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Nov 16, 2018   Leave a Comment Interviews, Outlander

On the Starz series Outlander, now in its fourth season, time-traveling 20th century doctor Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and her 18th century Highlander husband Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) are trying to make a home for themselves in colonial America. In a world on the cusp of the American Revolution, succeeding in the rough and dangerous backcountry of North Carolina presents its own set of challenges, and Claire and Jamie must learn to navigate through slavery, co-existing with Native Americans, and the current British ruling class.

At the Los Angeles press day to discuss the new season, Collider was invited to participate in a small roundtable interview (with a couple other media outlets) with co-stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, who talked about the challenges specific to Season 4, navigating through a new and different world, the Fraser’s Ridge homestead, figuring out who Jamie and Claire are now at this point in their relationship, how Brianna (Sophie Skelton) will affect things for them, the introduction of Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers), the lack of a kilt, and what you might see on the Season 4 blooper reel. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.

Question: Obviously, there are huge challenges with every season of this show because it is so epic in scope, but what were the challenges that were specific to this season, that you hadn’t had to deal with before?

CAITRIONA BALFE: This season, more than any other, we’ve had a lot of blue screen. There’s been a lot more CGI then before. It’s interesting filming in Scotland which has so much rain and so much water. They don’t have the expansive rivers that you would have in North Carolina. So, a lot of the river journey that we took in Episode 1 was CGI, and that’s just a different thing. We’ve never really had that as much, in prior seasons.

SAM HEUGHAN: Also, this season, we’re in America and there are a lot of issues there, politically. The first couple of episodes explore things from slavery to the treatment of Native Americans, which are things that we’ve never really dealt with. We saw slavery last season, but we didn’t really deal with it. You just saw it. So, that’s something that’s different in Season 4.

And both of those things are effectively dealt with, in this season.

HEUGHAN: Yeah. They’re there, in the books, but it was hard for us to navigate. As actors, we’re also people in the modern world, so you have to try to get your head around how people in the past would think or behave. Fortunately, Jamie is very forward-thinking and wants no part of it. He’s experienced being sort of a slave, or at least a prisoner, himself, so he’s very humane when he sees people, like the slaves or the Native Americans, who he sees as very similar to himself. There’s a lot understanding and empathy.

In a lot of ways, things are a little bit different because America is a very different place and we’re seeing Claire and Jamie explore domesticity at Fraser’s Ridge. How does this new life change your characters and their mind-sets?

BALFE: What’s so lovely about this season is that you get to see Jamie and Claire in a very content, almost settled place. But then, that also comes with challenges. We’ve always had the drama of will they or won’t they, in prior seasons, but I think there is only so far you can take that before it becomes redundant. After Claire has given up so much, and having both of them be apart for 20 years, and then finding each other again, you have to bring this relationship into a new phase. It was interesting for us to start developing this quieter point in their lives where they’re just enjoying those throws of domesticity and everyday life, but also what happens in that more mature relationship.

HEUGHAN: Yeah, it’s interesting to see how they work, as a couple. What are their habits? How do they interact, every day, around the house? The first half of the season, before Brianna comes, is one half of setting that up, as well. When she comes, the drama of the season takes a different direction.

Because Jamie and Claire are in a different stage of their relationship and they have a child together, how is their dynamic different from previous seasons, and how are you tapping into figuring out who they are, as an older couple?

BALFE: I think we’ve aged very gracefully. I don’t think that I’ve had the opportunity to really explore Claire investing in her marriage, in this way. Her marriage to Frank was so compromised. When Jamie and Claire first got married, in prior seasons, there was so much external drive, trying to change the course of history. Being involved in all of these battles, they never got a moment to sit in and enjoy this marriage that they have. Claire has always been such a strong forward-looking drive, with her career and all of those things. This is a really nice time to invest in the more internal nurturing side of her, and to invest in being a wife, and to invest in creating a home for them. And then, when Brianna comes back into the story, it’s about being a mother, but to an adult child, which is a very different thing. I think that they work really well together, in this dynamic.

