Los Angeles — It has been more than five years since Starz’s time-travel drama TV series, “Outlander,” premiered on television and the stars of the top-rated and critically-acclaimed show are looking great.
Scottish actor Sam Heughan, 39, and Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, 40, have remained looking youthful. The two talented thespians, in fact, are the same humble and charming actors we interviewed more than five years ago.
Sam, who portrays the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, and Caitriona, who plays the role of the married former World War II nurse Claire Randall who in 1946 finds herself transported back to Scotland in 1743, have now also taken the roles of producers of the show.
Renewed for the fifth and sixth seasons with the fifth premiering last February, “Outlander” is a historical drama TV series that was based on the novel series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon.
We recently talked to the “Outlander” stars and below are excerpts of our interviews.
You are turning 40 on April 30. What words of wisdom do you have for your younger self?
Thanks for reminding me that. No, this season Jamie hits 50, which is a big moment for him. I think he’s looking quite good on it. But yeah, I have my 40th birthday in April so I am quite excited about it — slightly nervous, but it’s just another year.
But I definitely feel like taking stock as you do every year and as you get one year older. And yeah, 40 is a big one for me but it feels like things are great at the moment and I just want to hit that decade, to sort of be in the best mental and physical shape that I can be.
I think I am inspired by a lot of different people, but I would like to emulate someone or a sportsman that I know, but I feel very positive about it and I’m sure Jamie does too.
Yesterday, we were up in Pasadena for the TCA’s and I remember when I had my first pilot season here. I actually stayed up in Pasadena.
I remember driving up and down that 101 everyday going to auditions and daydreaming about being in an American TV show. Yesterday, I almost felt the ghost of myself going past. I was like sitting in this car in a nice suit that I didn’t pay for and going off to do some press and I just felt very lucky.
Do you embrace your younger looks or have they ever been a disadvantage to you?
Well I guess, it’s funny I was just talking the other day about this. When I graduated drama school, I was 23, 24, and I was always going for the juvenile lead part and quite quickly found out that I was losing the jobs to those younger, much better looking lads.
And there was a gap for quite a few years where I wasn’t quite old enough to play that 30-year-old rugged single father kind of lead action guy, so it was a weird place to be.
There’s definitely these almost cliché, but there’s definitely brackets of casting that goes on. Luckily for a man, when you get to my age and beyond, actually the parts get better.
It’s not the same for women and that’s a shame because it does feel that there is some disparity there.
But I am excited. A lot of the projects that I have been offered are really interesting and hopefully as the years go on, it gets more. As long as I can keep up with Jamie.
Now that you have been working on the show for five years, what type of artistic journey has it been for you?
Yeah, I think you are right. And we say it every season and I think this one is no exception that the show is constantly changing and moving forward, and I am not stuck playing the same character.
Jamie has gone from the sort of early 20's sort of passionate warrior with no real responsibility, sort of living day-to-day, to becoming a husband and then a father and now a grandfather. And he has all these great responsibilities now.
This season he probably has the most responsibility. He has so many people now depending on him, everyone who is in Fraser’s Ridge. There is now a settlement that has grown this season, and he feels the weight of that.
From the warrior, he became a great politician, a great General. He was in Paris playing politics. He was in the Caribbean, and now in America. He’s almost become the Laird. He’s become Colum. He has become his Uncle. You see it in him. He’s less tempestuous. He’s less so quickly to act on his emotions. He’s a lot more thoughtful and calculated as well.
Do you feel that maybe parts of Jamie have affected you in a way and you feel like a different person because you have played him for a long time?
I am asked this question a lot, and obviously you always try and find in a character parts of yourself or vice versa. So I guess the line does get blurred after a while, especially after playing him for so long. You do sometimes forget.
But I have to say, honestly I don’t know if there is anything that I have taken from him. I mean I would like to emulate some of his qualities. He’s very loyal and he’s quite stubborn. I guess I am quite stubborn. The love that he has for Claire, it would be amazing to find something like that myself. But I don’t know, the only thing is physically, he has a finger tap, and I noticed that I sometimes do that, when he is slightly stressed.
What gets you and Caitriona annoyed with each other?
She is amazing as you know. She is such a wonderful woman and intelligent and creative and I am very, very lucky to call her a good friend as well and actually more than anything, she is a good friend.
She forces me sometimes to socialize when I really don’t want to. She’s a social animal. It’s wonderful to be part of and always welcomed into her world as well. We know how to wind each other up. We have a shorthand when working and we know just how each other is going to play things. I am sure I wind her up all the time.
