In Season 5 of the Starz drama series Outlander, the Frasers find themselves fighting for their family and their home, as Jamie (Sam Heughan) must defend all that he’s created in America, alongside his wife Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and their daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton), son-in-law Roger (Richard Rankin), and grandson Jemmy. With their family together and seemingly everything they could want, there is still a cloud over Bree and Roger, as she deals with the effects of her own personal trauma and they work to find their place in the 18th century.
During this interview with Collider, co-stars Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin talked about where things are headed for Season 5, exploring this time period, the challenges of working with a baby, a funny guitar playing mishap, how their banter keeps the days on set fun, getting to see and wear Brianna’s wedding dress, and figuring out life after trauma.
Collider: This is a show where, every season, there’s so much to talk about because things progress so much and are so different, from season to season. What does that feel like, in Season 5? How was it to get to explore this time period?
SOPHIE SKELTON: I feel like this season is so fast-paced. There’s so much that happens, that every episode is almost like its own little movie. There is so much to talk about. But it was a really fun one, for us to shoot. Obviously, there’s a lot more characters this season, which always adds whole new layers. There seems to be a lot more action, and a lot more singing. We carry through a lot of the lines from Season 4. A lot of the thread lines of that story come through. There are just so many added layers this season, I think fans will love it, and surprises, too, even for book readers. You’re gonna see things that you’ll be excited about because they’re fresh and new.
RICHARD RANKIN: You really do see the characters like you’ve never seen them before. You see them in roles that you’ve never seen them before, coping with things you’ve never seen them cope with, especially Roger and Brianna. In Season 5, it’s definitely a new world for them.
SKELTON: And in that time period, with Roger and Bree, you see them oscillating between thriving and really drowning. That creates a really interesting dynamic between the two of them, as well, because obviously it does pose the question of, if and/or when they do or don’t go back to the future. One thing about them being in this time period is that they have a young child now, and there are things that you forget about. As we were filming, I would realize, more and more, that you don’t have pacifiers, you don’t have diapers, and you don’t have baby protection on anything. So, what do you do? It’s just a really interesting thing that I hadn’t really thought about. You couldn’t take your eye off them, or you could find Jemmy holding a knife.
What was it like to work with a baby, this season?
SKELTON: I have a newfound sympathy for parents.
RANKIN: I’ve worked with babies so much, but this was a whole new thing. The kids who played Jemmy came in with a real passion for being a baby.
SKELTON: Oh, yeah.
RANKIN: There were quite a lot of Jemmys because they aged.
SKELTON: Obviously, because of child working hours, we have twins who play the one Jemmy. We had this one set of twins come in, and they were just screaming murder, all day. We didn’t know why this baby was purple with rage. And then, we found out that it was actually the first day that he’d ever been away from his brother. The twins had never been separated. They just separated them and were like, “Here you go,” and he hated it. And then, we had one set of twins, where he would be really, really, really good. You’d call, “Action!,” and he would scream. And then, you’d call, “Cut!,” and he was fine again. I feel like he sensed the atmosphere. But no, they were amazing. Jemmy does age, throughout the season, because we did have to keep swapping out the babies.
RANKIN: But they gave absolute gold.
SKELTON: What we did get, yeah.
How did they feel about you singing to them?
RANKIN: That wasn’t that bad.
SKELTON: No, they liked it. It was really sweet, actually. There’s a lullaby that Roger and Brianna sing to Jemmy, and the little boys liked it so much that they’d gone home and learned it. And then, he came in one day and was like, “I’ve got something to show you. I’ve got a gift for you. Come into this room.” So, I went into his little room and they just started singing the lullaby to me. I was like, “This is so cute!” We had to bribe them a little bit. Their parents probably hate us now because I was like, “You’ll get chocolate when you go home, if you do this take, okay?” It was fun. It was a roller coaster, but it was good.
Richard, was it fun to have the signing and playing guitar really become part of Roger’s story?
RANKIN: Yeah. I love playing guitar, I love singing, and I love driving my fellow castmates mad.
SKELTON: I seem to remember that you broke a guitar, didn’t you?
RANKIN: I did break a guitar on set, this season. It was total rock and roll Roger. I can’t remember what the scene was, but it was quite an emotional point. I can’t really talk about it, but I was struggling with the end of a song and, when I went to put the guitar down, I did it with a bit of force and literally smashed it into pieces. I loved that guitar.
SKELTON: Yeah, so did the art department.
RANKIN: It was the only one we had, I think.
When something like that happens, do you just keep going and hope no one notices?
RANKIN: I had to keep going and hope that it was actually usable. It may be one of those great little unintentional moments.
