OutlanderBTS Deeper Dive: The Old Fox – Clive Russell

Today’s favorite photo comes from ScotCon, 2016, the first ever Outlander fan convention in Scotland. Though it had some organizational issues, that convention still remains one of my favorites, as it was all heart. To my knowledge, this is the only convention that Clive Russell, who played Lord Lovat in Season 2, has attended.

During the panel, the cast (Graham, Steven, Stephen, Grant, and Clive) were asked about their dream date (or something similar), and Clive responded that he is fine with most anything as long as he is in bed no later than 10:00PM!! I thought that was pretty funny.

I had the pleasure of dining with Clive briefly at the convention, along with my other table mates. He was very personable, charming, quite handsome, and though I don’t usually, I’ll go there this time:  he’s downright sexy (as hell), tall (6’6″), large framed, and he even has all his teeth! ? 

Photo credit: Liz Mercado 

My friend Jenny, (who is a very small woman, admittedly), compared hands with Clive, just to give a bit of perspective…  

(A shout out to Samantha Kraupner, who is sitting next to Clive in this photo, Happy Birthday Sam!!)

The character of Simon Fraser, the Old Fox, Lord Lovat was not changed much for the books, or the show, although if this painting bears any likeness to the real historical figure, Clive Russell is a distinct upgrade!  This guy looks like the stuff of fairytale villains ?. This painting, by William Hogarth, was done shortly before Lovat’s death.

Simon Fraser, 11th Baron Lovat by William Hogarth

A fascinating character, Simon was executed for high treason on April 9, 1747, almost a year to the date after the battle of Culloden (April 16, 1746). He was held in the Tower of London and tried at Westminster Hall. On the final day of his trial, he was sentenced to a traitor’s death by hanging, drawing, and quartering, which was later commuted by the King to beheading. It is said that he remained calm and even exhibited a sense of humor in the days before his execution. On the day of, many spectators gathered, and an overcrowded timber stand collapsed, killing some number of people (one source said 9, and another 20). Apparently Lovat was laughing about the spectacle as the executioners axe fell. So ended the life of Simon Fraser and the phrase ‘laughing your head off’ was born. (Thanks to Suzanne for tipping me off to that last tidbit)

Source: Culloden Battlefield

Source: Wikipedia

Diana had this to say about writing the character of Lord Lovat for the Outlander series:

“…Most of the historical people are treated as historical people; i.e., I haven’t messed around with the facts of their lives or personalities—with one minor exception.  Simon, Lord Lovat, aka “The Old Fox” was certainly a real person, and a very colorful one, too.   I made no alterations to his life or persona, save for grafting an illegitimate and totally fictional branch onto his family tree by making him Jamie Fraser’s grandfather.  Given Old Simon’s persona as recorded, attributing an illegitimate son to him would in no way be character assassination.”

Source: Dianagabaldon.com

Here are some excerpts from a couple of interviews with Clive about playing Fraser of Lovat…

Lord Lovat seems to be naturally duplicitous. He’s playing both sides here. Was that fun for you?
It’s glorious fun to play! I think there’s an expression, The devil always has the best tunes. It’s probably a reflection of the realpolitik of being in a country like Scotland. His whole psyche, if you like, is based upon growing up with, and being close to, and having to deal with, and make deals with, possibly the most powerful imperial nation up until that point in history, along with Russia and France and Germany. As a small country next to that, that would affect every individual. And a man as powerful as he was, within the Scottish clan system and Scottish politics, would have to be very careful about where he placed himself. And also finding out at that time what was going on 100 miles from your house must have been pretty difficult. There was no social media. No media at all! You had to be very careful with how you placed yourself, so he plays both sides beautifully. There’s an element of that in how he treated everyone, really, and nobody could be terribly clear about which way he was going to jump.

Even with Jamie …
The way he dealt with his grandson was just appalling! Obviously he enjoyed doing it, enjoyed undermining him, and enjoyed being completely and utterly offensive about his wife. I don’t think he’s a man who acknowledges when he’s being helped, particularly by women. I think, crudely, he’d like to fuck her. That’s it, really. He doesn’t enjoy the dance, as it were, as modern men do — the long dance, until something maybe or maybe not happens. He’s used to taking women and raping them. He’s a horrible character, really, certainly by modern standards. But it was a different time. And if you were of a lower class, you would just expect to be sexually harassed and used by certain men in certain hierarchies.

IGN: Was there any intent in your performance to bring some likability to him, or did you just want to play him straight?

Russell: Without going into the philosophy of acting, my presence — despite being a very big man — would be a benign presence. In repose, that kind of comes through in whatever part I’m playing. The thing I have to address is unlikeability, his capacity to be single-minded and ruthless and, in a modern sense, completely appalling to people who are beneath him in society and to women in particular. All of that. Whether or not I’m right in thinking my cuddliness, to some extent, came through, I think it’s something I have to address and play. It’s much more difficult for me to be an a–hole, to be nasty. That’s what I had to address.