HEUGHAN: Yeah, Jamie has always wanted to have an extended family or build a home, and he really does that, physically. He really throws himself into that. It’s something that they have cherished and relished, as they’ve grown up and become more mature.

We know that Brianna will be doing some time-traveling this season, and that she and Jamie will finally meet. How does Brianna’s eventual presence change how your characters act? Obviously, Jamie already really loves her, even though he’s never met her, but she’s so different from a young woman would be in his time, so will we see Jamie and Claire butt heads over how to deal with her?

BALFE: A little. I think the show has actually focused a lot on Jamie’s relationship with Brianna, and Jamie’s role as a father, this season.

HEUGHAN: It is definitely at the forefront for him. He’s always wanted to be a father and have an influence on his children, and he’s never had that opportunity before. He hasn’t had an influence on her, and he’s very aware that Frank has, so it does create some friction.

Would you say that time is still Jamie and Claire’s biggest enemy, or is there something else that’s bigger than that?

BALFE: That’s a really good question. I’ve never thought of it, in that way.

HEUGHAN: It is, as time is marching onwards. We know that this battle is coming, and we know that they’re going to have to choose a side. Since Season 1, it’s been a race against time

With the show touching on slavery this season, with both of your characters being from different centuries, do they have differing perspectives?

BALFE: I think very much so. For Claire, she just came from 1968, which was the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Obviously, she is a very progressive person, from that time. And even if she hadn’t just come from that time, she’s always treated everyone as her equal. Coming to River Run and seeing slavery, first hand, is very hard for her to stomach, so her reaction and her need is to get away from there. For Jamie, it’s slightly different, but the beauty of who he is, is that he’s so emotionally intelligent and he can understand Claire’s point of view, very quickly.

HEUGHAN: He’s obviously a man of his time and is aware of slavery, but he has been incarcerated himself and doesn’t agree with it, at all. He sees everyone as similar to himself, and he doesn’t wish that on anyone. So, very quickly, he doesn’t want to have any part of it, even though River Run is a great opportunity for him. Before they get there, they really have nothing, so it’s quite a power play by Jocasta, and very manipulative. But Jamie and Claire really don’t want any part of it and unfortunately get themselves embroiled in the situation, which is pretty tragic.

Caitriona, one of the most beautiful relationships this season is the one that you have with the Native American healer, Adawehi. Seeing how much she and Claire have in common, even if they can’t actually verbally communicate with each other is so moving. What did you enjoy about that dynamic, and getting to learn about who Claire through another culture’s eyes?

BALFE: Yeah, that scene is played fantastically by Tantoo Cardinal, a Canadian actress. A lot of those scenes were left for much later in the season. Originally, that scene had an awful lot more misinterpretation, and they were missing the mark a lot more. We had a big discussion, myself and Toni Graphia, and I said, “I think it would be lovely, if they understand each other more than they don’t.” I really loved that scene. It was so beautiful. Just that moment of how, if two people connect and they have very similar outlook on life, you don’t always need language to be able to understand each other. That was a really nice, really sweet scene. And then, there’s the tragedy of what happens, which is also quite heartbreaking. But, I loved working with her. It was great.

This season marks the introduction of Stephen Bonnet, who will bring comparisons to Jack Randall. How would you say that they’re different?

BALFE: With Jack, there was a perversion there. He was a total psychopath. There was also that lineage with Frank, and it was a quadrangle between the four characters. Bonnet is more manipulative. He obviously does incredibly horrible things, but I think he’s much more of an opportunist, where Jack was a sadist. What drives Bonnet is greed, which is very different.

HEUGHAN: He’s another version of a psychopath or sociopath.

