This week’s round-up includes interviews with Diana Gabaldon, Duncan Lacroix, Caitriona Balfe, and more. As always, beware of spoilers below for episode 211, “Vengeance is Mine” and upcoming episodes.
Update (6/23/2016): New interview and video from Variety, a second Vulture interview, TV Line, and one from Yahoo! added. -Sarah
Access Hollywood: ‘Outlander’ Season 2: Duncan Lacroix Talks ‘Vengeance Is Mine’ Episode
AccessHollywood.com: Let’s talk about the episode where [Murtagh gets] to kill the Duke of Sandringham and [he] chopped his head off and laid vengeance at the feet of Claire and Mary and Jamie and how fun that moment was for you [as an actor]. Were you excited that he got to do that?
Duncan Lacroix: It was a big thing. I was looking forward to it. It was just, the fact that I’m, you know, chopping Simon Callow’s head off more than anything at the end of the day because he’s one of these actors [I’ve] always greatly admired. But yeah, I just really got in the zone for that — that particular piece. I didn’t talk to anyone. I get the impression that poor Simon walked away from the set thinking I’m actually a psychopath, because… I had lots of N.W.A. hip-hop blaring away in my headphones, wouldn’t talk to anyone and then, just went in there and steamed into it. … I think it’s been cut out, but we did have a bit of Gaelic. Murtagh says a stream of Gaelic to Sandringham before he kills him, which was just kind of a nice launchpad for me as well.
Access: Oh, because you get to swear at him or something in Gaelic?
Duncan: It was kind of a, ‘My name is Murtagh.’ It was my lineage and ‘now here I am to kill you,’ and it was all in Gaelic, and ’cause it’s such a guttural language, it really kind of like emphasized the scene for me, but it was just a nice launching pad to what you get to see in the episode, I think.
The Hollywood Reporter:’Outlander’ Team Breaks Down That Violent Act of Revenge and “Powerful” Scene Viewers Didn’t See
“It was time to put an end to this,” showrunner Ron Moore tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh. “Enough with this guy who keeps everybody dancing, where you never can tell which way he’s going to go. Eventually, you’re going to run into Murtagh and he’s going to cut your head off.”
Balfe loved how intense and powerful that finale scene was in the kitchen.
“It was really fantastic filming that,” Balfe says. “I honestly loved working with Simon Callow. He’s such a great person to have around set. But what I loved in particular, I loved how Mary got her justice, finally. And it was by her own hand. That was a wonderful part of that scene. She truly deserved to get that peace of mind.”
Balfe couldn’t believe how real the prosthetic head was that the prop department created. “The effects were just so authentic,” she says with a laugh. “And to see Duncan really go at it was hilarious.”
Vulture: Diana Gabaldon on Why Outlander Isn’t Really a Romance and Writing Her First Episode
Tell me about joining the writers room this season. What was it like shifting from being a consultant on the series giving notes, to someone receiving them?
They had already done most of the script breaking, as they call it. They actually take the book apart, all of its components — scenes, sub-scenes, quarter-scenes, etc. — and they strip all the dialogue out, and put it on a separate table so they can pick lines and pieces that make sense. So most of the content was already decided, but not the details, or how it would flow, or what it would be shaped like. So I got to participate in that process. And then you have the freedom to invent other things, little transitions to hold the pieces together, to move from point A to point B.
I have never seen a script that hasn’t gone through at least eight different iterations before they even begin filming, and frequently what is filmed is not what’s in the script, because things change on the ground. An actor can’t say a particular line. An actor will have a brainstorm and ad lib something utterly brilliant. That’s why writers are the low man on the totem pole of the production, because when push comes to shove, the script is the only thing that can flex easily. Other things are set in stone: the location, the schedule, the hours of daylight, the actors you can or can’t have.
What sort of logistics affected your episode?
One day, we were doing the scene where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s men have made it to Derby, England, and that’s where they make the fateful decision to turn back. Jamie is arguing to go and attack London, because it would be a change, something that hadn’t happened in Claire’s history, where maybe they could succeed in changing the past. The Jacobites, there were 5,000 of them, and 30,000 of the British army, so it should have been very obvious to everybody, though it wasn’t, that they were never going to win. But they came very, very close to attacking London, and who knows what would have happened if that had occurred? King George II was so terrified by the Highlanders that he was, in fact, all packed up and prepared to flee to Germany. His soldiers were all going to decamp at once, if the Highland army marched into London.
