‘Outlander’ Post-Episode 507 “The Ballad of Roger Mac” Interview Round-Up

This week’s post-episode round-up includes interviews with Diana Gabaldon, Duncan Lacroix, Sam Heughan, Sophie Skelton, and Matthew B. Roberts. Only excerpts are below, so please click on the links for each article to read them in their entirety.  As always, be aware of spoilers for this episode and upcoming episodes.

Collider: ‘Outlander’: Duncan Lacroix on That Heartbreaking Murtagh Twist

Tell me how you learned the news that they were finally bidding adieu to your character?

DUNCAN LACROIX: I found out just before the beginning of the season … because I was optioned for six seasons. But yeah, it kind of finally ran its course and they dropped the bomb on me before we started filming the season.

Murtagh got to keep his oath in his final moments. What did you think about the show writing him out in that sort of way where he dies saving his godson?

LACROIX: I think, in a way, that’s how we kind of postponed – but kind of stayed true to the books – because the last lines he says to Jamie are the last lines he says to Jamie at [the battle of] Culloden. It was just postponed another 20-25 years. But I think that character kind of ran its course, actually, in terms of the show. And I think it’s a fitting end. He was the last kind of relic from the Highlands, from Culloden, the old Highland way of life and I think it kind of resonates. Once he dies, [Jamie’s] given an even steelier purpose to continue the battle as things will progress – take the fight to the Brits in the war of revolution.

What was the last thing you filmed on the show? Sometimes it’s weird stuff, right? Like pickups?

LACROIX: Actually, we had to pick up the death scene weirdly enough. The first time we shot it it was kind of late summer. I actually got really emotional that day. I didn’t expect to. I just really felt for him, having [played him across] six years now. I didn’t expect it. I just got really emotional between takes, but also, the fake blood we were using for the bullet wound is like strawberry jam and it attracted almost an entire wasps nest onto my chest. So, me and Sam, we’re like batting away wasps and trying to shoot. But the last scene I actually shot of the whole show is the final death scene where Sam takes me into the tent. … The very last thing I shot, I am the corpse on the triage table.

Collider: ‘Outlander’: Sophie Skelton Goes Full Spoilers on Tonight’s “Brutal” Episode, Teases What’s Ahead

This episode ends on a rather shocking moment, with Brianna, Jamie and Claire wondering whether it’s Roger that’s hanging from the trees. What was that moment like to read in the script, and how has the experience of actually shooting that?

SKELTON: Well, it’s funny you ask that, actually, because the location was pretty tricky, in terms not seeing the bodies early. It was quite an open plane of field, and you could see the bodies hanging from the tree, from quite far off. As a wife, as soon as I saw the bodies hanging from the tree, you’d be able to identify a husband. You would know his body shape, you would get that feeling, and you would know his clothes. You would know it was Roger, straight away. So, we had to map out where we were walking, asking the settlers, “Have you seen Roger MacKenzie? Have you seen Captain McKenzie?” We had to navigate that, so that we weren’t looking at the hanging buddies until Jamie calls Claire over and Bree sees them, and then she just gets that feeling. And then, when Bree sees the body, I wanted to play it that she’s just in utter shock, doesn’t want to believe what she’s seeing, is in denial, trying to process everything, but just numb and stuck. Her worst fears have now come true. I guess, in a way, Bree would feel very responsible, as well. Roger’s in that time because went back to that time and he followed her through, and he’s stuck there because of Jemmy, really, and because of Bree’s family. It was a brutal moment. It was quite an image, to be honest, seeing the men hanging from the tree like that. Our stunt team is incredible. It just felt so real. It was brutal.

What would you say to tease the next episode, after this one? Will things pick up right where Episode 507 left off?

SKELTON: Yeah, it’s a direct continuation, so you’ll see the family bringing the body down from the tree. Brianna is frozen in her spot for quite awhile, until Claire calls her over while she’s trying to see if she can save what’s left. Episode 508 is done in a really interesting way. It’s very different. We haven’t really done an episode in this format before, so I think it’s quite cool. It’s a little love letter, in a way, to the ‘60s. It feels very different. It’s a very cool episode.

We’re past the midway mark of the season. Now that we’re in this last group of episodes, what’s still to come for Brianna, this season?

