It wasn't until he was 25, out of college, and listening to a mate talk about becoming a performer that Ben Robson decided that acting sounded pretty good to him, too. He promptly went home to his parents in Newcastle, in northern England, and told them he was off to acting school.

Almost immediately, the tall, handsome Brit landed his first major film role, as Lucien in Dracula: The Dark Prince.

From there he sailed onto the History Channel’s gripping drama, Vikings, where for two seasons he played the sword-wielding, calculating Kalf, best remembered for stealing an earldom from Lagertha (Kathryn Winnick) while she was out of town.

Currently, Robson can be found playing thrill junkie (and Jesus Christ look-alike) Craig Cody, the middle son of a dysfunctional California crime family—a laid-back, Sopranos-type operation run by mom Ellen Barkin—on TNT’s gritty drama Animal Kingdom.

Robson, 33, enjoys the challenge of channeling a drug-fueled criminal on-screen. In the first season alone, he got shot, played chicken with a truck, and had a fight while skydiving. “Most of the stuff Craig does is against the law, so he’s much more of a badass than I am,” Robson says. “But you learn a lot about who you are by putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. Plus, it’s fun when it involves bikes and surfboards.” His trick for staying up to it all: “Drink water and get a good night’s sleep so you can justify a good session in the pub.”