Cast Q&A from the Land Con Outlander Convention
Didn’t make it to the 2017 Land Con Outlander Convention in Paris? We share our Outlander Cast blogger’s experience and the cast Q&A gems.
We Outlander zealots seem to have a lot in common, and when we get together there is endless easy high-energy chat and lots of fun. And then people start to talk about the emotions, what hooked them on Outlander, etc. And I find that everyone has a unique and fascinating story with some common threads and some striking differences.
For me, I think the central aspect to my addiction (yep, you can relate) was the concept of the Sassenach, the outlander, the woman out of time and place, and the ways in which she meets all the challenges thrown at her. This led me to my gap year in Scotland, which is now well under way with all the ups and downs of settling in a new and unfamiliar place.
With my Sassenach tiara firmly in place, I headed from Glasgow to Paris last weekend for the Land Con Outlander Convention, put on by Wevents Production. What better way to put myself way out of my comfort zone than to go and hang out in a country where I can’t speak the lingo! Sure, the first two days would be spent with like-minded folks, all in the same place for the same experience. But, after that I would have a couple of days free-wheelin’ in Paris alone.
This event was my second con experience, and quite different from the first because it was a bilingual convention and each and every session was translated from French to English and vice versa. To be candid, this turned out to be a bit of a pain in the ass after a while because it really interfered with spontaneity. Half the audience would be laughing, and then the joke was translated for the other half of the audience. The epitome of lost in translation.
Right from the start, I teamed up with fellow Outlander Cast Clan Gathering member Sonja De Pot, which was great. It is such fun to meet people from different parts of the world. Sonja is Belgian, familiar with Paris, speaks French and also she had the most deluxe ticket you could buy. In contrast, I was a late starter and bought the most basic ticket at the last minute. Yep, I’m also a disorganized Sassenach!
For those of you who haven’t been to one of these conventions, there is an incredible sliding scale of costs involved. A basic ticket gets you in to all the main panel sessions on stage, a deluxe ticket has all the trimmings. And all the other one-to-one, small group stuff—autographs, photos, parties, etc.—get purchased as “extras.” When the actors aren’t on stage in the main auditorium, they’re out there on the hustings—signing autographs, having pictures taken or participating in “private lounges.”
Sonja went to the welcome party on Friday evening—those with deluxe tickets gathered to meet the actors before the convention started. Only three of them could make it: Steven Cree, Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton. For one hour, they mingled with fans, but it was a noisy room and, although the actors did their best, it was very difficult to hear and understand the conversation. But a first impression is important and they sparkled and were easy to talk to.
On Saturday morning, the foyer was filled with Outlandish folk posing and performing in Highland Dress as well as the costumes of the French Court. They opened the show with a performance on stage—complete with sword fighting and Highland dancing. A super-charged start to the convention, which had the audience buzzing with anticipation!
Sonja’s deluxe ticket saw her sitting up the front of the auditorium so all the good pictures in this post are courtesy of Sonja! She was also able to attend two private lounges—a small group chat—20 fans with one of the actors. She met with Sam Heughan and Richard Rankin and had some highlights from those private lounge encounters.
Sam was very relaxed and it was so easy to ask him questions. Most of the questions weren’t Outlander related at all. He announced that they start filming Season 4 next week and talked about how they get prepared for the new season, the costumes, make-up etc. He talked about his charity Bloodwise and Camellia, a new trial in the treatment of blood cancer. And of course, he talked about whisky and he revealed that he is making his own. Let’s wait for that! Movies, series and theater, he has done it all. Filming is the easiest to do and although he loved making the movie [The Spy Who Dumped Me] with Mila Kunis, his heart lies with theater.
Richard was so natural, full of humor and funny. He revealed he really wanted to play another role of an upcoming bad guy (you know, SB!) but got stuck with Roger! Being a Scot, he drinks whisky but he also really likes beer, especially the Belgian beers, American beers… but the English ones, not so much. A lot of the questions were about Outlander, his role as Roger, the part of Brianna and working with Caitriona Balfe and Sam. He talked about the upcoming season, where his role will be much greater. He’s crossing his fingers for a Season 5. Us too!