SKELTON: I feel like Brianna’s stuff hasn’t started yet. I’m excited, in terms of her big bits of the season. I love Episode 508. There’s a lot of Brianna. She goes through a lot in Episode 508. She’s a very patient and loving wife, but then she also gives tough love. It’s a very nice relationship episode for Roger and Brianna. She’s a very strong mama bear in Episode 508, and I liked that. In Episode 509, there’s just a lot that comes through for Brianna now. Some old characters may or may not come back, which uproots her life again. The season really starts to take off now, from Episode 507. The whole season is epic. I think a lot of people actually prefer it to Season 4. The second half of the season just takes a completely other turn and it’s fast-paced. You’ll see the characters together a lot more. We often have the characters splitting up, but you’ll see a lot more of the Fraser’s all together.

Variety:  The ‘Outlander’ Death That Brought ‘An Unexpected Wave of Emotion’ (SPOILERS)

“[Usually] I try to zone out completely, meditate my way out of the scene. But you’re also aware that this performance between Sam and Caitriona is going on — Sam’s powerful breakdown was especially good,” says Lacroix. “I was fine lying there, doing my thing, but believe it or not, it was when Caitriona took my hand and started adjusting my jacket and said something like, ‘Oh, Murtagh, my friend.’ That got me as well — that was an unexpected wave of emotion. I was almost [watching] from the audience’s perspective at that moment.”

“It’s very fitting that his death is what leads to the spark that gives Jamie the determination to carry on with the war of Revolution,” says Lacroix. “I think it makes perfect sense in terms of storytelling. It would have been nice to carry on and fight by Jamie’s side, but one of the joys of long-form storytelling is you get attached to these characters over a long period of time so that when one does die, it’s such a more emotive experience for the audience. I think it’s a lovely bit of drama to have.”

ElleOutlander‘s Duncan Lacroix On Saying Goodbye To Murtagh

Those scenes are devastating.

Well, you’ve got the funeral to come yet. Maria [Doyle Kennedy] sings a song, an old classic Scottish folk song. It’s one of the most haunting things I’ve heard. It made me blab a bit when she played it to me.

But the character’s so gruff!

Gruffly romantic! It was mentioned to me before that they were surprised he was able to say, “I love you,” but I didn’t feel that way when I was playing that. I think once he knows what he’s doing, he’s quite direct. He doesn’t lie, he doesn’t play games, but it does take him an awful long time. I think that’s why he probably lost Ellen, his first love. He’s a shy, shy guy, at least around the ladies. [Laughs]

You knew Murtagh was coming back after season 3, right?

We knew before season 3 that he was going to come back. There were various stories—he was going to turn up in Jamaica, leading a slave rebellion. Some weird drugged-up Murtagh hallucinating. It was like a Colonel Kurtz Apocalypse Now scenario. It was a great story.

ParadeAuthor Diana Gabaldon Reveals Why The Death on Tonight’s Outlander Is a ‘Turning Point’ for Jamie 

“Murtagh’s death…well, I have mixed feelings about that,” author Diana Gabaldon exclusively tells Parade.com. “As played out in Ep. 507, it’s shocking, heart-wrenching, sorrowful and accompanied by some top-notch acting by Duncan Lacroix, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. I loved it!”

“As for the effect of Murtagh’s death and the timing of it–this is the turning point for Jamie; the place where he definitively severs his connection (however unwilling) with the Crown and becomes in his own soul a Rebel,” Gabaldon says.

“Murtagh died at Culloden because he was such an important man in Jamie’s life,” Gabaldon explains. “There had to be a visible and deeply emotional price to that battle: not just a recounting of fighting and depersonalized mass slaughter; we needed to suffer not only Jamie’s physical wounds, but his grievous personal loss of the most important man in his life.”

“Now, I can’t say they weren’t thinking of these possibilities themselves, because I’m sure they were thinking madly—but FWIW, I did suggest to them that Murtagh (given his personality and experiences with the British Crown) might well be involved with the Regulators,” Gabaldon says. “The War of the Regulation forms the political backbone of The Fiery Cross, but is a difficult historical event to explain simply to people. That explanation would be a lot easier, if Murtagh was made a part of it.”

