Below are excerpts from new interviews and videos with Maril Davis, Sophie Skelton, Yan Tual, Toni Graphia, and Richard Rankin about Outlander episode 412, “Providence.” 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.
Their discourse provides Bree with the peace of mind she needs before becoming a mother, but the scene could’ve turned out very different. “There was one [take] where I fully broke down and it was really weird. It was like I was this vessel for a victim I’d watched an interview of, and it poured out of me, and I was crying uncontrollably,” Skelton reveals.”When the take ended, [everyone] was like, ‘Are you okay?’ And I couldn’t stop crying. It was a bit mad.”
Skelton told BAZAAR back in December that she did extensive research to prepare for the scene in which Bree is raped and its aftermath: “I watched a lot of interviews of women who’d been raped. I watched a lot of court cases where they confronted their rapist,” she said. “I read a lot of interviews, and one that really stuck with me was this girl who said she felt like she wanted to peel her skin off her body, that she didn’t belong in her own skin anymore and she wanted out. That’s something I always kept in my head when playing Bree.”
“Yeah, I take the character with me everywhere I go. I have to because we’re not finished with him yet,” he tells TV Insider…
We meet a very different Roger in this episode. He’s hardened… is he turning his back on love?
Richard Rankin: No, I don’t think so. It’s the opposite. That whole speech he gives to the father, he’s going through a little journey of self discovery, He’s seeing all these things for the first time and he’s recounting everything he’s done that’s led him up to this point and how it could have been different. In terms of his choices, especially about Brianna (Sophie Skelton), they could have been different.
But at the end of the day, his choices have and always will be for love because of how deeply he feels for Brianna. He’s giving the Father this talk about how he’s going to be selfish and start looking out for number one… but I think what he’s doing is an act of self-preservation. The irony is that, after this massive speech — which was beautifully written — he escapes and then completely contradicts everything he’s just said to the Father. He runs back.
Were you surprised when you read the script and Roger turns around?
No, I don’t think there’s an ounce of selfishness in Roger. I think it’s completely indicative of the character to run back. I didn’t even have to read that part to know he would run back. There’s quite a heroic, compassionate part of Roger. He’s always going to try and help and do something about a situation. I think the first glimpse of that part of him you see on the Gloriana when he steps in and helps the mother and baby. He has a strong moral compass that just grows and grows throughout the season.
Do you think Roger will ever recover mentally?
Not entirely. Roger’s never going to be that historian that we knew of. That guy is long gone. There’s definitely going to be a hangover of what happened for a long time, if not forever. I think that’s fascinating as an actor to play. He’s a deeper, more complex character which is more interesting for the fans to watch.
Roger and Brianna were more front and center this season on Outlander. How has that changed the experience for you?
We filmed more; we are doing more work. I don’t know how much I really view that as a change of experience. Obviously, being more invested in the show and being more involved in the show is very exciting, it was something we had been looking forward to, something we had been very excited about because we had read the books. We knew the outline of season four; we knew that we were going to be in it much more. We knew that we were going to be more front and center come season four and season five. I think, in a lot of respects, that’s something that I was holding out for was the story in season four and that arc.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the stuff in season two and in season three, but we, obviously, weren’t featured quite as heavily and we didn’t have as strong a running narrative in season two and three, as we do in season four and, obviously, it’s a very important plotline, if not one of the main plotlines through season four. So, it’s been a lot of fun to play and be much more part of the integral storyline.
Roger was really put through the wringer this season, physically. Do you enjoy the physical acting challenge or would you rather be doing more internal emotional stuff?
I like doing both. I like doing a range of things because the more you have to get into, it keeps it different, it keeps it versatile, and, as actors, we need to demonstrate our versatility. You can’t really ask for much more as an actor than to be put in a position to demonstrate as much of your range as possible.
So, doing both the internal, the emotional stuff, and playing the scenes for everything I can get out of them is what I enjoy doing. The physical stuff is great as well. It’s a big change, obviously, for the character. What we’ve seen him do is not normally the light that we see him in, so it was a lot of fun. It was a big challenge and, obviously, it was very repetitive in terms of the physicality over several episodes, so it started to take its toll after a while. I was tired by the end of it, but I felt like it was very worthwhile and we got a lot out of it, so the end result was worth it, I think.