So anyway, Sam Heughan brought me his bit of script for that day, and he said, “Look, this speech here, I have to move from one end of this table to another while I give this speech, and it’s too long. I’ll still be talking by the time I get to the other end. Could we take out the first two sentences?” And I said, “No, you need the first two sentences, but we can take out this sentence here, and I’ll rewrite the last sentence so it’s much shorter. How about this?” And that worked.
Wall Street Journal: ‘Outlander’ Actor Duncan Lacroix on Murtagh’s ‘Head’-y Moment
This most recent episode, “Vengeance Is Mine,” was penned by Diana Gabaldon. Was that intimidating – or was it like getting the new Harry Potter book?
Not really intimidating, because we all got to know Diana in season 1 – she popped by the studio a couple of times. So when we got the script it was just incredible – great script. It was just business as usual, really. And it was great to have her there on set as well.
You and Caitriona Balfe have been able to share some really poignant scenes together. Last year, there was the one where Murtagh tells Claire about his history with Jamie’s mom. This season, he learns her secret – she’s from the future. What do you enjoy the most about those kinds of scenes?
The solo scenes I either have with Cait or Sam tend to be my favorite scenes. It’s one of those natural-chemistry things, I think. It feels like family at this point, so those things are very easy. And they have a nice, gentle pace to it. Also, I like the fact that it’s almost counter-intuitive sometimes, Murtagh’s reactions to Claire. You expect the gruff, “What the hell is going on?” [reaction]. But he’s very, very sympathetic to Claire. And I love that side about him. Once he accepts something, he accepts it.
Variety: ‘Outlander’ Recap: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan on the Bloody Reveals of ‘Vengeance is Mine’
“It’s so funny, because each writer has such a distinctive voice when they write — even if they took away the title page, you’d be able to hear ‘that’s an Ira script, that’s a Matt script,’” Balfe says. “And with this, it just felt like reading the source material again; it was so distinctively Diana that it was such a beautiful read and had such great action and pace to it. Claire’s so feisty; it’s the very distinctive Claire from the book, and it was really exciting to be able to do.”
“It was very funny because poor Mary, every time she would come into the room, Simon would just turn round and be like ‘Just go to bed!’ and it became the catchphrase for the rest of the season among all the actors,” Balfe recalls with a laugh. “We’d just say ‘oh, just go to bed!’ And the prosthetic head, it was so wonderful and lifelike and I have a wonderful photo I can’t wait to tweet out once this episode has aired, of Simon holding it by its face.”
Vulture: How Outlander’s Revenge Scene Came Together
When Outlander decided to make a major change from the books by having Mary Hawkins kill her assailant, they did so with the blessing of author Diana Gabaldon, who wrote the episode and helped choreograph the pivotal fight scene.
“Rape is a pretty serious thing we deal with in the show, and we wanted to treat it right,” showrunner Ron D. Moore said. “We use it as a plot device, but if you use it as a tool, then treat it correctly. Try not to cheapen it. Give it its value.”
“We tried to show that Claire is Mary’s mentor, and her confidence and empowerment have rubbed off,” co-executive producer Maril Davis added. “Mary comes back and gets hers, in a way that’s not making her too modern and still keeps with her character.”
From there, the actors rehearsed the scene the night before filming in the next location, the kitchen of the Callendar House, where they had decided Claire would break free of Danton’s knife at her throat, slam his arm on the table, and take the knife, while Mary would stab Danton. But “this left Jamie and Murtagh at rather loose ends, and the Duke floating around at the wrong end of the room,” Gabaldon said. The author offered another suggestion to help with the fight choreography — the men could act as protectors. “Any male primate, from gorillas on down, will grab the nearest female, put her behind him, and charge the threat,” she said. Actor Sam Heughan came to the same conclusion, even though he hadn’t heard her comment to the director. At the next run-through, he stopped what he was doing and said, “No, no. I wouldn’t do that [as Jamie]. I’d shove Claire behind me and go for Danton.” With the writer and actor in agreement, the director assented.
