Below are excerpts, videos, or photos from new interviews with Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, and Matthew B. Roberts about Outlander episode 402, “Do No Harm.” Be sure to click on the links to read the full interviews. Since these posts/interviews follow the latest episode, beware of spoilers and there may be a discussion about storylines in future episodes.
What was the most challenging moment to film in “Do No Harm”?
There were quite a few things that were very difficult. First of all, just being on that plantation setting and having our actors and our extras be in that position of playing slaves — it’s a horrible thing to even watch and be a part of as make believe, because unfortunately, it’s all too real in history. When Claire and Jamie give Rufus the tea, that was really tough. There was a lot of talk about those scenes, whether it should be this way or that way.
How do you steel yourself for those moments when you know the character has to stand there and witness Rufus’s fate? Or that Claire must hold it together while telling Rufus he’ll see his sister again?
Because the visuals of it are so horrific — it was definitely very visceral — feeling horrified and disgusted and emotional is actually a very natural response, so you use all of those things. And Jerome [Holder] was so incredible. When you have an actor come on to the show, and they bring such an incredible performance, and you get to be real partners in those scenes, that really helps get you through it.
Roberts also says they went “round and round” in the writers’ room about how long to keep Jamie and Claire at River Run, ultimately deciding they needed to make it a short but “very personal” visit so they could move the story along.
“The decision is, ‘Can we ever live here, could we ever make this place our home with this around us? With slavery around us?’” Roberts says. “And Claire sets the line right off the bat — I could never own another person. And Jamie is right on board with that.”
Since that was so clear and definitive, Roberts didn’t feel like they needed more time spent at River Run. Instead he wanted to move on to see them start creating their home in Fraser’s Ridge.
“We tried to play it three months, but that just didn’t work for us in the storytelling for television. So we decided let’s make it very personal for them, make it very clear and essentially get out of here,” he says.
“In this episode it’s the first time — or maybe not the first time but the first time in a long time — that you see Claire acting truly from a place of emotion,” she says. “We’ve seen a much more mature and rational Claire over the last two seasons, and when she’s faced with this horrific firsthand view of slavery, it just unsettles her to her core.”
While she essentially had no choice but to kill the slave herself, Claire is still going to be affected by her actions for a long time moving forward. “What happens with Rufus is just so awful to her that she doesn’t necessarily think of the consequences to her actions,” Balfe says. “She goes straight ahead and is trying to do the right thing, but in doing that has caused a greater disturbance and escalated the situation more than she intended to.”
Ever since Balfe read Drums of Autumn, she knew she would have to bring this particularly heavy and sensitive storyline to life. But preparing for it and filming it are two very different things.
“It’s never easy to film these scenes, and it’s never easy to take on these issues in a show like ours,” Balfe says. “But it’s important that we look at what America was in that time and face some of the realities of that time.”