Caitriona Balfe, who portrays Claire Randall on Starz acclaimed series Outlander, is a very lucky actress. She gets to work with two handsome leading men, Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies.
When the series, based on Diana Gabaldon’s popular novels, began it was set in 1945 and spotlighted World War II nurse, Claire Randall and her husband Frank (Balfe and Menzies). Claire is mysteriously transported to 1743 where she meets the love of her life, Jamie Fraser (Heughan) and becomes involved in the Jacobite war. There she also meets her husband’s despicable ancestor, Black Jack Randall (also portrayed by Menzies).
The third season picks up right after Claire travels through the stones to return to her life in 1948, with her husband Frank. Now pregnant with Jamie’s child, she struggles with the fallout of her sudden reappearance and its effect on her marriage. Meanwhile, in the 18th century, Jamie suffers from the aftermath of his doomed last stand at the historic Battle of Culloden, as well as the loss of Claire.
Tobias Menzies came to the TV Critics tour to talk about Outlander Season 3. Sam Heughan joined us via satellite. The new season premieres on Starz on September 10th 2017.
One of the scenes that people are looking forward to is the death of Black Jack Randall. He and Jamie, despite being mortal enemies, do have sort of a relationship. Can you guys talk about how you approached that scene and giving it the proper ending?
Tobias Menzies: Yeah. I think it’s a difficult storyline to tie up in a way. Where do you go after the stuff towards the end of Season One? So they meet on the battlefield of Culloden. Jack is buried there. We meet almost in flashback; it’s Jamie’s hallucination as he remembers fragments of this encounter. It’s a nonverbal tying up of the story. It’s this strange kind of dance.
I think both (the) writers and as performers, we always try to look for an unusual angle. So it wasn’t just a straightforward fight. There’s something odder going on with them. I like the way it’s come out. It’s sort of a strange kind of part fight, part dance, part embrace, and I feel like a fitting end to this very peculiar quasi love affair.
Sam Heughan: It was something that we were all looking forward to shooting. The Battle of Culloden was something that not only the crew and the highlanders and everyone was anticipating, but it’s a real important part of our history. And so, yeah, I think it was a great start to the (third) season. And certainly, Jamie does suffer (in) it pretty horrendously. But Brendan Maher, our director, was great and really worked through the journey of Jamie there and his loss, and coming to terms with having lost Claire and actually not expecting to survive the battle.
Tobias, when you read the books did you have any hesitation in portraying Black Jack? Does anything go with him?
Tobias Menzies: No, I don’t think anything goes, you have to earn it, you have to earn that kind of level of violence, you have to reach it in something real, otherwise it’s just exploitive. I try to make it come out of an emotional need.
Do you have a backstory for him that justifies why he’s like he is?
Diana had lots of stuff she had written as a back story. She sent me some of that stuff so all that fed into it.
You’ve had some extraordinarily difficult scenes to play and one monologue particularly that seemed very unusual. Can you talk about approaching having to do those scenes and the mind-set you were in?
Tobias Menzies: You are talking about the Black Jack stuff where he talks about his sadism. It’s a weird head space to try to get into, but that’s sort of what’s interesting about acting, that you get to explore, think and maybe say and do things that you are not supposed to do in real life, which is good. It’s certainly why I like acting.
So I really relish those opportunities exploring the darker side of things. And, obviously, the opportunities for that in this show have been quite extensive. It’s an exploration of a sadist, someone who is interested in other people’s pain barriers. That’s interesting territory to explore.
Sam, after playing Jamie for several years now, what keeps the character interesting for you?
Sam Heughan: I think it’s a very good question. We’re very lucky. Diana Gabaldon has created this remarkable world. And I think what makes our show different to all the others is that it’s constantly moving.
It’s constantly changing. And not only every season, but every episode is surprising and we go somewhere else. And I think this season in particular feels very strong. Each episode has its own individual theme or feeling to it. And the characters, they grow up. They change.
But, yeah, Jamie’s a lot of fun to play. He is the other side of Claire, and they’re a great team together.
But I’m enjoying growing up with him over these last four years. And we’ll see how much longer and how much further he can go. Keep writing, Diana.