Yahoo!: ‘Outlander’ Postmortem: Graham McTavish on Dougal and Jamie’s Changing Dynamic
I think it helped to remind people that he is not so easily dismissed as a bad guy.
I know there are people who see him as a villain and I can’t see him that way. Really Dougal is very human. He is neither perfect’ nor a monster. He is well-intentioned and has a strong moral compass, but there are flaws in his personality that trip him up like his vanity, his ego. He can’t help but try to manipulate people for his own gain. Those are flaws in his character but they don’t define him. That complexity is what makes any character interesting to play and hopefully to watch. They are not just a villain or a hero. They are shades of perfect and imperfect… Even Claire, our heroine, has blood on her hands. The dilemmas that all of these characters face are complicated and tragic and push them to the edge. It is a gray area. There is more of that to come. They might find themselves on different sides of an issue or a plan before the season is through.
The last several episodes have also been much more physical with the fighting, horseback riding, Highland charging, wrestling in the mud. Has that been a part of this series that you have enjoyed?
Love that. Me and Sam, Duncan, Grant, and Stephen were just dying to get into that stuff. It was fun. What’s not to enjoy? You are dressed up in great outfits and allowed to run around wild and just be kids. I remember talking to the director when we were doing the battle at Prestonpans and he asked, “How do you not hurt each other?” I said, “It is exactly the same as when you were a child. You had your stick and your friend had his stick and you’d attack each other but you wouldn’t hurt each other. It was just play.” That’s exactly what we were doing. It was cold a couple of times. They made the Highland charge the last thing they shot on a very cold day. We had to strip half naked on the top of the hill and run down over and over again. They had a camera on a quad bike and we had to chase the bike. The first time we did it the guy driving was a little overenthusiastic with his speed. We were really sprinting to try and keep up with it so it took some time to get it right.
TV Line: Outlander Stars — Beheader and Beheaded! — Talk [Spoiler]’s Swift End
TVLINE | Murtagh keeps things close to the vest. We haven’t heard him mention avenging Claire and Mary’s attack in the last few episodes. Have you played it like it was weighing on him?
LACROIX | Yeah. I knew it was coming quite a ways off, from the books, that that was going to happen. Definitely after Mary gets raped in the alley, that’s something that settles very deep within him. As a matter of honor. If there’s one thing he can do, it’s look after the people around him. And when he fails at that task, that gnaws away at him. So when he finally does twig in that kitchen, that it was Sandringham behind everything, all those months of frustration [come to the fore].
TVLINE | How much of the Sandringham we saw was in the script, and how much was your read on him?
CALLOW | It was all pretty well in the script. There was no call for any great leap of imagination, because it was so well written and so adroitly conceived. I really just had to convince the audience that my character was someone who was playing a game of chess, at which he was many, many moves ahead all the time… Every lies that he tells, he tells with perfect conviction. The only thing that was the real central thing, and I did try to play it quite strongly — it’s there in the book, too — he’s got the hots for Jamie, in common with most of the rest of the population. But he’s pretty frank about it, very candid about it, moreso in the first [season] than in the second [season], where there were a lot of comments by the Highlanders about his perverse lust. But what’s interesting is that Jamie doesn’t seem to terribly mind. Which is surprising. You’d expect such a great hunk to be a bit offended by it, but not at all. He seems to rather like flirting with the duke. It was lovely doing those scenes with Sam [Heughan]. He was very playful.
TVLINE | There’s a moment in your final episode where Jamie busts into the kitchen, and the duke immediately reaches for his wig and pops it on his head, as if he can’t stand Jamie to see him looking so casual.
CALLOW | Yes! [Laughs]
TVLINE | Was that in the script?
CALLOW | No, no. I’m proud to say that was my contribution. I really wanted you to see him without his wig. I was rather keen to be decapitated with my wig on, but it had to be that I was decapitated without. Because they couldn’t hold it up otherwise. My head would’ve fallen out, which would have been amusing, but perhaps not in the right way.