*MAJOR spoilers for Outlander Season 5 Episode 7 are discussed*
The events in “The Ballad of Roger Mac” really ramp things up and Season 5 of the Starz drama series Outlander is only going to get more epic, from here on out. With the fate of Roger (Richard Rankin) still to be determined and the existence of Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) still looming large, Brianna (Sophie Skelton) has a lot on her plate.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Sophie Skelton talked about how hard it was for Brianna to send Roger off to battle, what it was like to shoot that final shocking moment and everything that went into it, where things head next, why Episode 508 is different from anything they’ve done on the show before, seeing Bree become a strong mama bear, and what her character needs from Bonnet to finally be able to move on.
Collider: When Bree said goodbye to Roger, she knew that he was going off to face great danger, and there was a real sense of urgency building, the longer that he was gone without returning. How hard was it for her to experience that, throughout the episode?
SOPHIE SKELTON: For Bree, it’s a difficult one. They don’t belong in that time. Roger is not equipped for that time. But at the same time, Brianna can’t just say, “Oh, no, my husband’s not fighting, but all you other men go off and do your thing.” She’s very aware and sensitive of the fact that everybody else is going through the same thing. The women are left at home, worrying about the husbands and sons, and uncles and cousins, and whatever. Everybody has gone off to war, and you just really have to keep yourself busy. It’s definitely something that she doesn’t want to show. Especially in that moment, when Roger volunteers to go, that’s his prerogative. For Brianna, that’s scary and she will worry about him, but she can’t tell him not to go. If that’s his wish, then that’s his wish. It feels disrespectful to the other men to ask Jamie to leave Roger behind, or to save Roger, in some way. In the time period, Bree knows that it’s something that she’s gonna have to unfortunately deal with.
This episode ends on a rather shocking moment, with Brianna, Jamie and Claire wondering whether it’s Roger that’s hanging from the trees. What was that moment like to read in the script, and how has the experience of actually shooting that?
SKELTON: Well, it’s funny you ask that, actually, because the location was pretty tricky, in terms not seeing the bodies early. It was quite an open plane of field, and you could see the bodies hanging from the tree, from quite far off. As a wife, as soon as I saw the bodies hanging from the tree, you’d be able to identify a husband. You would know his body shape, you would get that feeling, and you would know his clothes. You would know it was Roger, straight away. So, we had to map out where we were walking, asking the settlers, “Have you seen Roger MacKenzie? Have you seen Captain McKenzie?” We had to navigate that, so that we weren’t looking at the hanging buddies until Jamie calls Claire over and Bree sees them, and then she just gets that feeling. And then, when Bree sees the body, I wanted to play it that she’s just in utter shock, doesn’t want to believe what she’s seeing, is in denial, trying to process everything, but just numb and stuck. Her worst fears have now come true. I guess, in a way, Bree would feel very responsible, as well. Roger’s in that time because went back to that time and he followed her through, and he’s stuck there because of Jemmy, really, and because of Bree’s family. It was a brutal moment. It was quite an image, to be honest, seeing the men hanging from the tree like that. Our stunt team is incredible. It just felt so real. It was brutal.
What is that like, personally, as an actor, to experience. Obviously, you’re on a set making a show and none of it is real, but doesn’t it still emotionally affect you?
SKELTON: Yeah. You do have to go to those places, as an actor. Everything a person could go through, Brianna has pretty much been through it. When you’re looking at that image of someone hanging from a tree like that, you’re the grieving wife, essentially, and putting yourself there, over and over and over again. That can take its toll. But it’s actually really helpful when things look real. Especially with the actors that play Jemmy, you want to show that it’s make believe, but the way that the set design is on Outlander, and with the stunts and everything, everything is just so incredibly intricate and real. That actually really helps because you don’t have to pretend. You can just be in it. But then, when you are in it, emotionally, sometimes your body just does weird things and emotions come out that you don’t expect because you’re just really very taken by what it is that you’re looking at. Seeing them hanging from the tree like that was quite a crazy thing. You can see fake blood, or whatever else, but something like a hanging was quite an image.
