Interview with Outlander’s Sam Heughan
With the big success of Outlander, Sam Heughan has quickly become the newest actor to keep an eye on. The Scottish actor left the shooting of the second season to come to the Monte-Carlo TV Festival where we caught up with him to discuss the first season, its shocking finale, his character Jamie and his French lessons.
You didn’t read the book prior your audition but you did after. Did it impact your way of approaching the role?
I absolutely found it necessary to read the books. I still read them and use them as a material and not just the novel but also Diana’s short stories. I particularly love the Exile for me it was really helpful before it’s from Jamie’s point of view. We learn more about his history so yes for me reading them is really helpful. There’s some times when I go back to the books when we film a particular scene and I see if Diana wrote that Jamie does in a particular way.
Outlander the novels were such a successful series way before it was turned on TV. And Jamie is quite a beloved character for the fans. Did you feel any pressure accepting the role?
I guess I was gracefully unaware of how much this character was adored, he is just such a great character. I knew he was a big part of these books and then I’ve seen on twitter and facebook the fans excitement and interest when we started the show. If I had known that earlier, I would have felt way more nervous for sure.
How did you react when you saw how much they praise you?
I’m very lucky. I didn’t want to screw up with that. I love the fans and their enthusiasm and their support. They support all of this and they really love the show. I know some are watching the show over and over and it’s so great that they love Diana’s books and our show.
How would analyze your character Jamie?
He is very forward looking man for his time; he is going on a journey the moment Claire took his life nothing would be the same again. In season one, he was a young man with no responsibilities and through the season he is growing up. At the end, he has to really address who he is and who he wants to be in the future, and I think we’re definitely going to see how changed he is.
In the finale, there are quite intense and violent scenes. Did you talk about that with the production?
I knew those scenes were coming and I was very excited and nervous. I knew what was involved and that they would be very difficult scenes but it is a very interesting subject: very dark. We discussed with the writers and the producers about the arc of the story and Jamie’s long suffering and destruction of himself, the fact of being broke down and what the audience wants to see from nudity and violence. We always do that for any scenes, even intimate scenes like the wedding not just the sex scenes. We discussed how it moves the relationship, how it affects the characters and ultimately how the audience wants to see. It’s a progression, we’re moving forward in the story. I wanted to make Jamie’s breakdown the most shocking, that’s the moment he is the most vulnerable. It’s difficult to film but it’s important for the story.
What is peculiar about the two final episodes are that they were directed by a woman, Anna Foerster, who broke all the rules of the industry tending to say women aren’t competent or emotionally ready to do these type of episodes. She proved they could do it. What was it like working with her especially on the subject of a man abusing another man?
Anna is a terrific director. She is intelligent, careful, and we discussed a lot with her about the scenes we’re going to do. She did an amazing job not only on those two episodes but also the wedding episode. I think it’s wonderful to have female directors on the board with us. And the character of Claire who such a strong person is wonderful. I’m really happy that we’ve been able to manage to surprise the industry and I hope we could do the same for the season two.
The second season takes place in France but is not shot in France, correct?
Unfortunately no. The thing is that the Paris today doesn’t look like the Paris of the 18th century so we’re using Prague for the exteriors and we have this amazing set in Scotland with courtyards, French Brothels, Versailles. It’s a shame because I wanted to do it in Paris but it wasn’t possible.
Is it important for you as a Scottish actor to have this whole show shot in Scotland and being a part of it?
Very important. I’m very proud of my country, I love it. Being able to really celebrate this culture, the music and the stories is important to me. And there is also all this crew and all those people who make the costumes, the props, the sets. It’s wonderful that this industry in Scotland is celebrated and people can see it on TV.
And for season two there’s currently this massive casting of French talents…
The casting is amazing, we have so many new people on board. We have a really good villain and it’s so fun to meet new actors and it brings a part of France, it’s like a different new world.
You’re taking some French lessons. Your teacher told us you were “prest” for this: can you say a few words?
Oh my god, he told me to say Bonjour tout le monde, je m’appelle Sam from Outlander content d’être ici à Monte-Carlo… and I think you’ll have to watch the show to hear the rest.