Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) are very much ensconced in their new life in Paris when the third episode of Outlander airs Saturday night on STARZ. But their relationship has yet to recover from the horrible beating and rape that Jamie endured at the hands of Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) because Jamie is not quite ready to be touched.
“It was the toughest stuff I’ve probably ever had to film,” Heughan told Parade.com in a one-on-one interview. “It was a great challenge and something I really relished in a dark way. I think all three of us, we love anything where we get to really go to some interesting places or push ourselves as actors, so I was ready for that challenge. I think, Jamie, in the start of the season, he doesn’t do an awful lot. He’s kind of on the periphery, on the fringes, and slowly through Season 1, he reveals more about his character, and to go there at the end of Season 1 was really important, because it then feeds into everything in Season 2, into who he is as a man.”
In the third episode, Jamie’s days and nights are spent ingratiating himself with Prince Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower), while Claire finds solace from their estrangement in her healing skills. The one thing that seems to be going right is their plan to stop the battle at Culloden, in which they are aided by a young pickpocket.
Heughan also spoke to Parade.com about making the transition from Scotland to Paris, working with Outlander creator Diana Gabaldon, his My Peak Challenge charity event and more.
So moving from Scotland to France, there had to be some challenges for you as an actor because you have to carry yourself different, and there are different mores of the court, and different attire. Talk a little bit about Jamie’s transition.
Jamie and Claire are in this new world, and Jamie is not being himself. I think when we first started shooting all that, it’s uneven ground, and very unsettling. I was very aware that I still wanted to keep the sense of who Jamie is, even though he looks different and he’s having to be someone else.
He’s being deceptive, he’s being disloyal to some people, he’s lying and manipulative, and that’s not who Jamie is. Jamie is forthright and loyal and speaks his mind, so it was interesting to play that, and it’s poisonous. It really affects his relationships and his psyche.
One of the things you mentioned is he has to look different. Did you miss the freedom of the kilt, or were you comfortable with the French attire?
I very much wanted to keep the kilt in France. I think it’s important that Jamie wears that, and he does wear it in various places in Season 2, so it’s not gone. It wouldn’t have been unusual to see a kilt in the French court. However, there was definitely a style and a class, and he’s trying to ingratiate himself into the upper echelons of high society, so he’s having to be someone else, but the kilt is still there.
Initially I was terrified. I didn’t want this to be a costume drama, I didn’t want to have frills and things. [Costume designer] Terry [Dresbach] has just done an amazing job. Jamie wears a lot of black in this season, and, I think, it’s really important, because he’s a shadow of himself for a long time, and I think that somehow that’s reflected in the way that he dresses.
Diana’s a consultant on this, and she actually wrote a script for this season. Do you still turn to her for advice about the character, or are you strictly staying on the script now?
Diana very much is a great guide, personally, for me. I think she’s a friend; we talk about a lot of things via email if she’s not around. Sometimes it’s just a line or phrase, but I touch base with her a lot, and it was amazing to have her on set for that episode she wrote. She would be watching us shooting, but also she’d be writing her current book, so you would see her watching you play Jamie, but yet she’s writing Jamie in the future. It was quite a special moment.
What kind of fan encounters do you have?
There are groups of fans that get together and they’re very organized and very supportive, so whenever we meet the fans, it’s always a great occasion. I started My Peak Challenge this year, my charity event, and the support and enthusiasm that people have got on board is just terrific.
Tell me about your charity?
Basically, I wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle, getting outdoors and my love for doing new things, so we created a workout program that’s online just to get people to challenge themselves, and it’s scalable; all the profits go to charity, to leukemia research. We’ve raised over $170,000 so far. We’ve got over 3,000 people in this private community on Facebook that support each other each day. It’s so inspiring.
We’ve got people with disabilities, we’ve got an Olympic athlete, we’ve got groups of people from all over the world, and they’re forming their own communities. Each day you get sent a workout video, and an explanation of exercises, meal plans and food guides. It’s just great to have people supporting that, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been something nice to do along with Outlander.
Are you able to still lead your normal life, or has Outlander changed it so much that you can’t do everything that you used to do?
Nothing’s changed really. I still do the same things, but it’s nice. If people recognize you, generally everyone’s very respectful, very lovely, but I wonder what it’s like for real celebrities. Real stars, I guess they must have to change their lives, but no. Apart from being flown to amazing locations and talking to lots of reporters, this is great.
One final question. Outlander SoCal Edition asked me to ask you if you sing or play a musical instrument.
Jamie’s a terrible singer. I, too, I’m not a confident singer. I probably could if I had to. I used to play the trombone and the trumpet, which I still have, but I haven’t picked up for a long time. I bought a guitar last year; I was convinced I was going to teach myself guitar in my trailer on set, and I don’t think I’ve even taken it into set. The show is just so busy that I find so many other things I have to do.
Outlander airs Saturday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on STARZ.
Warning: This postmortem contains spoilers for the “Useful Occupations And Deceptions” episode of Outlander.