Probably I am quite relaxed sometimes and I let things go. She is very strong and likes to get things done. That probably winds her up. I shouldn’t say it, but I know when she is pissed off. She has a little foot tap that she does. So if you see her tap her foot, I am like here we go. I can see it. It’s great.
Do you fall in love very often?
Oh God, I have done, yeah. I think honestly my whole career, not just on “Outlander” but as an actor, you know,I have always put that first. And it’s hard when you travel a lot. It’s tough.
I guess my priority has been my career, so that’s where I am at the moment. But I am sure at some point I will get knocked off my feet and then I’m screwed.
Do you want to get married one of these days and have children?
Yeah. If it happens, it would be wonderful, it would be great. But again, I don’t know, who knows?
I think, we shoot in Scotland and it is my home, but we don’t know how long the show is going to go on for. I do sometimes think what am I going to do when eventually it is over?
I think I will actually be quite upset and sad when it is eventually over and it will be a great loss. But I don’t know — do I want to come to Los Angeles? Do I want to go back to London, New York maybe, or Japan?
Do people get upset or sad when they meet you in real life because you don’t look anything or talk like Jamie on the show?
Actually it’s funny, people because of my accent as well, I don’t have a strong accent. People are slightly disappointed. I am not a ginger and yeah, I mean, it’s funny.
I still get recognized. People still do recognize you but yeah, I guess it’s just playing other characters as well. You get to change your image and that’s fun. But I probably will always have Jamie Fraser with me at some point, even when the show is over.
And what about the hair? A lot of the women say you look good with the long hair.
Yeah, I mean I didn’t wear a wig on the first two seasons, or a season and a half. And then to be honest, my hair was dyed, I eventually had so much dye that it went purple. It wouldn’t take anymore dye.
So we wigged it, which has been great. And this season, there’s been a great fan discussion about the new wig, and I think it’s a great look. He has a lot more gray in his hair now and he’s gone lighter. He’s not as red headed as he was. I mean red heads do go kind of lighter and more blonde, so he is aging in that way. But it’s a lot more subtle I guess.
Talk of the different locations you have filmed. Did it give you some adrenaline moments?
That’s a great question, because I mean the landscape is very dramatic and Scotland has doubled, it’s played itself, but it’s played parts of a little bit of Paris there, and it’s now America.
We go to some amazing locations in Scotland and the trees really sell it. We have really struggled in some places to find buildings that are very different. But this season is no exception and actually we shot a lot on the coast, especially towards the end of this season.
Was it hanging off the edge of a cliff or just something that you just never thought you would be in that scenario, but because you are an actor, you get to do that
Yeah, I mean, we did the Battle of Alamance here and it’s fantastic. We have hundreds of extras and cannons going off and limbs flying through the air and people firing muskets.
To be honest, that kind of stuff is so exciting, and I really enjoyed doing that stuff. The other projects as well too, “Bloodshot.” I was on wires flying through the air and fighting Vin Diesel and all that stuff. As an actor, those are the moments where you go oh Christ, can I actually do this? Then it’s a lot of fun.
Can you talk of the first moment: Did you understand what the show would be
Yeah, I guess going back, this has changed my life in many ways. And I guess the show has taken over my life absolutely, it is my life. We shoot ten months a year and then we have to go on press tours, but it’s also opened up so many doors of opportunity from other acting projects, to my charity work to sort of the business side that I am doing with my whiskey and other projects that we have going.
So yeah, it really has given me opportunities and so for that, I am very, very grateful. I guess a confidence, not even a confidence because I am not that confident, I think it’s just more like, sort of you are on the edge of the precipice and you think it’s okay, why not just jump off?
I think before, when I first came to Los Angeles and was trying to audition for jobs here, I was always very concerned about what would happen and now I think it’s more about let’s just see what happens and I am excited to see what happens when I jump off the next precipice, so yes.
Did you learn anything from Jamie?
To be honest, just playing him every day, day in and day out. As an actor, to be on camera every day is, I think hopefully I am a better actor than I was when I first started out and maybe not. But I think a lot of things, the technical side, from being, the endurance of it, the creative side, now we are producers this season, so being involved in that process, in looking at the storylines and looking and having an influence on the way the characters developed and the stories developed. It’s given me a confidence to go into other projects as well and believe in myself to know that I can do this and have an influence.
What’s your relationship to Claire?
Well, I'm very protective of her. I think that's sort of the first thing that comes to mind but, you know, it's hard to know because I spend so much time playing her.