How long did you shoot all of that for?
SKELTON: It took quite awhile because we had to sort out the logistics of how to bring the body down, and which direction they would be facing when they’re hanging from the tree. Also, they had to try to hold the bodies still ‘cause they tend to spin when they’re hanging from a tree. We had a lot of extras that day and there were a lot of horses. That day took quite awhile.
What would you say to tease the next episode, after this one? Will things pick up right where Episode 507 left off?
SKELTON: Yeah, it’s a direct continuation, so you’ll see the family bringing the body down from the tree. Brianna is frozen in her spot for quite awhile, until Claire calls her over while she’s trying to see if she can save what’s left. Episode 508 is done in a really interesting way. It’s very different. We haven’t really done an episode in this format before, so I think it’s quite cool. It’s a little love letter, in a way, to the ‘60s. It feels very different. It’s a very cool episode.
We’re past the midway mark of the season. Now that we’re in this last group of episodes, what’s still to come for Brianna, this season?
SKELTON: I feel like Brianna’s stuff hasn’t started yet. I’m excited, in terms of her big bits of the season. I love Episode 508. There’s a lot of Brianna. She goes through a lot in Episode 508. She’s a very patient and loving wife, but then she also gives tough love. It’s a very nice relationship episode for Roger and Brianna. She’s a very strong mama bear in Episode 508, and I liked that. In Episode 509, there’s just a lot that comes through for Brianna now. Some old characters may or may not come back, which uproots her life again. The season really starts to take off now, from Episode 507. The whole season is epic. I think a lot of people actually prefer it to Season 4. The second half of the season just takes a completely other turn and it’s fast-paced. You’ll see the characters together a lot more. We often have the characters splitting up, but you’ll see a lot more of the Fraser’s all together.
It’s pretty safe to say that, at some point, Brianna will come face to face with Bonnet again. We just don’t know how that will play out. What would you say that she really needs, when it comes to him, to be able to feel like she can heal from what he did to her?
SKELTON: Yeah. That scene in Episode 12, in Season 4, when Bree goes to the jail, is a scene that I really admired about Brianna, in that episode. She goes in and tells Bonnet that she forgives him and she gives him the knowledge of Jemmy. Knowing that he’s gonna die, she just tries to show him what love is, or what a nice gesture means. I don’t know if she did that, as a way of digging the knife in him a little bit, by showing him, “You haven’t affected me,” or whether she really did give it as an olive branch almost, or a gesture of goodness to show this man, before he dies. I don’t think Bree really knew why she did it. I think the main reason was that she just wanted to be able to give birth to this baby and love this baby and look at this baby, and not see Bonnet. I think she just needed to have that closure, and she needed to give Bonnet the information and the gift, before he died, and then she washed her hands of him. She’s a good person. She rose above it and he didn’t affect her, and she showed him that. And now, knowing that he’s alive, it’s a completely different thing. I think what she needs from him now, honestly, is for him to just bugger off and not be alive or anywhere near them. How do you, as Brianna, decide that someone should or shouldn’t die? It’s not really your place to make that decision. I don’t think Brianna would take that decision lightly, having somebody else’s life in her hands, no matter what they did to her. But when it gets to the point where he could potentially put her child in harm’s way, whether he wants to kidnap Jemmy or hurt Jemmy. I don’t know if Bree particularly knows. We kind of find out in Episode 510, what’s going on in Bonnet’s mind, and it’s a really interesting twist. But for Bree, now, it’s that mama bear thing. Her moral compass goes out the window. She just needs to make sure that Jemmy is safe and sound. That’s her priority. What she needs from Bonnet now is just for Jemmy to be safe.
Outlander airs on Sunday nights on Starz. For more, click here for our interview with actor Duncan Lacroix about his final episode.