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Outlander at SDCC: Sam Heughan talks Season 2, Trauma, and National Identity

I’m finally getting over the heart flutters from sitting so close to Sam Heughan for 10 minutes at ComicCon, enough to be able to get these reports from the pressroom out to you! You know that moment when you realize that you’ll never be this close to someone so nice, and good-looking… and JAMIE…. and then you realize that you forgot to turn off your Twitter notice sound effects, every other reporter at the table is really annoyed at you, and you sit there wishing you could disappear? No? You don’t know that? … I do. And I heartily apologize, AGAIN, to everyone sitting at my table in the pressroom.

But yes, to answer your unspoken questions, he really is that nice. And that good-looking in person. And he was sweet about my massive faux pas (which I remedied before Diana came to sit at our table, which will be my next post). He chatted with several of us about Jamie’s journey to healing after the trauma he suffered at the end of Season 1, and talked a little bit about the wonderful actors who will be joining the cast this season. I asked him about his, Sam’s, personal national identity in a show that’s basically an ode to Scotland.

Just a quick explanation of the process of these interviews, since you may have seen other blogs from SDCC – there were about 50 reporters crammed into a room. We all sat at four round tables, with our microphones, cell phones, etc – no photography was allowed – and one of the “Big 4” – Sam, Caitriona, Ron Moore, and Diana, came to sit at each table. Each reporter had an opportunity to ask a question; and after about 10 minutes, the stars switched tables. So you should see four different sets of questions, if you can find them all!

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Q Your character begins Season 2 in a completely different place than the end of  Season 1. What do you see as the challenges or benefits of this?

A I think of it more as a challenge actually, because in S1, Jamie’s got no responsibility, he’s pretty much out for himself, and he’s just reacting to every moment. And then S2 is completely different, he’s got the hangover of the trauma of S1, and also the responsibility of having a wife, of being a father, of becoming a parent. So he’s had to grow up and in S1 he certainly did. And in S2 he’s still trying to come to terms with the events of S1. But  also in S2 he’s gone to Paris which is not alien to him, but it’s certainly not a world that he’s particularly comfortable with. And he has to assume a new identity there as well. It certainly feels like he’s a different person.

Q There’s been kind of an ever-changing cast. You and Caitriona are going to be the only ones that are constant throughout for however many seasons this runs. How is that for you as an actor to constantly have different characters and actors around you?

A It’s wonderful. We’re in the French court at the moment, and Murtagh is the other character who’s traveled with us – Duncan LaCroix, he’s terrific. But it’s just the three of us, and we’ve got this cast of French actors who are amazing and bring a totally different energy to it. It’s the joy of changing locations and storylines. It’s a little sad! We miss the boys. We know we’re going back there the second half of the season and it’s very much going to be the antithesis to the first half. The first half is luxurious, the costumes are amazing, and the second half is going to be all mud, blood and battles, so yeah, it’s nice to be in a different world. I know that this series does constantly travel, and that’s going to be the journey.

Q What are Jamie and Claire trying to accomplish in this first half of the season?

A They hope to change history, basically. The battle of Culloden was this big battle between the English and the Highlanders. Bonnie Prince Charlie believed he was the rightful king, and he probably was, the Stewart King, he came to Scotland and tried to rally the clans to put himself back on the throne over the Hanoverian kings. It failed, basically, and in this battle they got wiped out. The repercussions were that the British army bans all Highland culture – the wearing of kilts, speaking Gaelic, the bagpipes. There were the Highland clearances where they put the torch to the cottages.

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Q Can you talk a little bit about Claire and Jamie’s relationship and how it starts at the beginning of the season?

A At the end of season 1, they were newlyweds, they were young lovers, and they were finding out about each other . The trauma of the end of the season has affected their relationship  a lot, and also the fact that she’s a mother, and they’ve got responsibilities – they’re working it out together, but there’s a lot of issues they haven’t dealt with yet, and we do play that out in Season 2. You know, the mission is the most important thing, changing history, making sure that everyone  survives.

Q Talk about the new allies – or foes – for Jamie and Claire.


A We have a lot of terrific actors that have come in. We have some really powerful and amazing actors bringing a new dimension to the show. It becomes almost a kind of battle with the politics that are played out. St. Germain, who is the extraordinarily good looking Stanley Weber, he’s French, and very interesting, and he’s going to do very well. It’s a different kind of enemy that they’re facing. You’ll see their almost surrogate son that they get, their adopted son Fergus, and it brings another dimension and dynamic to their relationship. It’s all moving their relationship forward, and they’re never in one place, really.

Q How is Jamie now that he’s an expectant father? Is that going to change his behavior at all, or change his behavior toward Claire? Will he not take as many risks, or things like that while they’re in France?

A Yeah, I think before he met Claire, he was more than happy to put his life on the line, but now that he’s met Claire, he has to think twice about that. And in Season 2, he’s still the same guy, and he can be pig headed at times, or stubborn, but he certainly has grown up a bit, and knows that he’s got a responsibility – at  times he does forget.

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Q What does having been on such a Scotland-celebrating show done for your personal national identity and pride in your country?

A I’m very proud of Scotland. I’ve gone back and sort of rediscovered my country, fallen in love with it again, and I’m very proud of the production, and it really shows off Scotland – the craftsmanship, the locations, the studios we’ve worked in, the  4 soundstages we’ve got. We’ve got one whole workshop that’s building French furniture, they’re doing all the props. It really is magnificent, creating a lot of industry for Scotland, it’s attracting more productions, other TV shows, and films as well. So, yeah, I’m delighted that we’ve been given that opportunity. We were at the Edinburgh national film festival, and I got to meet the Culture Minister for Scotland, we’re not a player in politics but we’re certainly realize it’s a great thing for Scotland and the UK.

Q How do you play a damaged character without becoming damaged yourself?

A Jamie did get some resolution at the end of Season 1, I mean he wasn’t cured in any way, but he was … I spoke at length to our on-set doctor about the medical conditions and what happens with the psychology as well, but ultimately everyone is different, and everyone deals with trauma in different ways. Jamie is very particular in the way he deals with things, and before, we’ve seen when he got whipped, he let it roll off his back. But this has certainly affected him. But he’s not a victim, he’s moving forward, he’s got this mission, he’s there for a purpose, and it’s not weighing him down or incapacitating him. But he’s got things he has to deal with. He may be finding some resolution and that’s nice to see, it’s often something really random that triggers that moment of healing or moving forward, and I’m very lucky to be able to play that part of it.

Photos are from the public Outlander panel at San Diego ComicCon 2015 and from the Season 1 Blooper Reel shown at ComicCon, which you can see here.

Part 2: Chatting with Caitriona at SDCC

Part 3: Diana Gabaldon

Part 4: Ron Moore

Follow me on Twitter: @OutlanderTIBS, @ErinConrad2 and @threeifbyspace

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