IGN: Outlander has been praised for its portrayal of women and gender politics, so I’m curious what conversations — if any — you had with Caitriona Balfe and Ron Moore and the writer and director to bring that element of this chauvinistic man to life?

Russell: I’m not sure that there were a fantastic amount of conversations. There were notes, perceptive notes, at certain times. But actually, it’s well-written, and not easy to play, but you don’t find yourself saying “this doesn’t quite work here.” It’s playing what’s going on. It’s very clear what your task is, what you’re required to do in terms of the arc of the story. I don’t know if I got that right or not, but it certainly felt that in the scene by the fireplace, which ended with me being unnerved by the prospect of her being a witch, and the scene where she displayed her witch-like qualities were fantastically good fun to play from the point-of-view of a man who absolutely believes in the notion of witchcraft — really, really believes in it, and is absolutely intrigued and terrified by it.

Clive Russell as Simon Fraser. Photo: Ed Miller / Starz/© 2016 Sony Pictures Television inc. 

IGN: I know it’s part of the acting process, but I’m always impressed when someone can come in for one episode and establish a long history and rapport with someone else that feels real and lived in. Is there anything specific that you and Sam Heughan did to try to build that Lord Lovat/Jamie relationship?

Russell: If I’m working with a younger actor, there’s a kind of older man/younger man, dad/son thing that goes on. In this case, grandfather/grandson thing, which is in play anyway, and that’s really what you rely on. In that particular situation, I think it worked out really well. That scene, the confrontation, was a very complicated scene and ostensibly quite difficult. It actually played very easily. We got on very well, very easily together. There was no stumbling going on. It was done later in the afternoon, I think it was the last scene in the afternoon, and it was just sublime to play it. Really, really good. We’d previously seen him handle the public scene with everybody around the table, which I thought as an actor he handled extraordinarily well. He’s really on top of it. I had a lot of respect for him. We actually worked very briefly together before about 10 years ago, when he was really quite young, in a documentary about Billy the Kid.

IGN: Did you remember one another when it came time to work on this?

Russell: He remembered it. As soon as he reminded me, I thought, God, of course. He was a very young actor at that time, and now he’s a major star of this huge series.

Here is a clip of that show featuring Clive and Sam…


IGN: Were you familiar at all with Outlander beforehand? It’s sort of a similar fan base to Game of Thrones.

Russell: No, I wasn’t aware of it. Not in that way at all, although obviously it’s a big thing in Scotland because it’s done in Scotland and there are Scottish actors who have been involved and I know people who have been involved. It’s an extremely well-run series. Certainly when I was around it seemed to work like clockwork. … I was tremendously impressed with it. Really calm, measured, the producers were really supportive and constantly talking. It was quite fun to do.

IGN: So will we see Simon Fraser again? Would you like to see some more of what we hear about happen in the books on screen?

Russell:  Oh, I would be delighted to do it. …playing a malevolent character is really great fun, particularly for somebody who, by and large, has a benevolent image when I’m playing most stuff, I’d say. I think probably that’s as much of that story as they’re going to take, but obviously they may decide that it has more mileage and they can do what takes place offscreen onscreen in the series. That would be lovely to do that. I would be delighted, but who knows.


Source: Outlander Wiki

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Vulture Mag

9 comments on “OutlanderBTS Deeper Dive: The Old Fox – Clive Russell

  1. This was such a great read. I love the actor and enjoyed his scenes in the series so much. Thank you for bringing him and his work into focus for us. It was also neat to hear how ‘the team’ work along with the actors. Thank you again.

  2. He is listed in my Ancestry and I remember in reading about his beheading, and the ironic part about the people falling to their deaths because the platform gave way, the term “he laughed his head off” was coined.

  3. Thanks Courtney. Great post. You’re so lucky to have met him in person. He was great as Lord Lovat.

  4. Amazing! A brilliant interview. “The Old Fox” was quite a personality – a ruler of his own world. I have never seen Clive Russell in a previous role – but he was superb as Lord Lovat – Thank you for sharing the interview above. Ever since I have watched “Outlander” – I am in awe of the amazing talent in this production.

  5. Love your posts this one especially. Thank you for this one. Love Clive Rosser
    Saw a clip of that Billy the Kid story.

  6. Clive Russel was so fantastic as Lord Lovat! And the two Frasers standing there – taking each others measure – represented by Clive Rissell and Sam Heughan was a great spectacle. I enjoyed that part. Tremendously. Those responsible for the choice of the actors are doing a good job! Really. Thank you all. And thanks to Courtney for the lines hereabove too.

  7. what I love in OL, besides all the rest , are the actors !! congratulations to those who made the cast !! all great actors and Lord Lovatt is played by a great and charming actor. I really enjoyed reading this interview !! really a special person who gave a lot of strength to the character of LL

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