But then it was time for the main event… after we heard the rules—no filming of the panel sessions, only still photography allowed and no photos in any of the small sessions. Then to wild music and wild squeals of excitement, the fab four came on stage: Steven Cree (kilted!), Richard Rankin, Sophie Skelton and César Domboy. There was lots of fun banter and stumbling hilarious attempts at French … Je m’appelle Steven … said Cree to hoots from the audience. Of course, César stole the show being totally bilingual and switching easily between the two languages to the delight of the audience.
Here are a few highlights of the Q&A sessions that the actors did over the two days, roughly in order of appearance.
Who’s your favorite character to work with?
Well, he didn’t want to offend anyone, but since he’s been in most scenes with Sam… Although wait a minute, his absolute favorite was the little Lallybroch dog in Season 1, Pan. “C’est chien est formidable”—another of his little attempts at French!
One woman got up and said, “You’re my favourite secondary character” to which he took great mock offense, yelled out “SECONDARY?!”, got up and stormed off the stage. Yep. Great whoops of laughter from the audience.
What’s it like working with Jenny (Laura Donnelly)? Does he like his fictional wife? Would he like to be married to her?
He likes the dynamic between them—Jenny is fiery and Ian is calm, often the voice of reason. No, he wouldn’t like to be married to her. Although, having a strong woman by your side is a good thing in life. Also, they seem to have quite a lot of fun in the bedroom. We usually see them in scenes where Jenny is angry with Jamie, maybe Ian and Jenny are calm together at other times.
How were you chosen for the role of Ian Murray?
“Well it’s the usual process, your agent phones you, they send you a script and you audition with the casting director. Most times you don’t get the job, but this time, I did.’
Steven told how he had auditioned previously for the part of Dougal, but that wasn’t to be. He said when he read the part of Ian, he felt an affinity with the character, felt that he could play that guy.
When asked about his current project—Outlaw King with Chris Pine—it was a case of mums the word. His lips were sealed.
You don’t look like Ian? What’s the process for preparing to play him?
“Well, there’s the wig, and make-up. 80-90% of the work is done by costume and make-up. When you play a character you already have some of the qualities and you add some, facial expressions etc.” He mentioned that in Season 1, he was 9 or 10 kilos heavier.
It was a whole different story when César got up on stage. Being totally comfortable in both languages, it was more free flowing but also harder to follow for those who were unilingual—i.e., me. But César impressed with his confident, relaxed, very happy and brimming with energy self.
The first thing he talked about was Romann Berrux, the young Fergus, who he said was sooooo good as the character. He wanted to meet and spend time with Romann, and he wished to be faithful to the young Fergus in the way he played the character. He wants us to see the young Fergus in him as he moves forward with the adult Fergus. He got the audience to do a big rousing cheer for Romann, which he recorded to send to him.
Does he identify with Fergus?
Well yes, he had fun playing Fergus, but no he didn’t grow up in a brothel.
How were you cast as Fergus?
He went to the audition not knowing anything about the show. He wanted to approach it “fresh” and now he’s glad he approached it that way because if he had’ve known too much about the show, the stakes would’ve been too high. He actually thought he was auditioning for an American show where he might be in a couple of episodes. When he found that he had this huge part, he felt very excited.
How do you like filming? What’s it like working with Sam Heughan?
“We [spent] 5 months in Scotland and then we went to South Africa. Everyone is so nice. Sam is so down to earth, very generous. He kind of has the same relationship with Sam that Fergus and Jamie have. Sam is very supportive to him and he’s just “f*@king amazing!” He loves him! He also loves working with Caitriona.
Since he’s a newbie, he got closer to Lauren [Lyle, who was cast as Marsali] and says she’s like a sister to him; they are good friends. “It’s a very happy workplace with good people.’
What’s it like to go from working on movies to a TV series?
He loves that he will get to create, portray and develop a character over many years. He laughed that eventually they will have to get an older actor because he will never be 40!
What was it like meeting Romann Berrux? Does he remind you of yourself at that age?
First impression was that he is so small! He’s a bit like the young Fergus—he wants to grow up! “I was not as mature at that age as he is. Nor did I have that energy and ambition.” And he couldn’t speak English when he was that age either, so he really admires Romann being able to play an English-speaking part. He could go on forever about Romann.
Has he read the books?
No. He thinks it is a good way to keep a fresh approach and also to reduce his anxiety about growing old! He thinks Fergus is a modern kind of guy—a feminist—that’s why he gets on so well with Claire; he gets her. He would love to see Fergus going through the stones to modern times; he thinks he would fit in and really love it!