I imagine every actor wants at least one scene in their career that’s worthy of “Adagio for Strings.” When did you find out that song was being used, and what was your reaction?
I was told by Mairzee [Almas, the episode’s director] as we were shooting it, if I remember correctly. Of course, you’re gonna be super excited, super grateful to have the honor of an epic episode finale. Very happy about that.
Why do you think Roger decided to turn back? He has a lengthy debate with himself before he says, “Ah, fuckin’ hell.”
[Laughs.] I love Roger so much. I love the fact that he even has this debate with himself. Because you know he’s gonna. He’s a man of such compassion. Hearing someone in such pain and anguish, he has to step in and do something. He just thinks, I’m gonna try to help him, somehow. More than likely it’s gonna lead to my own demise in some respect, but I can’t not. It’s almost like he’s pulled from the soul toward that, to try and help the man. This is just how he is.
How do you navigate such emotional scenes when you’re working with guest actors?
All actors deserve the respect and the space and integrity from you to allow them to do their job. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a guest actor, a regular actor, or one of the principal actors — you have to have a sensitivity for their work. Of course, it’s gonna be more difficult if you’re coming in for an episode, especially with such dramatic circumstances the Father was in. We know our characters inside and out, so it’s gonna be a lot easier for us to drop in to a situation like that than it is, perhaps, for someone just visiting for a couple of days.
You keep mentioning Roger’s inherent compassion, but this season, there has been a lot of conversation online about whether Roger is a good person. What’s your perspective on that debate?
I think the question of whether Roger is good or not is a ridiculous question. I’ve seen it come up quite a lot, and I think, “Are you serious?” Look at what the man does. Look at the lengths that he goes to. He puts his entire existence on the line. He abandons his entire life, which is a pretty good life. He’s an assistant professor of history at Oxford, a decent job. He’s a well-educated, well-respected man, and he doesn’t think twice about giving it all up and going after Brianna to try and see her safely home.
Obviously, there are arguments that arise between the two of them. They are both very stubborn people. They both have strong opinions. Brianna is a modern, independent, free-thinking woman, and Roger is quite a traditional, old-fashioned man, very much the result of his upbringing by his father. I think these two are very different people with very differing opinions, and as much as they love each other, that’s going to cause conflict. Communication breaks down between them. And I think Roger could go about things differently. I’m not saying his approach was optimal by any means.
His timing certainly wasn’t great for his proposal. Right? It was poorly judged, but I like that. I like the fact that he thought, “No, I want this to be perfect,” and then it escalates. There’s truth in that. There’s relatability in that. And I think the reason we’ve had so many questions about Roger, about his approach, about that relationship, is because as much as people hate what happened, or hate how he went about it, or hate how Brianna went about it—I’ve seen two sides of that coin—it’s relatable in some sense.
People see an honesty to it; people see a truth in it. They think, “I believe that could happen in a relationship.” Relationships are complicated. People say things they don’t mean. They say things to hurt each other. People respond in a similar fashion when they’ve been hurt. They’ll lash out and say things just to provoke. And that’s what Roger and Brianna do.
These are people from the ’60s and ’70s, when people behaved very differently. And these characters, they aren’t even particularly indicative of their own time—Brianna is much more modern. She’s ahead of her time, and Roger has maybe one foot in the past. I think a lot of people are looking at their relationship through a modern lens, from a 2019 perspective, and judging it from there, when in actual fact, it played out how I would have expected an argument between the two of them to play out.
Sophie and I spoke at great length about what we wanted to achieve in those scenes, and how we wanted to bring an honesty and a truth. First and foremost, you want to bring something that’s going to ring true between the two of them, and if that comes at the expense of Roger seeming less good, then so be it. I’m not playing the character to be liked, I’m trying to play it as honestly as it’s written. But the question of “Is Roger a good person?” is nonsense. Of course he is. Look at the things he’s done since he’s gone back; look at the things he continues to do.
“Listen, we get notes from a lot of people,” executive producer Maril Davis tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh about that change from the books. “Some people felt like it was a little convoluted, and also we hadn’t really played the relationships with some of the characters from the book in that scene. It wasn’t really possible to get there because we had dropped some storylines. Sometimes with books this size, things fall by the wayside.”
