardian notes that beasting is a type of illegal military hazing ritual wherein an individual is forced to perform physically exhausting tasks, and it has killed people before. This might have been a fitting end for the martially-minded Aethelwolf, but the Vikings producer quickly pointed out that Dunford had misheard.
“They [said], ‘No, no, no, bee sting,'” the actor laughed. “And I said, ‘Come on lads, you’re having me on.’ Then, I thought […] it’s quite ironic in a way — if I was doing it, I wouldn’t have written him off that way.”
Though Dunford initially thought that the bee sting death was unfitting for his character, he eventually warmed to the sheer absurdity of the idea. The actor told the outlet, “You entered the show playing a little posh prince, the audience didn’t like him, and I liked the challenge [of] playing an English soon-to-be king, [trying to] get the audience on his side. I was reminded when I was going I was playing an English king, and I said, ‘Yeah, kill him off with a bee sting.'”
Dunford also shared that he respects that showrunner Michael Hirst was going for the surprise element, and succeeded so well that it surprised even the actor himself: “Michael wanted something that you wouldn’t have seen coming, I certainly didn’t.”