When shooting in South Africa—on a pirate boat—it was like the dream he had of being an actor when he was a child. The fake waves and the whole set made it easy to act.
How did you get the name César?
“My parents were not particularly into history—they were just pretentious.” Laughs! Not many are called César, besides hotels and salads.
Do you change your voice to play Fergus?
No, he uses his own voice. There was some discussion about him introducing a Scottish accent, but he loves the Scottish people too much to pretend; it wouldn’t be consistent. He didn’t know any of the history of Scotland before starting Outlander—he thought he was really dumb, but they don’t learn about that in school in France.
Sam Heughan made a surprise entrance during César’s Q&A session. This caused a huge reaction form the audience, of course, and the two of them embraced warmly and proceeded to have fun and joke around with each other. Sam said he would take over interviewing César, and they played around with that before the session was wound up and they left the stage with a promise of more to come.
Your best memory of Outlander?
“There are no good memories, they’re all so mean to me!” Really, he recalls the day at Kinloch Rannoch (Craigh na Dun)—the first day they were filming, it was torrential rain and they had to come back another day two months later to complete the scene. That day there was not a breath of wind, they started filming at midnight, it was so tranquil and they could see deer off in the distance. The moon looked so unreal that they had to use a fake moon in the show. It was a bizarre and surreal experience. He also loved the scenes driving Roger’s car.
Which character would you like to be if you couldn’t play Roger?
Bouton—le chien (little stab at French again!)
Really he would like to be the bad guy in Drums of Autumn—of course he can’t name him. He also would’ve loved to be BJR… and not just for the sex scenes with Sam! But of course you couldn’t beat Tobias Menzies in that role.
What are your favourite things about Roger?
Roger appealed to him as a great part to play. He has a great range, a great story arc, he changes, he adapts and evolves. He is really looking forward to telling the story of such an admirable, loyal and strong character.
Is it really never to early for a whisky?
“Well, I can’t publicly condone drinking whisky in the morning – wink. But we are required by Scottish law to like whisky.” And if all those people who sent him biscuits would like to change to whisky, he would have no objection. He particularly fancies 25-year old Macallan, or Laphroaig—hint, hint.
What’s it like to work with Caitriona Balfe and Sophie Skelton?
“Awful, bad—I don’t want to do it anymore!” Clearly, a joke. He had a chemistry test with Sophie, and they hit the ground running. They have common objectives for the story of the pair—the same beats—they understand each other’s characters, and how to move the relationship forward. Caitriona and Sam were both very welcoming when they joined the cast. He loves working with Caitriona because she is so giving, always with you in a scene even when the camera is not on her. She is very supportive.
What about some of your other projects? What was it like to work on The Crimson Field?
That was a story of nurses in World War I was an important story. The costumes and the set allowed you to immerse yourself in the character and the story. He took a lot from that show as an actor, he learned about working with real historical facts. Overall, it was a great experience and very valuable to him.
Why did you audition for Outlander?
Ha! “Because I had no job!” Not really. When Outlander first came to Scotland, he was aware of the profound effect it had on the film and TV industry. And on tourism. He knew about that and it piqued his interest.
When they started casting, he tried for various parts—looking into it as well as learning about the books and the fans. He read the books and really enjoyed them. Certain characters really popped out at him and, at the time, there was speculation on social media about him as a potential cast member. He gave a lot of thought to such a long-term commitment, but he loved the process of Roger’s storyline as it develops, viewing it as an exciting prospect.
How do you feel about the character of Geillis Duncan? How do you play a character like that?
Geillis is essentially like all people—we all have a darker and a lighter side. “I had to talk to the ‘killer’ in me to make the character come alive. People aren’t black and white; they are in colour. As an actor you can’t take killing from your personal experience, so I connected with the reason she does it—the passion for her cause.”
Would you like to live in the 1740s?
“Yes, if I could come back! It’s great being an actor because you can go into these worlds… and then come back to a comfy bed at night.”
Your favourite lines?
“They say I’m a witch,” and even though I wanted to cut it out, ‘Looks like we’re going to a f*&king barbecue’ has become an iconic line from the show. The kind of line that appears on coffee cups.” And of course that other iconic line from Geillis, “Sometimes you find yourself on a path you never expected. That doesn’t mean it can’t lead you to a bonny place.”