Elle: Sam Heughan On Outlander‘s Devastating Double Loss

Jamie has experienced a lot of grief in the last few seasons. What makes Murtagh’s death different?

It felt [like] the most grief. He’s not only losing his godfather—basically a stepfather—but he’s losing the last real contact with Scotland, the last member of his blood apart from his aunt and daughter. It’s very raw—losing that part of his life, the old world and ways of doing things. For Jamie, losing him is like losing his rock, like losing one of his points of safety. There was always this great love between Jamie and Murtagh and it was never spoken of. You just knew Murtagh was always there for Jamie, and likewise.

You’ve been planning to put Jamie in the red coat for a while—how much of what we see onscreen is what you envisioned when you first pitched it?

It’s pretty similar. Before we finished last season I knew Jamie was on the side of the British, and I went to Matt [Roberts, executive producer] and the costume department and said, “Could we put Jamie in a red coat?” Then I went back early to do a fitting for the coat. I wanted Jamie looking good and powerful in it. Everything it stands for is everything he’s fought against—the occupation of Scotland, the suppression of his culture, Blackjack Randall, Wentworth Prison. There’s so much psychologically in this piece of material. Historically, it’s probably not quite accurate—if he was a general in the militia, he probably wouldn’t have worn a red coat, but really, it’s less about him becoming a redcoat and more about Tryon testing him.

The final shot of the episode is the family finding Roger hanging. What does this mean for the rest of the season?

The whole family will be hurting. We can see everyone really struggling. The family is beginning to fracture, and that’s what the season’s really about—they’re torn apart by different circumstances. There’s a really fantastic episode coming up, which is quite stylized. When we first read it, we weren’t sure how it was going to play out, but I think it really works.

Is Jamie hardened at the end of this episode?

I think he’s lost something. There’s a hole there and it’ll take him time. Time is the healer in this one, for all [the characters]. But because of circumstances, he’s really thrust into having to be the man of action again and put his family first. By the end of the season, everyone is unsure of the future. They’re uncertain of what’s going to happen. Even though they have this prior knowledge, they know this great battle is coming. The forecast of the future doesn’t look very promising.

EWOutlander showrunner on Murtagh, the battle, and THAT surprise cameo

Graham McTavish was a massive surprise! How did the idea come about? 

In the writer’s room, we talked about how fun it would be to have Graham McTavish, who famously played Dougal, play Buck MacKenzie, who is, of course, Dougal’s son. Then, coincidentally, our Starz executive Karen Bailey called Maril Davis and had the exact same idea, so we knew we were on to something! Maril called me and asked if we could make it happen. First, we had to check Graham’s availability. He was both available and excited to come back. However, since Buck is in his 20s and Graham, while in great shape, is not … haha, we had to make sure we could digitally de-age him a bit. So we did.  Actually, the biggest challenge was keeping it quiet until the episode aired

It was so bittersweet to see Murtagh saving Jamie before dying. Did you know for a while that you wanted Murtagh to do Jamie one last solid before he died? 

Yes, this was planned for a long time — back in season 3. I spoke with Duncan [LaCroix] well before season five began filming and let him know about Murtagh’s arc. We all wanted to give Murtagh a heroic end — he deserves it — he’s one of Outlander’s most beloved characters.

TV LineOutlander‘s [Spoiler] Breaks Down the Scene That Nearly Made His Corpse Cry

TVLINE | Had you wondered about the way that they might take him out? Did you figure that he would go down in a battle like he does in the book?
That’s exactly the way I’d wanted it, form way back. This is really is the way I pictured it. It’s kind of what happened in the books, but it’s just being transposed 25 years later. It’s the same lines that he said to Jamie in Culloden in the books. It was just postponed long enough for the silver fox to make an appearance. [Laughs]

Vanity FairOutlander Star Sam Heughan on Jamie’s Devastating Loss

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this,” Roberts said, “but our fans love to speculate. They assumed Murtagh would just take over the Duncan Innes story. We can’t just do that. You can’t just take a character like Duncan Innes—with all his character traits—and turn him into a character we already know. We never even discussed that.” (He cautions theory-happy fans from making similar assumptions about Marsali taking over for a book character named Malva this season.) Roberts said the plan all along was to maneuver Murtagh into a position where he and Jamie would, tragically, wind up on opposite sides of the Battle of Alamance.

