‘Outlander’: Duncan Lacroix on That Heartbreaking Murtagh Twist

     March 29, 2020

MAJOR spoilers for Outlander Season 5 Episode 7 follow below.

Outlander delivered a crushing blow to the Fraser family on Sunday night.

After surviving decades longer than he did in Diana Gabaldon’s books, Murtagh Fitzgibbons, played by Duncan Lacroix, lost his life in a pre-Revolutionary War battle. And Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) happened to be standing right there when his beloved godfather was shot and killed by one of the men on the Redcoats’ payroll. It was a heartbreaking moment that occurred just seconds after Murtagh fulfilled the oath he made to Ellen Fraser, Jamie’s late mother, to protect the redheaded Highlander’s life.

Since Season 1, Murtagh has been part of the heart of Outlander, and the death of his character stings – something Collider told Lacroix when we spoke to him about his exit from the show.

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Image via Starz

My heart hurts. I think a lot of people will be feeling that on Sunday. Tell me how you learned the news that they were finally bidding adieu to your character?

DUNCAN LACROIX: I found out just before the beginning of the season … because I was optioned for six seasons. But yeah, it kind of finally ran its course and they dropped the bomb on me before we started filming the season.

Although, if you had been optioned for six seasons, there was a certain gentleman who was in Sunday night’s episode who used to be on the show and came back to the show, so there’s always that type of opportunity.

LACROIX: (Laughs) I don’t know about that.

Did you and Graham McTavish get to see each other at all when he was on set to play Roger Mackenzie’s ancestor?

LACROIX: Yeah. I stay in contact with Graham a lot. We’re good friends. So yeah, saw him briefly and we hang out in Scotland. He was filming [his podcast] Clan Lands with Sam about the same time, I think. That’s Sam and Graham touring around Scotland together, which people are looking forward to.

Let’s talk about some of the scenes in your final episode. One of the ones I thought was done so beautifully was you have Governor Tryon reading his demands and you reading Tryon’s demands to your Regulator men and then we have this brief shot of Jamie in the field all alone. Can you talk a little bit about filming that?

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Image via Starz

LACROIX: Yeah, that was a night shoot with all the wonderful [Regulator actors] there, having to listen to me go over the speech about 50 times and pretend to cheer along. I kind of like those big – they’re almost Shakespearean – speeches to the men. It gives you a chance to roar your head off and the other thing about it was they only changed it at the last minute. It was meant to be just Governor Tryon reading the letter and it was a great idea to [add Murtagh] reading it as well, but I hadn’t actually learnt that, so they wrote it down for me. But they’re meticulous on Outlander. They actually wrote it in the style of an old letter in the script writing. My eyesight’s so bad, I couldn’t actually read it (laughs). I had to have more idiot-proof, bigger letters printed out while I was viewing it.

Murtagh got to keep his oath in his final moments. What did you think about the show writing him out in that sort of way where he dies saving his godson?

LACROIX: I think, in a way, that’s how we kind of postponed – but kind of stayed true to the books – because the last lines he says to Jamie are the last lines he says to Jamie at [the battle of] Culloden. It was just postponed another 20-25 years. But I think that character kind of ran its course, actually, in terms of the show. And I think it’s a fitting end. He was the last kind of relic from the Highlands, from Culloden, the old Highland way of life and I think it kind of resonates. Once he dies, [Jamie’s] given an even steelier purpose to continue the battle as things will progress – take the fight to the Brits in the war of revolution.

What was the last thing you filmed on the show? Sometimes it’s weird stuff, right? Like pickups?

LACROIX: Actually, we had to pick up the death scene weirdly enough. The first time we shot it it was kind of late summer. I actually got really emotional that day. I didn’t expect to. I just really felt for him, having [played him across] six years now. I didn’t expect it. I just got really emotional between takes, but also, the fake blood we were using for the bullet wound is like strawberry jam and it attracted almost an entire wasps nest onto my chest. So, me and Sam, we’re like batting away wasps and trying to shoot. But the last scene I actually shot of the whole show is the final death scene where Sam takes me into the tent. … The very last thing I shot, I am the corpse on the triage table.

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Image via Starz

And you had to not move while Sam has to essentially break down as Jamie. That must have been hard to do because you have to keep your eyes closed, obviously. I’m getting a little technical here, but he delivered a really strong performance in that moment. Was that hard to keep your composure as he was doing that?

LACROIX: It was, yeah. It was quite hard. You just lay there and not breathe – trying not to move. I was just trying to zone out everything because usually I’ve found the more you think about not breathing the harder you started breathing. Yeah, you could feel the strength of the performance going on around you, and I was fine, and it was actually when Caitriona [Balfe] – she grabs my hand and says, ‘Oh, Murtagh, my friend.’ And I then I was like, ‘Oh, oh. This is actually really [sad].’ That was quite upsetting. Yeah, I felt the power of the scene there.

Something that came up in last weekend’s episode that people are still mourning the loss of was the Jocasta/Murtagh romance – how it ended. How did you feel about that? He was just not lucky in romantic love, but lucky in family love.

LACROIX: I was thinking back yesterday, and this season – I was only in a handful of scenes, but each one is really kind of like heart wrenching, it feels like. Bidding farewell to [Jamie] in the first episode, then the Murcasta [Murtagh + Jocasta] scene. Hats off to Marie Doyle Kennedy. She’s such an amazing actress to work with. It’s like a 10-minute scene, which is quite rare in Outlander and that was just a joy to actually film. It felt really good getting good feedback about that. But, I just think he’s kind of that tragic character – that he is unlucky in love but he’s devoted his entire life to his family and to honor and to doing the right thing, so there really wasn’t any other way of wrapping it up, I don’t think.

Do you have some moments that you will remember forever from some of the scenes that you got to do on this show? You’ve been such a big part of it. Just talking to fans or reading their comments, this character really made an impact among the viewers.

LACROIX: Yeah, I was just taken by surprise by that myself. That character kind of grew and grew over the seasons and then he disappeared. Season 1 was such an exciting period for us all. We were all new to it; we didn’t know what to expect; we didn’t know how big the show was going to be and we just were really lucky – and with that ensemble of actors – that we just all hit it off and we gelled so well. Probably just in the first season, the amazing scenery and places we got to see in Scotland. There was the episode called ‘Rent,’ where we were up in Aviemore, which is a huge national park in the Highlands and it’s just breathtaking. We got to ride around on the horses and you just get so enveloped by John Gary Steele’s sets, Terri’s [Dresbach] costumes. You’re just there. You don’t really have to act that much. You’re just actually in the Highlands. It was an amazing experience. I’m very lucky with the quality of scenes they wrote for me this season. I’m glad I got to go out on a kind of acting high, personally. Watching that character evolve and the heartbreak some of those scenes entailed, they were great to sink my teeth into, so, yeah, the way, I suppose, it bookends it for me, I love the first season and the quality of the scenes in this season. And everything in between really.

Duncan, I think people are going to be really heartbroken when they see Sunday’s episode. … Is there anything you want to say to people? I don’t usually ask that question, but I feel like people might want to hear what you would want to say to them – the folks who’ve been watching and have just adored your performance of Murtagh.

LACROIX: Just a massive thank you, really. I didn’t expect it, one, for this show to take off the way it did and for that character to take off the way it did and the way all the fans embraced him. … I’m just full of gratitude for the entire experience, really.

For more on this shocking episode, check out our spoiler-filled interview with Sophie Skelton.

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