In the books, there’s a story thread with Lord John and the guards at the prison that’s never explored on the show, so that’s why the producers decided to take the escape scene in a different direction. “We also wanted to end this on a little bit more of a cliff-hanger on whether or not Bonnet lives or if he’s killed in this explosion,” Davis adds.
“We did veer a little bit with Roger’s journey from the book because a lot of that story is about the priest,” Davis says of Roger’s companion in captivity. “We felt that the story needed to be more about Roger instead of this stranger who you just met. But let me just say, I’ve been telling fans to wait for an episode coming up that is Roger’s tour de force from Richard Rankin, and this is it. I love that speech. He destroyed me. It’s so powerful.”
“As we’ll come to see, Roger doesn’t really believe what he’s saying,” Davis says. “He’s trying very hard to convince himself, and I think that’s what is so interesting about Roger — all of our characters — [is they] have flaws and are human, but Roger is such a nice guy. Some people have reacted negatively to how he’s been portrayed earlier this season because he came off as misogynistic and mean to Brianna, but he is a product of his time. The guy truly, deeply loves Brianna. He’s gone to the ends of the earth to try and get her back and has the best intentions at heart.
“In this situation, he’s just been pushed to the brink. He’s trying to convince himself to put himself first and not worry about her and just save himself. Hearing this priest talk about putting everything on the line for love and how nothing else truly matters, that’s how Roger thinks too. But he’s found himself in a situation where he’s almost been killed, he’s been beaten nearly to death, and he doesn’t want to end up like Father Alexandre. I cry every time I watch the ending to this episode.”
Entertainment Weekly Talk about that speech in the hut. What is going on with Roger in that very moment?
Richard Rankin There are a lot of parallels running. Roger is coming to a realization of himself through that. There is a slight lack of direction in the speech he gives Father Alexandre. That’s what I like about it. He’s discovering things for the first time about himself so even as he’s saying this to Father, he’s saying it for the first time for himself. He catches himself off guard a wee bit. He catches himself unaware. He’s finding out a lot about himself and what he’s gone through. As much as he says he’s been an idiot, Roger would do the same thing again. He would throw himself into the fray again for people who are in trouble and people who are in any sort of pain and danger. Roger will be the first to put himself in front of harm’s way. As much as he’s reflecting on everything the circumstances that brought him, there’s a lot between the lines. I was very grateful for that whole speech. The character is really moving forward. He’s taking a step forward as a different person.
The Outlander producers didn’t set out to use the well-worn composition for the end of “Providence.” It was dropped in the first rough cut as a suggestion by director Mairzee Almas to serve as temporary music. In most cases, temp music is replaced with a new or different composition. But when the producers saw the scene, they knew Adagio for Strings had to stay.
“We all just went, whoa,” executive producer Toni Graphia tells EW. “I mean, we were sobbing. We were just sobbing. It was a perfect piece of music. Sometimes you get accused of what’s called temp love, like, ‘Don’t fall in love with that temp music because it’s going to change’ because it’s really meant to be temporary. But this was one of those rare, rare times where we said, ‘You know what? This piece of music is just perfect for this scene.’ We fell in love with it and we didn’t want to let it go.”
Did you have a chance to read the book?
I became familiar with Diana’s work and how my character falls within the story line. [Writer and co-executive producer] Karen Campbell was a great help, answering any questions I might have had. Of course there were also choices we discussed on the spot but, all in all, everything was there in the script.
What was it like working on the Outlander set, and specifically with Richard Rankin?
Simply put, it was one of the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. The Outlander team was just phenomenal—so much talent and generosity. Richard is a smart, talented, and committed actor, and working with him was a treat. We spent about two weeks in a hut together, digging dirt, so his witty sense of humor came in handy on many occasions.
Tell me about that final scene, and Alexandre’s choice to face death. What was it like filming that day?
That was a huge scene and director Mairzee Almas did an exceptional job crafting it. The whole Mohawk village was attending the “event,” in the scene, which meant that there were over a 100 extras on set. Fire was also involved and there were a lot of elements to think about, before even mentioning the acting. Mairzee gave me the freedom and the right conditions to do this scene properly. It wouldn’t have been the same without her.
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