By Anne Moore
Diana Gabaldon’s first Outlander novel was published in 1991 and immediately became an award winning best seller. Twenty some years later it also launched a hit series on STARZ which ends its critically acclaimed first season on Saturday, May 30th with To Ransom a Man’s Soul. That will end the first book, but luckily for fans, and STARZ, there are seven more books to go and production for the second season will start in late spring.
In 1945 combat nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) is magically sent back to 18th Century Scotland. Her knowledge of more modern medicine leads her to a position as a healer with a local clan. But the British Army occupiers are interested in her and only marriage to a young Scot, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), gives her some protection. This leads to plenty of romance in the Highlands, plus men in kilts, sword fighting and lots of sex.
But regardless of a great story and even with all the right fantasy and action elements if you don’t have just the right casting the entire concept is ruined. We’ve all seen it happen before, but this time they got it right – very right. As author Diana Gabaldon said, “Well, I knew lots of people that I didn’t want. But they’ve done beautifully. They are much, much better than I ever thought they’d be. I was amazed when I saw their first audition tapes. In fact I wrote to Ron (Moore) and his production partner Maril (Davis), and I said, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t believe this was actually possible. You found him.’ And it was fantastic.”
And the fans agree Sam Heughan is the perfect Jamie Fraser. The following interview is from the Television Critics Association/Cable panel and a very loud, crowded party that STARZ threw for the actors.
QUESTION: Inhabiting this character how has it impacted you personally? Has it changed you at all?
SAM HEUGHAN: Yes, absolutely. Just learning about the stamina to do this job, but also the job is always surprising. You know the kind of rough arc of the character and where we’re going to go, and we’ve obviously read the books. But until you’ve actually lived the moment and discovered what that moment is, you never quite know fully what the character is. And then, you bring yourself to the part, so it all reflects back into your personal life as well.
Q. You said you were changed. In what way during your day-to-day life when you’re not filming do you see Jamie emerging through you?
HEUGHAN: I think in the second part of the season, you discover a lot more about Jamie. He’s kind of finding his place in the world. He’s got new responsibilities. He’s got to deal with relationships that he would rather not deal with … with his sister, with his personal relationship with his dead father. And we start to see this stubborn side or his pride, so he’s less of the sort of an idealistic man in the second part of the season. We start seeing his failing or the chinks in the armor. I guess all that stuff with relationships — he’s very honorable and he learns a lot. And I guess I’ve just been trying to do that in my relationships in real life. And so far, it’s working really well.
Q. What do you think Jamie and Claire’s biggest hurdle is in keeping their marriage together?
HEUGHAN: It’s what happens in the very end of the season. The whole second part really tests their relationship and honestly they are fighting to get back where they were on their wedding night, really. It’s a great tragedy of the show that this wonderful relationship has actually been tainted for good. I don’t think we can ever get back there. They are constantly being tested by all the things that happen: Jamie having to grow up, the responsibility of being a husband, of being a laird. They are constantly trying to find a way to reconnect and by the end of the season they are both left in a very sensitive place.
Q. Sometimes Jamie seems so naive especially when it comes to Claire. How can he believe her and her story?
HEUGHAN: He’s always suspected that she’s got a secret. Obviously with the witch trial he has to ask her the question whether if she’s a witch. He doesn’t believe that. He knows she’s got a big secret so when she finally does reveal she’s from the future he believes her. He trusts her word. So he believes that she telling the truth. Rather or not he can get his head around the enormity of what that actually means that takes him a long time. Ultimately, they have this bond that exists. He trusts her. She trusts him.
Q: Are you still doing a lot of your own stunts?
HEUGHAN: Yes, I’m doing them all. I really enjoy it. In episode 10 you may have seen a dual. I actually injured myself the day before but I was so determined to film that. I kind of used that. He gets injured in that dual – I love all that side of it. The horse riding as well.
Q: Do you have a consultant to help you with all the historical costumes and things you need to know to make it accurate?
HEUGHAN: Absolutely, yeah. Terry (Dresbach) has obviously done a fantastic job with the costumes, but we’ve kind of got our own freedom as well to express ourselves. Nothing is set in stone, especially at that time period. But we’ve also got these amazing extras in the show that are part of Clanranald, and I kind of feel sorry for them at break time or at tea time when they all march off in rank and file. They’ve really lived this for us, and it’s fantastic. So, when you are on set the Red Coasts are acting like a regiment, or the Highlanders are there setting fire to things. Clanranald, they are a group of re-enactors that live in the area and they live and breathe this stuff, both the Highlanders and the Red Coats, and they’ve built a fort someplace (Note: Duncarron) that I can’t recall, that we went and visited once. So we do depend on them to bring authenticity to a lot of the background players and provide texture and detail.
Q: Do you think of yourself as a romantic?
HEUGHAN: I like to try to be a romantic, but I’m a guy so we’re not the best at it. But I do like to try.
STARZ is reshowing the second part of the First Season on Saturday May 30 with the final 16th Episode on at 9 PM ET/PT.
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