On Sunday night’s newest episode of Starz historical drama Outlander‘s, “The Ballad of Roger Mac,” the Regulator Rebellion reaches an unavoidable boiling point. Brianna (Sophie Skelton) remembers certain details pertaining to the upcoming battle, and it puts her husband, Roger (Richard Rankin), into a situation of grave danger as he crosses behind enemy lines.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Skelton previewed how this episode marks a real turning point in Season 5, revealing why “hearts are gonna be broken,” the careful consideration Brianna has when it comes to knowing the history of what’s about to happen, what she enjoys about the quiet family moments, and how different the Outlander character feels now compared to who she was when she first appeared on the show.
Collider: This episode seems like a real turning point episode, with a lot of stuff happening in it. What would you say to tease this episode?
SOPHIE SKELTON: I would say this episode is when we really start to see the season take off, story-wise. We have some characters that we’ve loved since the first season, and that storyline really now is something that we are concentrating on; hearts are gonna be broken. It’s a wonderful episode in terms of who your most important loyalties are with. It brings up that whole question of, “If you have the knowledge from the future and you can prevent something awful happening to the world or the people that you love, can you or should you do it, and what is gonna be the effect of that?” We really see a culmination of that and who history takes down with it.
That seems to really be something that Brianna thinks about. She gets what’s going on because she knows the history, but at the same time, she seems very hesitant to drastically change it.
SKELTON: Yeah. Bree’s not a rash character. She has a good measure of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and of Claire (Caitriona Balfe). Claire seems to act on her gut a lot, which Brianna definitely does. But Bree also has that calculation that Jamie — who always stops and considers — does, a little bit more. It’s an interesting one for Bree because she has this knowledge and she tells them, but she’s not unaware of the fact you do need to take into consideration the effects and ramifications it could have. If they change things today to change things for the people that they love, in that moment, what will happen to the people they love in the future or America, and the effects of that. I think it plays back to when Brianna was talking to Claire about the penicillin and talked about playing God. Bree’s not trying to be preachy. She is just aware of the fact it could cause more problems, down the line. She just wants to make sure they do all talk it through, in this little amount of time that they have. There’s not really a correct answer.
Brianna starts this episode off with a quiet moment with Roger and their son, which of course, never lasts on this show, but it’s nice to have. What do you most enjoy about having those family moments, where they’re just hanging out and Roger is singing again?
SKELTON: For Bree, it’s just the few moments of peace she can grab. When Brianna is left alone with her thoughts, or even sometimes just with Jemmy, her demons really start to seep back in and her PTSD really does come out to play, if you like. When Roger is playing his guitar and the family is together, she’s reminded of how worth it it is being back in the 18th century, [with] the three of them together and she has Jemmy. No matter whose father Jemmy is, she believes Roger, for all intents and purposes, is Jemmy’s dad. Brianna had a dad, which was Frank (Tobias Menzies) who wasn’t her blood father, but she loved him, all the same, and he raised her wonderfully. So, for Bree, as far as she’s concerned, that is the family. In those moments, she can find peace in that century and contentment, for a few minutes. Roger’s music is one thing that really pulls them back to the future and just gives them a little bit of home comfort, in a time they really don’t belong in and in a time they are potentially quite uncomfortable in. I really think that his music silences the demons in her head and it really is just a few moments of peace for Bree. But obviously, in that first scene, there is that undercurrent of the bubbling knowledge that Roger is gonna be heading off to war. As you can see, Roger is not the most eloquent. Obviously, Brianna is very concerned about that, but she is, as ever, trying to put on a brave face for everybody else. She’s trying to give Roger the confidence that he needs, that it’s all gonna be okay. And then, you see, as he leaves the Ridge, that’s not actually her true feelings. She is exceedingly worried.
When you have those quiet moments where there isn’t some kind of impending doom, do you ever personally wish that the show didn’t have so much trauma and hardship for these characters. Or, does it feel unavoidable, considering the content of Diana Gabaldon’s books and the way the time period was?
SKELTON: Yeah. The books are incredible, and it is nice when we do stick to Diana’s story because it’s such a web. There are so many little intricate things that come into play later. It’s so well though out that if you skip out on one thing then it has an effect. The story is just so brilliant and so vast. Sometimes people do say that the show has too much rape, or whatever else, but in that century, these things did happen. People did have flaws, and they fought over land with guns, and rape, unfortunately, was quite a common and un-talked about thing. But as an actress, sometimes it is really nice to just have those moments where you can just be quite calm and not have to put yourself in a tremendously torturous, emotional place. You can just enjoy the music, and enjoy the view of Jemmy and Roger before you, and hang out by the fireplace.
When you think back to your first day on set as Brianna, and even just doing the first episode that you did, how different does that Brianna feel to who she’s become now?
SKELTON: Very different. It’s funny because a lot of my audition scenes were from Season 4, and for me, Season 4 Brianna is the Bree that I always wanted to play. She’s the Brianna that I fell in love with. I read the books before I did the audition, and the woman that she becomes is the person that I was really excited to show people. Brianna is very Fraser-esque and very Jamie-esque. She’s very guarded and stoic, and she doesn’t really let people in. When we see her, at the end of Season 2, she’s young and she’s just lost her father. As an 18-year-old girl, to have lost your dad at 16, you’re gonna play out a little bit and it’s gonna still hurt. She was very estranged from her mom; she didn’t really know her mom. I think Bree has just always felt very alone in the world, and then she found out from her mother that her dad is from a different time period. In the book, Brianna and Roger think that Claire needs to be committed and that she’s crazy. So, Bree doesn’t always act in the most elegant way, shall we say. She loses her temper, a fair bit, and she is very Jamie-esque. I think a man in a kilt in the Highlands, losing his temper, has a very different image to an 18-year-old girl losing her temper. That’s why Brianna was called a bratty character, by a lot of people. I just think she was going through a lot. She lost her father and she’d never really knows her mother particularly well, and it just made her act out.
So, I’m excited about the fact that we’ve started to peel back a lot of the layers of Bree and get to know her better and better. Now that we do, Brianna shows the people around her, her emotions a lot more. Even in Season 4, she was hiding a lot of what she was going through. She was putting on a brave face and didn’t tell anyone about the rape, until Claire found the ring. But now, she’s so close to her mother and she’s so close to Jamie, and she has Roger there and Jemmy. She really can just relax and be herself, and be content with her family around her. It’s a family that she never had. I love who Bree is now. It’s been a really fun arc to play, from the 16-year-old Bree to who she is now. Even when we see Bree in the flashbacks in Season 4, at 16, she was a very happy girl when Frank was around. But then, if you go back to Season 2, she was going through a very difficult time. We’ve seen her grow and grow and grow, from a teenager into a woman, which has been a really fun thing to play. She has changed a lot.
“The Ballad of Roger Mac” will air on Sunday, March 29 at 8/7c. Outlander airs on Sunday nights on Starz.