Season four of Outlander, which premieres November 4, has a lot going on. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) are starting anew in colonial North Carolina—and with that change comes new characters, new dramas, and—of course—new places to have sex. “There’s always obviously some sort of drama, but it’s good for them to lay down their roots,” Sam Heughan told Glamour.com, adding, “They haven’t lost anything in their passion for each other, even though they seem to get very little time together.”
With so much to look forward to, Glamour.com asked Heughan to give us the (spoiler-free) tea while we were on set earlier this year. Turns out, he had a lot to say about Jamie’s sensitive side, the challenges Claire and Jamie will face this season, and the subtle ways he’s changed his character from Outlander author Diana Gabaldon’s source material. Read on for more.
This season centers a lot around Claire and Jamie finally building a home for themselves in North Carolina. But their daughter, Brianna, isn’t there. How is that loss for him?
SH: I really wanted this season to be a love letter to Brianna [from Jamie]. The only way he can get close to her is by almost forging this country into a good place, a safe place, so that when she grows up it’s a good place to be. That’s what he’s doing. He’s planting the seeds of America. He’s one of the first forefathers of America, and he’s doing it for her. That’s nice that he has that connection. When he first sees the pictures of her in season three, I know that some of the fans were disappointed [with his reaction]. They said that in the book Jamie sees this photo of her and breaks down immediately—but for me, playing it, that didn’t feel right. A photo is such an alien thing to Jamie.
Right. First, you have to figure out what a photograph even is…
SH: He’s surprised, and then seeing a picture of someone you don’t know…someone could say that’s your daughter, but you don’t know the image. He has an emotional connection to his daughter, but he doesn’t know her. For him, it’s more wonder and awe—and then maybe after comes disappointment and sadness. At the time, it felt like he wasn’t in that place.
Going off of that, how much pressure do you feel when the show deviates from the book?
SH: It’s interesting because there are key moments to every season [that fans look forward to]. Certainly, the print shop scene was one or the wedding in season one—big moments. It’s funny because sometimes the fans of the books seem to fixate on certain things [that I don’t anticipate]. I’m like, “God, I am so excited to see something!” But then the fans don’t respond as much as I thought they would. Everyone finds something in the books they love and are looking forward to, and that’s what’s great about them. Whether you are a fan of the books because of the historical side, or the time travel, or you’re into the characters, there really is something for everyone. And people have different things they respond to.
One thing that many fans love about Jamie is that he’s so emotionally intuitive. Yes, he’s very “manly,” but that emotional sensibility is there too. How do you tap into that?
SH: I think I said it before, that’s the fun stuff that I like. When I read the books now, the character is different slightly, I think, in the books from the way I play him. Not that one is right or one is wrong, it’s just funny how he is slowly becoming this…I guess my version of Jamie. He is very emotionally intelligent, and it’s interesting because each experience colors who he is and becomes for me, as an actor, an important piece of information that I can use and draw upon. There’s now this backstory that you can draw upon as an actor, and that’s amazing. That’s the joy of being in a show for this long; you don’t even have to imagine it anymore, you’ve already lived through it.
Even though Jamie is from a different time, he seems to be more progressive than other men of his generation. He’s clearly a feminist, for example, even though that wasn’t a word at the time.
SH: I mean, he is a man of his time—so that has made him and Claire clash at times—but he is forward thinking. They live in a period in which there is a lot of change. There really is. There’s obviously slavery happening [which Jamie and Claire oppose], but also modernization of warfare—they’ve gone from swords and shields to weapons to guns. Then there’s the possibility of going to a new country, a new world, and building a new life. It’s really a real changing time, and he’s a reflection of that. He’s had all of these influences going on around him. Even though they live in this small, little place in the middle of nowhere in Scotland, they still feel the effects of happenings around the world. They always seem to be thrust right in the center of it as well. But yeah, I think if Claire had met someone else, not Jamie, I think it would have been a completely different story.
Even Claire and Jamie’s sex scenes are interesting because it’s always consensual. They communicate what they want. How important do you think it is to show that?
SH: Yeah, they are two equals. Neither is on a pedestal. I mean, he always puts her first—but he listens to what she has to say. It’s interesting for that period. Women had less rights in that time, but he’s always seen her as his equal. I think that is probably what makes their relationship work. They communicate. She talks a lot. She talks an awful lot. [Laughs] But it’s a give and take. I think they learn from each other. It’s something to aspire to, isn’t it? It’s amazing how their love lasts. They haven’t lost anything in their passion for each other, even though they seem to get very little time together. There’s always something going on. That’s one of the great joys of this season: They finally get to be together, somewhere safe and theirs to call their own. In season three, they were on a boat with hundreds of other people and smelly sailors around; there was not a single moment’s privacy. Same in season two and one, there was very little time to be together. So, just for a moment, it’s great to see them be able to be in each other’s company.
Are there new challenges that present themselves now that they finally have some downtime?
SH: Yeah, of course. There’s always obviously some sort of drama, but it’s good for them to lay down their roots. They’re in this new world, and America is about to go into a new stage in its life. So the roots that they lay are important, and as I said before, they’re doing it for a reason. They’re doing it for Brianna and the rest of their family. I think this is almost kind of like laying down the foundations for a whole new season or series, you know what I mean?