BALFE: But Ed [Speleers] is incredible. He really is intense on set, and that fight scene on the boat is really horrific. We both really went there, and I think it sets up his role for the rest of the season and the things that he’s going to do. Audiences are going to know to be very wary of him, whenever he shows up again.

HEUGHAN: He affects the whole Fraser family. He has a dealing with all of them and becomes a real villain. But Ed is amazing.

BALFE: He stayed in his Irish accent, the whole time, even when he was doing press.

HEUGHAN: He stopped because he had a month-long break, and he was in the make-up chair and used his natural accent, and some of the make-up artists were like, “Who is this guy?”

Sam, are you missing the kilt?

HEUGHAN: Yes, I am. It was decided that Jamie doesn’t wear a kilt in America, this season. However, some other guys do. We might see a return of it. We were saving it for a big occasion and a big reveal. The scripts changed, so we didn’t quite get to that, but you might see it soon. It would be great to have Jamie back in his beloved wardrobe.

BALFE: Mind you, I’m sure he was glad that he didn’t have it this winter.

HEUGHAN: Yeah. It is easier to hide woolen underwear now then it is in a kilt, but it’s a part of who he is. He’s got the heart of a Scotsman. The great part of these settlers is that they’re bringing their culture to America, and also assimilating other cultures, so it’s a mix of not only of Scotland but the new America and maybe the Native Americans, and whoever else.

We get a really good feel for what Jamie and Claire’s idea of the American Dream is, at the beginning of the season. How would you say that changes, by the time we reach the end of the season?

BALFE: I think that they start to actually fulfill it, in many ways.

HEUGHAN: Jamie starts off being very free. He sees the land of opportunity and great freedom, and his heart is open to all of that. By the end of it, he’s constrained again, a lot by the politics of the time and what’s going on. You can’t escape history. It’s always trapping him. By the end, they’re all in a predicament.

You’ve talked a lot about the challenges that Jamie and Claire have to go through and struggle with, this season. Are there any light moments that you can preview? Do they have moments of happiness?

HEUGHAN: I think that there’s great joy for them, in building this new home on this new settlement. Throughout the whole season, you see it grow from being a couple of twigs in the middle of the forest to actually being a home.

BALFE: Let’s just say that Jamie is an incredible carpenter, just with a few hand tools. It’s amazing what he was able to do.

HEUGHAN: By the end of the season, Jamie does become a settler, and it’s great to watch that grow.

BALFE: Claire’s garden is incredible. It is actually the most stunningly beautiful garden. It’s incredible because we just show up to work one day and, all of a sudden, there are three different types of gardens and pens for all of the different animals. It was really fun, as actors, to work on that set. It does have that feel of a real little homestead.

HEUGHAN: And they’re happy there. Claire is happy in her garden, and Jamie is happy providing and building this foundation.

If we get to see the blooper reel for this season, what would be the funniest thing that we would see you doing on it? Was there a scene that just didn’t go how you hoped it would?

HEUGHAN: Oh, man.

BALFE: I don’t know. I think there’s going to be a lot with the dog.

HEUGHAN: There’s a lot with the dog.

BALFE: You’ll see me giving the dog evil eyes. And I always swear a lot. I think the dog, this season, was a whole new element. We’ve had animals in the show before, and we’ve had dogs, but they’ve never been such a character [as Rollo]. This dog, in particular, responds to squeaky toys, so you’re trying to do scenes, and then from somewhere behind a door will squeeze a toy and all you hear is squeak, squeak. It takes away from the tension sometimes.

HEUGHAN: There are actually a lot of animals this season, and they have characters.

BALFE: There’s the mule and the white sow.

HEUGHAN: They’re a part of this family. It’s this family of misfits.

BALFE: In the book, the white sow lives in the house with them. She’s in the house a lot. Thank god, the writers weren’t going for that. I always dread these blooper reels coming out because . . .

HEUGHAN: We look like idiots, which we do, anyway.

BALFE: Yeah.

Outlander airs on Sunday nights on Starz. [Source]

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