So, it’s not all sadness and darkness over on the Outlander set, even though all of these characters are really put through the wringer?
SKELTON: We’re actually very lucky. The four of us like our banter and we can all take the mick out of each other. We can all take it. It’s just fun. We have a really nice dynamic. We definitely laugh between takes, a lot. We’re lucky, in that respect. No one takes themselves too seriously.
What did you enjoy most about really getting to explore the family element, this season?
SKELTON: It’s always nice when we have scenes together, the four of us, ‘cause it hasn’t happened, really, until now. Especially for Season 4, ‘cause even we spent so much of that season apart. I feel like it’s nice because, in real life, the four of us do have that banter on set and I feel like that seeps into the family dynamic for the show. Obviously, that’s what the season is based around. It’s the family, and the four of them standing together, and I think that really shines through, from real life onto the screen.
RANKIN: It really does drive the season and it creates the stakes. The stakes are high, especially because when you get to see the family together and all of that interaction, and you start to see what the relationships are, you start to really invest in the relationships, across that dynamic. And then, you care not only for the individuals, but for the relationships. You care for the family and what happens to them, and how they’re going to deal with the things that are thrown at them, in Season 5. It’s great.
Having to deal with the in-laws is one thing, but Roger is stuck in another time period with them. Is it fun to see him figure out how to navigate that?
SKELTON: It’s a funny thing because Brianna has only known Jamie as long as Roger has. She’s just getting to know him, too. So, I do feel like Roger and Bree really are each other’s comfort zones because they are forced into this time period where they are aliens, essentially. Claire is, too, but she’s obviously a lot more used to the time. Roger and Bree have got each other, so it’s all right. Everyone needs to escape from their own parents sometimes. Love you, mom and dad, sorry for that, but you do. Especially when you’ve got families all together and living under one roof.
Sophie, what was it like to get to see and put on Brianna’s wedding dress, and have that moment for her?
SKELTON: Weird, actually. It was beautiful, but it was also a lot of pressure because they’d only made two of the skirts, and it’s such a delicate material. Even just walking down the steps and everything, if you snagged it, that would be quite catastrophic for the wardrobe department. And also, it was really, really muddy, but they couldn’t get dirty. Because we did so many takes of the wedding, just walking up and down that hill, all day, there was always somebody like, “Wait, let me just pin up the dress.” There was a lot of pressure, not to get it dirty. But it was great to put it on. The scene with Claire and Bree, where Bree just stands there and Claire is fussing around her, I feel like, for the mother of the bride, it’s almost as big a day for them as it is the bride. Bree is so easy, breezy, and a ‘70s modern woman that she’d happily just have run away and gotten married, just the two of them, anywhere. The whole wedding day was more of a spectacle for everyone. Everyone on the Ridge is very close, so it was just a nice way to bring the community together, in a nice event for everyone, to uplift their spirits. For Bree, she was aware that it was a little bit more of a show. It might not be the way that she would have done it in the ‘70s, and that shows through. In that scene with Claire, she was just letting Claire enjoy the preening, but Bree was actually quite nervous. She’s a very confident person, but standing up in front of all those people was a little bit daunting, so the nervous really shone through, in that scene. I felt a little bit like a mannequin because [the dress] was corseted, but it was nice. And then, you got to see them let the hair down a bit later.
How hard is it for Bree to balance moments of happiness while still dealing with trauma?
SKELTON: I really, really fought for it to shine through, with the wedding night scene, that Bree is still struggling. I didn’t want us to come into Season 5 and have it look as though everything’s tied up in a knot, because it’s not. That trauma is going to stay with you, for a very long time, coupled with the fact that Bree gave birth not that long ago. In that time, it wasn’t done gently. There wasn’t a nice stitching job. She’s been through a lot, and she’s probably still in a lot of pain, physically and emotionally. Roger is very supportive, but that’s still going to seep through. Especially on their wedding night, she didn’t want to mess it up for Roger, and she was so happy and wanted to be close to him, but sometimes your body just tells you that it’s not ready for it and something just takes over. I love that, at the end of the wedding night, we got to see Bree’s true emotions coming through. At the wedding, Brianna found out some awful information, and I love that, as the audience, you were inside her head and got to see her receive that information and how she truly feels about it, but then saw her have to switch on that facade that she’s so good at, and pretend like she’s fine and happy and talking to her mom, and everything’s great. Bree does hide her emotions very well, and I Like how the audience knows what she’s hiding, so that they can see how good of a facade she really does put on to keep strong for the family.
Outlander airs on Sunday nights on Starz.