Throwback Interview with Sam ~ On Sam, and Playing Jamie

Photo: Sam, at Saks 5th Avenue, Season 2 Premiere, April 7th, 2016, by Courtney Williams

I have the flu, and though I have two interviews in the editor, and several written pieces in the works, my drive to produce is diminished for the moment. While fishing around my site, making updates and adding tags, I found this old interview with Sam by Fiona Purdon, of Australia’s The Courier Mail. The title was: “Sam Heughan talks about his dorky teenage past, and how he’s handling new found fame.” 

It was so refreshing to read, as it dates back to a time when the show and the leads were less well known. Sam was less experienced, his interviews more candid, less guarded. The passage of time, getting more work, the exposure of social media, fame, and all that comes with it changes things, it’s inevitable.

Enjoy this look back, with some updates, additions and comments by yours truly…


Sam: “It’s funny, because you do still feel the same person as the kid with the big spectacles, hiding in the back of the class, not feeling cool at all.”

Heughan, who is as charming and engaging in this interview, as his character Jamie appears on the small screen, says that deep down he still struggles with self-confidence. 

Sam: “I don’t act to show off, or be noticed. I’m not really comfortable (in the spotlight), I like to hide behind a character. I dislike having to stand up in front of people, unless I am in character.” 

It’s been a fast learning track for Heughan, who’s had to handle the limelight when the first season of Outlander became a surprise hit.  He says he deeply appreciates the support of fans of the series…. In fact, Heughan says he is still pinching himself at the show’s success, and how the breakthrough role of Jamie followed a decade of toiling on lesser-known television shows and independent movies. 

Sam: I never predicted this, because you never know what a show or a part will do. Ever since I started in acting , I’ve been the eternal pessimist. I never think a show will go that long, or it won’t be that big. Maybe it’s a protection thing, because you are so used to not expecting much, so it’s great to be doing more seasons and for the show to be so well received and to have all those accolades. It’s always surprising it has touched so many people.”

~ Courtney’s notes: Season 2 was on the verge of being premiered at the time of this interview, released on April 3, 2016. In fact, Sam would head to New York City for a week of festivities, including a grand premiere screening and party, the costumes displayed at Saks 5th Avenue (cover photo), and Sam being the Grand Marshal of the Tartan Day Parade. The parade was on a rainy Saturday, April 9th (I was there, as were many of you), and Sam appeared as himself in front of thousands. It was at this event, which Barbour sponsored, that Sam met the founders of the company and that their relationship started. ~

Photo: Sam has a wee nip, with Howie Nicholsby of 21st Century Kilts, and others, on the Outlander themed City Sights bus that was their home base for the parade, NYC, April 9, 2016, by Courtney Williams. (This year’s NYC Tartan Day Parade will be April 6th, and lead by Grand Marshal, Sir Billy Connolly).

Sam: “Jamie is not himself in the first part of the (second) season, he has lost part of himself following the trauma (of sexual abuse), which he wants to forget about. To take his mind off it, he launches into this mission to change history. He has to learn to be deceitful. They are there to stop the battle from happening… and the resulting great losses of casualties and of Scottish culture, which was eradicated by the Brits, such as the banning of kilts and speaking of Gaelic.” 
Jamie doesn’t get to wear his kilt so much in Paris, especially when he is trying to impress the King of France, and he doesn’t feel so comfortable, so it’s a great relief to finally get back to Scotland.”

Heughan says he particularly enjoyed shooting the episodes involving Bonnie Prince Charles, the Stuart heir and leader of the Jacobite rebellion. 

Sam: “Bonnie Prince Charles has been romanticized throughout history, but really he was an ineffectual leader, who had no idea about the people and place of Scotland.” 

Heughan admits he had not heard of the Gabaldon books when he auditioned for the lead role in 2013, yet he immediately related to the character of Jamie.

Sam: “I got the book and read the scenes appropriate to the lines I had to learn. If I’m honest, I knew this character, I was close to him….
…For every part you find that sparkle and connection. Maybe it’s one of those parts that will change your career, but I knew him.
He’s a great character – very buoyant and witty. At times you tend to want to play him stern, but then he surprises you with his humour.”

~ Courtney’s notes: Many fans have complained about the absence of Jamie’s humor in Seasons 3 and 4, more on Claire and Jamie staying true to character, below.~

When Heughan was announced in the role of Jamie, not all Outlander fans were impressed, citing his natural blond hair and his height (6’3″), but Gabaldon tweeted in July, 2013,

Diana: “Oh. My. God. That man is a Scot to the bone, and Jamie Fraser to the heart.”

On the TV Wise website, Gabaldon added:

Diana: “Having seen Sam Heughan not just act, but be Jamie, I feel immensely grateful to the production team for their painstaking attention to the soul of the story and characters.”

