During the Outlander panel at the TCA press tour today in Pasadena, the cast (Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Sophie Skelton, and Richard Rankin) and EP Maril Davis answered questions about the upcoming fifth season, which sees Claire, Jamie, Brianna, and Roger navigating life in the 1760s and the beginning of the American Revolution. “I think every day we’re grateful we’re living in these [modern] times,” Caitriona Balfe said regarding the costumes and the muck and the medicine. To the latter point, though, this season “Claire is able to invest time again in her role as a surgeon and expand as a healer in this community.” And she feels like she can really help the community if she can bring in 20th century knowledge. But, “it’s a risky endeavor for Claire” to reveal that to others. “It brings up how much can you change and how much should you,” Sophie Skelton added. As Sam Heughan said later in the panel, “You would think after 5 seasons we would get it: you can’t change history!”
But at the start of Season 5, the characters—as mentioned by Murtagh Fitzgibbons (Duncan Lacroix)—all seem to have what they want. “For [Jamie], on the surface, things looks pretty good,” Heughan said, but noted that of course these characters are always fighting against history. “They’re always fighting to protect the ones they love and that’s always their main goal.” For Claire, Balfe said “it feels like her life is really full, and she also has her surgery,” along with her daughter and her extended found-family around her. “So she gets to fulfill that professional side of herself as well as the maternal and the lover/wife, and it feels like all sides of her are attended to this season.” She went on to say that the new season will also see more of Claire and Jamie working together as a couple, “supporting each other, conversing as a couple, [being] emotionally supportive.” Between Claire’s surgery and Jamie’s involvement in local politics, “they have very different lives apart from one another,” Heughan said. But he also commented that they always “touch base and need and yearn for one another and reconnect […] it’s in those moments that we see the domestic, their home life, that’s really touching.”
Speaking of politics, Season 5 will also see Jamie in a red coat uniform, something that Heughan fought to include. It’s something that historically might not have happened, but since Jamie is a general he’s commanded to wear a red coat as part of the English government’s power play to test him. “I thought it was a strong visual, but also something that would go against everything that Jamie has fought for and what he stands for,” Heughan said. “His relationship with the British and what that uniform represents has been pretty bad at best, from the beginning of the season to his father’s death and Black Jack Randall … the Red Coats really suppressed the Scots, so for him to have to wear a red coat is a storyline that’s not really in the book, but the writers did a good job of really digging into that storyline.” Though it’s for the greater good, “to see Jamie Fraser in a red coat was, for me, full circle and kinda frightening.”
Part of that storyline that isn’t in the book series is Murtagh’s survival and continued role in the show (which is a wonderful thing!) As far as what that relationship might look like now that he and Jamie are on opposing sides of the upcoming war, though: “Well the short answer is you’ll have to watch,” Heughan said. “[It’s] definitely my favorite storyline for myself and my character to play.” We’ll see flashbacks to young Jamie and to his relationship with Murtagh at that time, so “for him to break that bond and put Murtagh at a distance to protect Fraser’s Ridge is very hard for him to do.”
On the lighter side, Heughan joked that he put the actor who portrays young Jamie through a “rigorous bootcamp” that included wearing a ginger wig and drinking whiskey (he was kidding, of course. Right?)
Also, Richard Rankin joked about the pop songs that Roger plays in the series, and how difficult some of them were to sing (particularly, this season, the high notes in “Joy to the World” a.k.a. “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog”). “My album will be out August 12, 2020” he kidded. But he also talked about the songs are a bond between him and Brianna since it’s from their time—a place he always expected them to go back to, which may put a strain on the relationship with his new bride. For Brianna, Sophie mentioned how they have to monitor themselves all of the time to make sure they don’t slip up when they are around people from the other time, as a way to protect themselves.
There were also a few behind-the-scenes anecdotes shared about the difficulty of filming Scotland as North Carolina in terms of not being able to easily change locations if anything falls through (since they aren’t filming castles but small colonial towns). Also, Sophie Skelton shared about the cast’s newest co-star (or, many co-stars): adorable cats. “Caitriona and I love to try and sneak the cat into the scene, and it’s a continuity nightmare because it doesn’t stay in the same place,” she laughed. Balfe added that when the scene ends people have to run around to try and find where the cat went (“there’s no training a cat!”)
As for the future of Outlander, EP Maril Davis confirmed that as long as Starz and the actors are on board, there are certainly plenty more stories to tell forever in the Outlander universe with Claire and Jamie. May it be so!
Season 5 premieres Sunday, February 16th on Starz. For more of our Starz panel coverage—including the possibility of Outlander spinoffs—go here.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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