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. At the same time, in the 20th century, their daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) realizes that she and Roger (Richard Rankin) may not be on the same page, when it comes to their romantic relationship.
At the Los Angeles press day to discuss the new season, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat with co-stars Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin. During the interview, they talked about playing characters that have such an incredible life, the huge journey that Brianna and Roger have taken, shooting in Scotland instead of America, how in-depth they work on their characters with each other, filling in the timeline of their relationship, Brianna’s roommate, the extent of the rehearsals for Roger’s song performances, and the excitement of playing out the big moments from the books. Be aware that some minor spoilers are discussed.
Collider: What’s it like to get to play characters that have such an incredible and wide-ranging life, like these characters do?
SOPHIE SKELTON: It’s amazing! Everything that we could hope to play in one character, we get to play in this season. And throughout the seasons, our characters have changed so much, from Season 2 to Season 4, and throughout Season 4. They’re very different people, not only from Season 2 and 3, but from the beginning of the season to the end. So, for us, it’s really a dream because we get to explore so many different aspects of a character, in so many different scenarios and situations.
RICHARD RANKIN: Playing these characters and the evolution of these characters, not only over a long period of time, but through different periods of time, and through such different settings, I couldn’t really ask for anything more. They really do have incredible journeys and story arcs through Season 4. We couldn’t really ask for much more.
Do you ever get a little disappointed that you don’t actually get to shoot in the location that you’re supposed to be in?
SKELTON: Sometimes. We came in, at the end of Season 2, and they’d been to Paris. And then, in Season 3, they were all in South Africa, and posting pictures of them with their wine and their suntans while we were just in freezing cold Scotland, in the snow, wind, rain and mud. But, that’s fine. It’s cool. There’s no bitterness.
RANKIN: Recently, a lot of our stuff has been proxies for North Carolina and east coast America, and that’s great. Obviously, I would have loved to have gone to Boston, but a lot of outdoor Scotland actually serves as a really good substitute. Our guys do such great things with the sets and the set design that is really just brings it all to life. It would be great to be over in North Carolina, but after a day or two of filming out in the forests, you forget where you are. It doesn’t really matter where you are, as long as you can become immersed in that environment and in that world that you’re supposed to be playing in.
When it comes to your characters and their relationship, do you guys talk to each other and work with each other, or does it come pretty naturally, from what you have in the scripts?
SKELTON: I think we’re quite lucky with each other, in that we really do like to get our heads together and talk about where Roger and Brianna are at. Our characters aren’t particularly good at voicing what’s going on in their minds, so if we’re on the same page and we both have a similar idea, in terms of how we want to place it, then it really helps. We often add in bits of Roger and Brianna and their relationship that aren’t quite on the page, but we think enriches their relationship, makes it more real and more relatable, and just adds another layer. We definitely like to talk certain scenes through. The history of Roger and Brianna is funny because we haven’t really followed them for that long. It’s been two years maybe, but because they got on so well, from the beginning, it feels as if it’s been a lot longer. That’s why it’s important to add those layers. It does give that feel that they’ve known each other for a lot longer than they have, which lends itself to their relationship as something quite beautiful.
RANKIN: There are quite significant gaps in their timeline, that maybe we don’t have on paper, and it’s good to discuss that, to fill in the blanks, and to come up with little interesting nuggets of backstory and whatever helps support the relationship of Roger and Brianna, how we see it, how we’d like to tell it, and how we’d like to proceed with it. It’s not to make it more interesting. The relationship is already fascinating. I love the relationship of Roger and Brianna. I suppose it’s just about bringing that honesty to it, which is our job, as the actors, in bringing these characters to life and bringing a truth to the relationship. It’s not an easy thing because relationships are not simple things. They are very complex beasts. That has been one of the most interesting things to play, through Season 4. How do you honestly portray that on screen? How do you give these little hints and these little details of what actually makes a relationship believable?