Sam: “It was wonderful to have that support from the start from Diana. We chat occasionally, and also by email and twitter. She watches everyday rushes and dailies and comments on them. It’s great to have that, that she is definitely keeping a close eye and she has even written an episode on this season.”

Heughan says that whenever he is unsure how to play a scene, he always returns to the books – and has learnt to trust in his own judgement.  

Sam: “I had to read the books myself to make my own interpretation. There is a lot of detail in Diana’s books, so you can’t please everyone and that is the joy of the books. I’ve made my own version of Jamie, and hopefully, it has pleased a lot of people.”  

~ Courtney’s notes: Sam and Caitriona are clearly so invested their characters. It must be frustrating to portray Jamie and Claire when they feel the writing does not reflect their characters. Now that Sam and Cait have negotiated producer status on the show, it will be so fascinating to see how Claire and Jamie are portrayed in Seasons 5 and 6. Both seasons will be 12 episodes each, instead of 13 (Seasons 2-4), or 16 (Season 1). Ron commented at Thru The Stones fan convention in December that 8 episodes per season is the new trend in TV, so I guess we should be grateful. With 12 as the new number, maybe creative twists like bringing Frank back will fade into the background. ~

Heughan is glad he was cast early, as this gave him “time to sit with the character” while producers launched an international search for the actor to play Claire. He reveals that Australian actors were auditioned. 

Sam: “It was getting close to the wire, maybe two or three weeks before the first shoot, while we were in rehearsal, when they flew Caitriona to Los Angeles.
It felt comfortable straight away, we started chatting and we did some big emotional scenes together. We were in a scene where there is a big argument between the two of us and I grabbed her in a bear hug, which really annoyed her… we were almost tearing each other to pieces and I realised then we could pull this off. We are good friends, but there is also some feistiness and trust.” 

Sam: “It’s rare to have that chemistry, and people keep saying that. Certainly, it feels like we are getting closer, and more reliant on each other, and lines are getting blurred. You are bringing a lot of yourself to these parts and it’s great to have an ally and a good friend.”

So close have the two become that there has been continuing speculation over whether or not they are an item in real life. Still, the pair has denied these speculations and Heughan’s love life remains a mystery. 

~ Courtney’s notes: I love how honest Sam is here about his relationship with Caitriona. I’m sure there are confusing moments (or were), in playing this intense love story day in and day out, but as I have said before, humans have free will, and the ability to make choices, in spite of chemistry. For more on that, see this piece: Sam and Cait, Jamie and Claire, Choices, Fantasy, and Real Life. ~

A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Heughan says he is thrilled to have filmed so much of the first two seasons of Outlander in Scotland. He adds that the drama has even ignited interest in tracing his family history.

Sam: “Heughan means a small hill, and the Heughans were one of the smaller families who were part of the larger MacDonald clan. We got to film at Stirling Castle. I grew up in Scotland with all of these stories, such as the Skye Boat song and the Bonnie Prince Charlie. History is not that far away from you in Scotland.”

While Heughan had never dreamt of his current success he has certainly paid his dues with stints in British television shows such as Rebus (2007) and Doctors (2010) as well as several television movies, independent movies, and stage roles. (See below)

He was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer of 2002 for his performance in David Greig’s Outlying Islands.

Sam: “The whole experience has been amazing, but I suppose it shows that you have to have perseverance and to believe in yourself, seeing how far you can go, and testing yourself.”

~ Courtney’s notes: The year before, in 2015, the first version of Sam’s My Peak Challenge program was introduced. And as many of us know, Sam not only applies this theory to himself, but challenges others to do the same. MPC, now in its 5th year, has raised over 2 million dollars for various charities; heaven only knows how much more this recent date with Sam fundraising effort will add to that number!  ~

Sam: My career has been a strange and intriguing one with peaks and troughs. You are always looking where you’ve come from and wondering where you are going.” 

~ Courtney’s notes: There’s no doubt this talented, capable, not-yet-even-40-year-old man will go many many places, and do outstanding things. I look forward to continuing to watch Sam’s adventures unfold.

Source: The Courier Mail

Originally published on Apr 3, 2016 @ 22:49


18 comments on “Throwback Interview with Sam ~ On Sam, and Playing Jamie

  1. Courtney,
    Thanks so much for posting this. I wasn’t aware of Outlander in 2014 and only watched the entire show this past fall.
    It’s so interesting to read an interview by Sam Heughan around this time. It’s fascinating that he connected with the character of Jamie instantly. He really is Jamie onscreen, I never see Sam Heughan the actor. Though I know he’s inside the character and so appreciate his hard work in the gift of his portrayal of Jamie Fraser.
    It’s interesting that he says that everyone has talked about the chemistry. To me, that’s ineffable and simply can’t be planned for. They could have cast two people who seemed to have chemistry but who ultimately would not have been able to channel a soulmate connection. Heughan and Balfe–something inherent in the two of them (chemistry, definitely, but that something ineffable too)–created a passionate, absolutely believable timeless love. And that love is never static in their portrayal, which is also remarkable.

