Scotland native Sam Heughan stars as Jamie Fraser, the rugged love interest in Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling book series Outlander, coming to Starz Saturday, Aug. 9 at 9pm ET/PT. The series follows an ex-World War II British army nurse, Claire Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe), who is swept back in time to 1743 where she finds herself fighting for her life in this unknown world with the help of a chivalrous young Scottish warrior, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). We recently sat down with the stunningly handsome Heughan to discuss his new role.
First things first, this is not your natural hair color is it?
Sam Heughan: I’m blond. I bit darker than you are. Obviously in the show Jamie is red-headed. We obviously had to get the right look for the show, but that goes for everything from the hair color to the styles. The whole thing is set in the 1700s, so it’s a completely different time, and men are very hairy, covered with a lot of mud, a lot of blood and they didn’t wash much, so it’s a completely different world.
Are you prepared for the fan base that already exists surrounding these bestselling books? You already are a heartthrob.
I didn’t realize how big it was. I hadn’t heard of the series when I first auditioned. I found out it was a book, obviously, and started to research a bit more and saw that there was a huge fan base. She’s sold 25 million books — that’s an incredibly amount of books. So there’s a big fan base and they’re all really enthusiastic, we’ve been welcomed by them all and we love that support. Diana’s welcomed us as well. Everyone’s excited. These books have been out since 1991 so they have been waiting a long time to see these characters come to life. We’re lucky that the team we have on board is so authentic and so dedicated to the book, they are all such big fans of the book.
Your character is in love with Claire Randall, however, Claire is torn between her two worlds and two loves – you and Frank Randall. [Tobias Menzies plays both Frank Randall and Jack Randall, who is a brutal captain in the English army back in 1743.] Can you explain Jamie’s hatred toward Jack and this ongoing battle they have.
It’s one of those long fought battles — maybe something out of Greek mythology. He’s his nemesis. It goes back to an event where Jack Randall [played by Tobias Menzies] comes in and beats and punishes Jamie. Jamie believes that his sister has then been raped or has slept with Jack. It puts so much shame on him. It’s shamed Jamie because he couldn’t protect his sister. But there are other things that happen, as well, and Jamie becomes an outlaw … [deleted because of spoilers] But Jack is always there and trying to get between him and Claire.
The series includes some serious brutality to your character. Physically how are you holding up?
I just came off an international world arena tour — Batman Live, which is a very physical show but this is so different. The first weeks of filming I was constantly getting beat up or having some sort of prosthetic work done. But Jamie gets a real beating in this in various forms, not just floggings. He’s always in there but it was the time and the period, it was very physical. They were super tough men. They had to live in really hard surroundings and there were very few comforts. Out in the Highlands it was a different affair. He’s a physical guy.
You definitely bulked up for this role. What did you have to do to get ready to play Jamie?
I had to put on a lot of weight. I put on a stone (I don’t know what that is in pounds for you guys) but it was a stone in weight. [That’s 14 pounds people.] I built up a lot of muscle because I was quite slim. I do a lot of endurance sports, so it keeps you slim. It was very hard. I got a trainer and had almost three months where I was training two to three times a day. I was literally eating, sleeping and getting up and training. I really love the physical side of it. I’ve got a gym on set now. Well, there are a lot of big heavy things on set that I get to lift when I’m not doing something. But we also didn’t want to be a monster in this. Jamie has to look like he’s not been to the gym, he’s just got it through labor and living. He’s athletic.
And what about horseback riding?
We are very lucky — we had a boot camp where we spent a lot of time learning to ride them. I wasn’t confident when I started but I feel really confident now. I have a wonderful horse.
Highlanders are a bit mysterious, can you tell us more about Jamie Fraser?
They were just so strong — these Highlanders — they were also closer to the land. They lived by the seasons. They lived by the stars. They were superstitious. They believed in a lot of old Gods. Jamie is very modern. He’s traveled the world. He’s seen things. He’s been to France. He was fighting over there. He’s tutored — he’s learned German and Latin. That side of him is interesting, as you think he’s one thing at the start of the series, and you slowly find out there’s more to him. He’s a laird. He’s got land and a house. There are a lot of sides to this character.
Have you read the books?
I read the book several times and have been using it off and on. Diana has been very supportive. The books have been a great way to get in. I particularly liked Exile, which is a graphic novel she did in collaboration with the artists, it focuses on Jamie’s life and his story before we meet them, so you see him in France, you see why he’s come back to Scotland. That might not be in the series as much but it’s great for me to know, and the fans that have read those will know that’s there.
What’s it been like to actually be filming in your homeland of Scotland?
I’m delighted. I’ve traveled the world. But there’s something about Scotland that really gets to the heart of you — to [film here] with the land, the countryside and the people, it makes it so authentic. The crew is mostly Scottish. We have a lot of historians, a Gaelic teacher, an accent teacher, which really adds to the authenticity. It’s great because Claire is thrusted into this world that she doesn’t understand and she’s completely alien. It’s where in the hell are we?
Outlander airs on Starz Saturdays at 9pm ET/PT