We shoot for 9, 10 months of the year and more of my waking life these days is playing Claire quite often than not, but I think her confidence and her forthrightness has definitely installed some of those attributes in me.
I have a tendency to be shy sometimes and with playing Claire, that's given me a confidence or her just sort of can-do attitude has definitely rubbed off on me a little bit and that's in the best way.
You have been to some amazing locations. Is there still an adrenaline rush?
We shoot this season in quite different locations than we have before. Obviously we're making Scotland double as North Carolina and so the type of places that we're shooting are quite different.
I think before in Seasons 1 and 2 it was a lot of highland and rugged and now we're in much more pastoral kind of beautiful fields with these ancient trees and much kind of grander rivers and that's what's surprising, because Scotland has all of these things and as an Irish person who is an honorary Scot, I suppose at this point, it's amazing.
At the end of the season this year we shot at a place called Dunkeld and it looked like something from “A River Runs Through It,” and it's breathtaking how beautiful it is and that's one of the really fortunate things about shooting in Scotland even though it's not technically Scotland anymore.
One of the allures of this show is the romanticism of it so how much more of a romantic has the show made of you?
You'd probably have to ask my partner but I don't know. It definitely has to rub off. I don't think you can even if you're simulating those great big emotions. When you feel it and when you experience it then you want more of that in reality, right and I feel very lucky that also through this show that I managed to meet the love of my life, so it's probably made me more of a romantic for sure.
Do you ever get annoyed with Sam and vice versa?
We actually very rarely do we ever even get annoyed with each other, which is quite astounding considering that we do work so closely together. His time keeping can sometimes irk me when I'm left standing waiting for him quite often.
I probably boss him around a bit so that probably irks him about me but we made a very conscious decision in the very beginning when we started the show that we were the only two people who would understand each other's experience and that if we had each other's backs throughout this because we didn't know what it was going to be but we knew that we had to stick together as a team.
We have done that and it's so important. I can't imagine having done a show of this magnitude for this long without having a partner with us and it's made it easier 100% and I'm very grateful for that.
If you can pick a character for an “Outlander” spinoff, or a whole group of characters to interact with, who would it be?
They're talking about doing the John Grey because it's obviously a book series but who would I like to see? We used to always joke that there was like a Mrs. Fitz series where she just holes up in a room sewing all of these costumes for Claire because she just arrived and all of a sudden had this wardrobe of about 50 things.
Geillis would probably be a really good spin-off. That whole story to find out where the Geillis and Dougal love story and all of her witchcraft and how she really and all the husbands she's killed I mean that would be quite interesting. I don't know. I'd watch it.
Can you bring us to that moment when you started on the show and the journey that you took and how it has changed you? What were you afraid of and what was groundless?
There's one photo I remember so particularly. It's myself, Tobias, Sam, Graham and Lotte and we were all just like, what is going on. This is crazy and it was so exciting because we didn't really know what the reception was going to be, and I can't remember if the show had just started airing or it was just about.
I think it was just about to because we had our premiere there and we'd been so sequestered away in Scotland making this show and when you're so in it, you don't really get a sense of how it's going to look because the day to day is just coming so fast and so quickly that we had only seen an episode or something at that point too.
Before that I had been in L.A. for about four years and I had done maybe three or four jobs. Two of them, I didn't speak and it was such a wild moment because it was like all of this. I'd worked so hard. I'd always dreamed that I would be able to support myself as an actor and it was just really exciting and it was fun that we had such good friends to go through it with as well and there was a lot of drinking too. But it was all about things. It's mad to look back on that now.
As a producer, what was that like for you to straddle in front of the camera and have a say in how things were interpreted?
This season, we got our producer credit very late after the books – after the story had already been broken and first couple of scripts had already been written.
Obviously, we get early drafts and we get to give our notes and things like that but what was important to me this season was to learn and to see where I can be of help and what I can do to be of benefit to the production.
Towards the end especially the last few episodes where Claire has a very strong storyline, it was really great that I got to be very integral into some of the choices about how that episode was going to be told and I worked very closely with Jamie Payne who was our director just on how to tell this particular storyline in a new but very sensitive way. It was really interesting.
You have to have two different hats because obviously looking at things just as an actor, as a character is very myopic in one way and as a producer you have to have an overview and understand that the reasons for doing certain things might have a cost reason or a time reason or location reasons. It's been great and I've expanded my horizons. I feel that my investment in the show and I suppose what I get from the show has expanded as well with the role expanding so that's really nice. — LA, GMA News