A show less concerned with fidelity to its characters might have milked every last drop of drama out of the scenario, and manipulated events so that it was Jamie who had to kill Murtagh directly in the end. “I would never have allowed that,” Heughan said. “I don’t think Jamie ever, ever would have done that. It wasn’t ever on my radar.” Roberts agrees: “We couldn’t even fathom that. It would take so much work manufacturing that storyline that I think people would see right through it.” The fact that Murtagh instead died while protecting Jamie was, Roberts thinks, a much more natural way to go. “They never are really against each other. Their love for each other is so strong that they have to fight their own oaths—one to the Crown and one to the Regulators—and still protect the ones they love.”

This isn’t the first time this season that the practicalities of an ambitious shoot have impacted the Outlander storyline. “Everybody has a vision of a scene they’ve read,” Roberts said of tackling material that is cherished by devoted book lovers. “They’ve done the setting, they’ve cast it, and they’ve edited it in their head. We can never replicate that and so we can only come as close as possible with what we have. I was reading some comments about the last episode and they were asking: ‘Where was Phaedra?’ And we just didn’t have the actress. It’s things like that that the books never have to contend with.”

(It took an interview about the next episode for anyone to mention the elephant in the room (at least for me) for episode 506.  Where was Phaedre? -Sarah)

EW: Outlander star Sam Heughan on that red coat and why he stood shirtless in the river

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This was such an incredible episode for you. 

SAM HEUGHAN: Thank you. I was so excited about this episode and nervous too because I just knew what it meant. We knew that we were going to lose Murtagh in this episode, and he’s been such a strong character. And for Jamie, he’s the link to Jamie’s past in Scotland. He’s really his father figure, as well. He’s a silent, constant figure, someone that Jamie can rely on who’s been there from the very beginning. And for Jamie to be pitted against him was hard enough, but then to lose him was really traumatic.

You showed such a range of emotion in this episode, obviously starting with saying goodbye to Murtagh What was that day like for you to shoot?

Everyone didn’t want to say goodbye to Duncan Lacroix. He’s such a wonderful human being, a great actor. He’s so, so good. He’s also a lot of fun and has been a part of our family since the beginning, so none of us wanted to get to that day. The scenes were actually shot over a very long time period of time. We shot the exterior of the tent first, and I actually went back and picked up the interior in the tent on almost the last day of shooting. So it was tough as an actor to juggle that timeline and that arc, but also fortunate that we got to have Duncan around for the whole season. So at least we didn’t have to say goodbye to him on one day and never see him again. He was around for most of the season.

Vanity FairOutlander Exclusive: Star Sam Heughan on Jamie’s Redcoat Turn

Heughan got his way, and felt the true emotional impact of that choice the second he tried the new costume on: “I had a really strong reaction to it—a real revulsion. It just felt so wrong. There was definitely a physical reaction.” But as repulsed as both Heughan and Jamie might have been by the prospect of the coat, the actor wanted that inner turmoil to stand in contrast to Fraser’s external composure. “I wanted Jamie to look good in it—powerful.”

The structure of the coat itself forced Heughan—and, by extension, Fraser—to adopt an unfamiliar posture. Large shoulder pads and a rigid structure both hold the wearer up and constrict him in a way that’s quite fitting for the bind Jamie has found himself in. “It’s amazing what a costume—what wearing uniform can do,” Heughan said. The actor had grown quite accustomed to the freedom and fluidity of movement he enjoyed while wearing Jamie’s usual battle garment of choice: a kilt.

That’s certainly what book-readers might have expected Jamie to wear this season. They expressed shock and alarm at the glimpse of him dressed in crimson in the season five trailer. Heughan himself was a little surprised to see that shot included in the season-long tease: “I thought it was a bit of a spoiler! But it got people talking, which was great. People are like: ‘Oh, my God, what are you doing? He would never wear a red coat!’ Sometimes I think fans forget that we are trying to engage them and upset them, because that’s exactly what we’re here to do: play with them, entice them, excite them.”

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