In Season 2 of the Starz series Outlander, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) have arrived in France, hell-bent on infiltrating the Jacobite rebellion led by Prince Charles Stuart and stopping the battle of Culloden. While there, they are thrown into the lavish world of French society, where intrigue and parties are abundant, but altering the course of history is a greater challenge then they could have imagined, as they attempt to prevent the extinction of Scottish life as they know it.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Sam Heughan talked about the different themes and feel for Season 2, the effects of Jamie not dealing with his trauma, the changing dynamic between Jamie and Claire, the biggest external threats this season, the new costumes, the shorthand he’s developed with co-star Caitriona Balfe, and what he’s most excited about fans of the book getting to see in Season 2. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: After such a dark end of the season, last season, was it nice to start off with a brighter and more colorful Season 2?
SAM HEUGHAN: Yeah, visually it’s a lot different. And the themes and feel of it are different, as well. It’s this world that we don’t quite understand, and Jamie and Claire are struggling there. And yet, ultimately, it’s very important for us to go there because when we do go back to Scotland, it’s a release. It’s like, “Ah, this is what we missed.” So, they’re in France and there are a lot of things for them to contend with. Jamie is working all day on the mission, and at night, he’s going out and drinking, all the time, because of what’s happened to him. That’s pulling him and Claire apart, and he’s plagued by it and won’t open up about it, so it comes to a head. It’s something they need to get over and, because of that, Paris is not a particularly joyous place.
Jamie seems very torn between not dealing with the trauma of what he went through and being focused on the mission he’s trying to complete. Will he eventually have to deal with what he’s trying to avoid?
HEUGHAN: He’s very much a man of the time, where you don’t talk about your feelings. He’s dealt with physical trauma before. He’s got scars on his back and multiple wounds. That’s fine. But, the mental side is new to him. He doesn’t think about it and just busies himself. He gets drunk so that he doesn’t have to deal with it, but it does come back to haunt him. Ultimately, it forces Jamie and Claire to be less intimate because he’s closing up and not talking about it. Their physicality becomes less. They see less of each other. It comes to a head because they’re losing hold of each other and losing sight of why they’re there and what they’re doing. And the way that it’s resolved comes in quite a surprising form.
Is Claire trying to get Jamie to talk about it, or is she being very cautious?
HEUGHAN: Initially, she’s very much trying to give him his space. She knows that he’s doing what she asked him to, which is to ingratiate himself with the Jacobites to complete their mission, so she can understand why he’s not talking. But then, he needs to talk about it because it’s affecting their relationship. She thinks that maybe time will cure everything, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. So then, she does ask him to talk about it, which doesn’t really go well.
Where are the biggest external threats coming from this season?
HEUGHAN: In Season 1, you could see the threats coming, in the form of Red Coats who were on horses with guns. This time, it’s less obvious. We met St. Germain in Episode 1, who is this very powerful merchant who has his fingers in pies and ties to King Louis, and he starts to muddle in their affairs. He ties back to other characters that we’ve met before and will meet in the future, who are quite powerful and who have all along been meddling in their affairs. It’s very complicated, but it’s politics.
Was it fun to get to open up the world, in this way?
HEUGHAN: Yes. It’s been very much character based before this and very much about discovery in Season 1. This is a slightly different animal. It’s been interesting. Dealing with Prince Charles and the war generals, you start to realize why these people were so ineffectual in battle, but why they were so inspiring and people would follow them. It’s been really fascinating to understand how and why these things happened.
Do the new costumes make you carry yourself different, physically?
HEUGHAN: Absolutely! It’s quite claustrophobic. They look fantastic, but it’s all buttoned up. It’s all for show, and that’s what Jamie and Claire are doing. They’re putting on this public persona, but in private, it’s a very different story. So, when we do go back to Scotland, it’s like an old friend, putting on the kilt again, and being free and able to express your emotions.
How has your working relationship with Caitriona Balfe changed and grown, after having a season of work behind you?
HEUGHAN: In Season 1, we were finding out way through. Now, we have a shorthand. We know each other and we know what to expect. When I read a scene, I know roughly how she’s going to play it, which is nice. With Season 1, we were both new and naive to it, so we were holding each other’s hand and going into it wide-eyed. Now, it’s a little bit more lived in, which is a good thing. That’s exactly where the characters are. They’re more savvy and they understand the process of where they, but the problems they face are more complex. It’s not young love. They’re not teenagers falling in love. This is a modern relationship that has its own problems and grey areas.
Now that Jamie knows about Claire and where she came from, how does that change things between them?
HEUGHAN: It’s just like any modern relationship when the partner mentions the ex. When Frank’s name is mentioned, it’s like, “Oh, here we go.” It’s just more awkward and it’s a part of the relationship we’re now getting to see.
Are there moments from the books that you’re excited about fans getting to see brought to life this season?
HEUGHAN: I’m really excited about the battles and about the historical side. I’m just excited for the fans of the books to get to meet all of these great characters, like King Louis and Master Raymond. Master Raymond is a great character in the book, and you’ll find out something quite interesting about him. He’s got secrets, as well. He’s such a great character and he’s played so well by Dominique Piñon. Each episode has got new characters and new places, which will be very fun for the readers to see.
Do you worry at all about the changes that get made to the story and how the fans will react to it, or have they been very embracing of the changes?
HEUGHAN: I think they’re very forgiving. Of course, there are always a few, here and there, that are like, “Why is that like this?” If only they knew the logistics of everything. It’s amazing. I’m always amazed at how much we’re able to stick to the story or get everything in. We’ve got a great team of writers and they’ve all read the books, and (author) Diana [Gabaldon] is very good about that. If she doesn’t get something through to the writers or producers, she’ll go to me or Caitriona and suggest something or manage to slip it in somewhere. It is a little bit political, in its own Parisian way. But, I’m very pleased that we manage to stay close to the books. I also like to see us be able to get away from it a little bit, or play with the structure. I think that gives us more opportunity to surprise book fans. There’s always that problem of, if we do that, are we going to upset people that we’re not sticking with the books completely. It’s a tough one.
With all of the darker moments of this show, there are usually also some lighter moments. Will we continue to see that?
HEUGHAN: Yeah, there are some light-hearted moments. He’s got his companion, Murtagh, who is always a source of entertainment, in some way or another. There’s also this great character, Fergus, played by Romann Berrux, who is this very wonderful little French boy that brings a great energy into the room. The way that Jamie and Claire react to him is great, and it just lightens everyone. You get to see their more frivolous side. They’re now expectant parents, so you also get to see how they will be as parents.
Outlander airs on Saturday nights on Starz.