When sparks stop flying in the Fraser bedroom, even when a freshly waxed honeypot is involved, you know something is definitely rotten in the state of France. Season 2 started smack dab in the middle of Jamie’s shame spiral over being raped and tortured by Black Jack, and thanks to all the political maneuvering, manipulating, and general misogyny of the 18th century and Parisian high society, the rift between the Scot and the sassenach continued to grow in the latest episode of Outlander.
“Jamie is not in a healthy place when they begin this part of their journey,” says Sam Heughan. “And France and the mission they are on there — trying to infiltrate the Jacobite rebellion and stop the battle of Culloden and a race of people being wiped out — has a lot of consequences on their relationship, and love may not be strong enough to see them through. They’re not comfortable in this world.”
Caitriona Balfe (Claire) admits that she experienced an adjustment period when they started filming season 2. “Even though we were playing the same characters, it felt almost like a different show. Our characters, in a sense, were also playing characters as well. We’re so used to Jamie and Claire being so honorable, honest and forthright. And here, we find them in a situation where they’re being quite duplicitous and manipulative. It was an uncomfortable readjustment for us, but they were also feeling that, so it helped us [as actors] too.”
“They’re people dealing with very personal journeys alongside the shared mission,” Balfe continues. “Privately, they’re both struggling. Together they’ve found this common language of this mission, this goal. But it’s not exactly healthy ground for them and it really puts a lot of strain on their marriage. But that’s what happens in a marriage — people have work stresses and evolve at different times and deal with things — and we always said the series is the story of how a marriage stays together. It’s that constant elasticity that you need to have as a couple. It’s so intriguing to explore.”
Jamie is most certainly battling post-traumatic stress disorder and the lingering effects of what happened at Wentworth at the end of season 1 causes him to retreat inward. Heughan explains, “You’re so used to Jamie opening up to Claire and telling [her] exactly how he feels. Season 2 he’s doing the exact opposite of that. He’s doing this mission all day and getting drunk all night. He doesn’t talk about what has happened to him. We miss them connecting, which then pulls them apart, and we’re missing that intimacy between them. Ultimately that comes to a head because they’re not dealing with those issues.”
Just like in real life, communication is key to a solid standing, according to Balfe. “As with any relationship, lack of communication is never a good sign or a good thing. It drives a wedge between them. I think they’re going on very private journeys in the beginning of this season. For Claire, it’s quite a lonely time.”
Last year “Outlander” broke into the Emmys derby with a nomination for Best Music Composition (Series) and now it’s poised to do much better considering it’s an established mega-hit with strong critical acclaim. But how much better?
“Outlander” recently won top Critics’ Choice Awards (Most Exciting New Series and Most Bingeworthy Show) and People’s Choice Awards (Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show and Actress), but the Emmys can be tougher. Voters are snobs, but they sometimes overcome their bias against “genre” programs when they want to – like when “Game of Thrones” romped last year.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
Instead of the old pattern of five nominations in this category, there are seven, but it’s still difficult for “Outlander” to break in because the race is too danged crowded with Emmy faves like “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” “Downton Abbey,” “Homeland,” “Better Call Saul” and “Orange is the New Black” plus sexy newcomers like “Mr. Robot.”
BEST DRAMA ACTRESS
Last year there were 75 contenders entered in this category, but about two-thirds of them didn’t really have a prayer of nabbing a nom – like Robin Tunney (“The Mentalist”) and Poppy Montgomery (“Unforgettable”). Caitriona Balfe is now a serious contender after scoring a Golden Globe nom.
BEST DRAMA ACTOR
Sam Heughan‘s lusty profile may be a detriment at the Emmys if voters fail to look past his chiseled jaw to observe his fine acting chops. That may be what happened to him at the Golden Globes where he was mysteriously snubbed even though his costars Balfe and Tobias Menzies got in.
BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR
Good news for “Black Jack” (Menzies): Emmy voters adore villains like recent nominees Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”) and Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”).
BEST COSTUMES (PERIOD/FANTASY)
Terry Dresbach was recently nominated at the Costume Designers’ Guild, which means that her peers are paying attention. Previously, she won an Emmy for HBO series “Carnivàle.” This year she certainly deserves the kudos, having overseen the design of 10,000 costumes, many of which were made by hand.
BEST MUSIC COMPOSITION (SERIES)
Bear McCreary was nominated for “Outlander” last year and won two years ago for “Black Sails,” so he’s got an excellent shot to return.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (SINGLE-CAMERA SERIES)
Two talented contenders — Neville Kidd and Stephen McNutt – compete for their masterful lens work capturing epic Scottish landscapes and regal French estates.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN (ONE-HOUR PERIOD)
After recreating the haunting splendor of ancient Highland castles in the first TV seasons, production designer Gary Steele faced new challenges in season two that took viewers to King Louis XV‘s court at Versailles. Magnifique! And certainly Emmy-worthy.