  2. Thank you, Courtney for re-posting this early time for Outlander and Sam Heughan. So much has changed and with all changes some good some not so good, it is refreshing and heartwarming to visit the unguarded Sam. I am one of the fans who have read the books numerous times and watch the TV series adaptation. At first I was very upset that the TV show was not representing ‘my version’ of what the series should be. In a fateful twitter back and forth with Terry Dresbach a few years ago, she nicely responded ‘every reader has feelings about these books as does the writers, the actors and its guaranteed to have differences. Just know we love the books and will do our best’. And, reading your blogs have helped me understand more about the process of books to TV adaptation. I appreciate the hard work that goes into making this show and am always stunned by the sets, scenery and the costumes. The actors do a wonderful job bringing the story to life. I am not a fan of giving Jamies lines from the books to Claire (or vice versa), the loss of humor (Drums of Autumn had laugh out loud moments in the book and almost none of it in the TV show) and I hope that Sam and Caitriona will bring back the lust and laughter that sustains these characters. I am very happy the TV show made Murtagh a bigger presence than in the books and didn’t kill him off at Culloden Moor. Thank you, Courtney for all you do to keep us informed, enlighten us and the always honest thoughts in your blogs. You are the best!

  3. Thanks for this look Courtney. And I truly believe we have not seen the best of Sam. He is like a sponge and always works so hard in challenging himself. I’m excited to see what his future holds. And I’m excited to see how Jamie and Claire are portrayed in Season 5. As Always I enjoyed your blog.

  4. I really enjoyed reading the article. Sam was so upfront and honest in his answers. It is hard to believe that he was shy and didn’t like being in the limelight out in the public eye. Poor fellow – he got to be both very quickly. He has such a sweet charm about him, and seems a very kind man. Unfortunately over the last years of being in Outlander, he has become very guarded – a pity in a way. I also get the feeling that he is a very private man. It must have been a shock to him that so many people (his fans), felt that they had to know everything about him. The most important thing to remember is that he is an amazing actor and a wonderful human.

  5. Oh, Courtney, this is such an excellent article about Sam, his humanity and depth, and why he’s become the quintessential hero of our time. It’s no wonder that his soaring success is due to that setpoint, his dogged determination in the hungry days, and the way he plays Jamie Fraser, the wonderful Highland warrior in Diana Gabaldon’s saga. In all my days I’ve never watched anything like it that pushed all my buttons. And he handles it so well with humility, appreciation, and great kindness toward his fans. I’m so glad that he, along with Caitriona, will have a say as producers in future episodes of Outlander S5 and S6.

    • Hi Rosemary: I loved your comment. Sam has a special charm about him – and I think it is his humility and that extra special quality of depth (as you mentioned). I am sure we will see amazing things now that he and Caitriona will have more influence on Outlander.

  6. Indeed, Rhona, and thanks for your comment. About Sam, right from the get-go he slid easily into the role of Jamie, which I’m sure is why the producers nabbed him for the lead at the very early onset of Outlander. And I’ll go one step further. From one “obsessenach” to another, I honestly believe that one day he’ll be adding ‘Director’ to his resume because he’s already proven that he knows what makes a plausible scene and what doesn’t. That said, I can hardly wait for what he and Caitriona will produce in Season 5!

    • Hi Rosemary: Both Sam’s and Catriona’s future look very bright. I can hardly wait to see what they have in store for us. Just a little question, I read that production of Season 5 might not be till this coming September, not sure if that was “fake news”, or a possibility. Either way, Outlander is amazing. The DVD/Blu-Ray, as well as the Collector’s Edition, of Season 4 is on the market this coming May – I’ll first in line to buy one. I am also looking forward to Diana’s Gabaldon’s next book, the 10th one of Outlander – “Go tell the Bees that I am gone”.

      • Hi again, Rhona. You know, rumors are flying all over the place. I just read somewhere on the Internet (can’t remember where, darn!) that they’ve just begun production on Season 5. Also, I’ve read various opinions as to when Season 5 would begin. One was that it wouldn’t be until early 2020 and that this may be the longest Droughtlander ever. Another was that we’d see Ep1 sometime in September. My guess is sooner than later, sometime in between. Maybe Courtney would know something about all that. I don’t have the DVD versions, but I do have every single episode recorded on my cable since Outlander began and watch them all the time. “Go Tell the Bees that I’m Gone” will make it book 10. I hope Starz will stick with it since we’re just into Series 5. Fingers crossed.

  7. I have read that Tara Bennett is in the process of doing another” The Making of Outlander”, the official guide to Seasons 3 & 4.; this would be the companion to “The Making of Outlander”, the official guide to Seasons 1 & 2 (which I have). Does anybody know when the official guide to Seasons 3 & 4, will be published and on the book shelves for sale?

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