Gellis wants to change history. What would you change?
“Yes, there are things in the past I would like to change, also stuff that’s happening in the world now. Geillis was an idealist from the ’60s; even though she is willing to commit murder for her ideals, her passion for her beliefs is admirable.”
What are your most memorable scenes?
“The dance in the forest was a real experience. The days were very short, so we had to film it on two separate occasions. The first night she was dancing, but the second night she just had to lie there in the freezing cold, half-naked and not moving!”
What about other projects, such as The Black List and others?
Working with James Spader was very intense. He has to get every detail right. The show is shot very quickly and he makes sure that everything that could be better will be better. He lifts the material up—it is very impressive. She has done a lot of historical dramas and jokes with her friends that she hopes she will make it to the present. Her next project is The Book of Vision and she will spend the next two moths shooting in Brussels. She plays two characters—one in the present time and one in the 18th century. Sound familiar? She joked that part of her contracts from now on states that she only plays 18th century characters!
What was the casting process like for Geillis?
When she got the call, she said to her agent that it probably wasn’t much use to audition for a character that was supposed to be a tall red-headed Scottish woman. But her agent said, why not just go and have fun with it? And the rest is history. In her audition, she read the scene in the herb garden and was pleased that the producers were open to a different look. She originally sent in an audition tape for the part of Claire and heard that 10 seconds in to the watching that tape, Matt Roberts said, “She will be Geillis.”
HEUGHAN AND CREE—THE TERRIBLE TWO
How many Munros have you bagged?
Sam: 21. Steven says he has only tea-bagged (ahem and ewwww) a few. That Steven Cree humour was evident from the first sentence!
Your favourite Scottish legends?
Sam mentions that there are lots in our history—stories of the clans, like the Callanish Stones on Isle of Lewis. “We have stones of course, but ours are made of foam and right now they are sitting looking a little bit sad at the studio,” The stories of the Picts and the Romans are fascinating. The Picts went into battle naked covered in grease so the enemy couldn’t grab them; it would be good to do that to Steven!
Does working on Outlander make you more interested in the campaign for Scottish independence?
Sam said that they’ve had two votes on independence now and there are parallels with the situation in Spain. He was quite involved in the early campaign. On the day when the result was announced, they were shooting the scene of Jamie’s rescue from Wentworth. It was a dark and grey day—the weather and the mood on set.
Steven said that he didn’t choose to be Scottish, but he’s happy to be Scottish. He wasn’t in Scotland at the time of the vote, but he’s interested in how it engaged and politicized young people. He found it to be very divisive and would really love to see the world coming together.
Which Season of Outlander do you like the best?
Sam: “Season 3: it has a great story line for Jamie, and it has the print shop!” Shouts of excitement from the audience! The whole scale is increased and there is a lot of good stuff coming.
Steven: “Well in Season 2 all I did was to walk into a room and point at a map.” In Season 1 it was all new and exciting and he loved the cart scene with Jamie and killing Horrocks. These scenes gave him something do as an actor other than standing in the background nodding at Jenny.
Any fun facts or moments together at drama school?
Steven said Sam hated him at drama school because he was wild and sexy (“sexIST,” Sam interjected) and drank a lot. One night they were at a bar, Steven was drunk and he felt Sam’s biceps and asked him if he worked out. Another morning Steven woke up after a party with a black eye and no idea how he got it, and wonders if maybe Sam gave it to him. No answer was offered, just laughter!
The chat was interrupted when suddenly Steven Cree had Gary Lewis on speaker phone, drew him into the conversation and had the audience calling out their greetings.
How have you grown and evolved as actors since being cast in Outlander?
Sam: “It has taken over my life for the last four years. It’s fun and it’s such a success. Episode 3 just had the biggest number of viewers ever. It has a long way to go, and it’s great—a real machine.”
Steven: “It’s different for me than for Sam. There is not so much pressure as there is in being the lead of a TV show.” It’s a big thing to go from obscurity (lots of laughs here) to the pressure that has been on Sam and Caitriona. “Some actors turn into real dicks, but Sam was a dick already, so there was no problem! He went on to add, “actually, it pains me to say it’s a credit to Sam the way he conducts himself, he leads the company.” Also, according to Cree, Sam’s biceps have grown and he’s had a penis enlargement (lots of playing around with strategically placed microphones at this point) and you’ll see it in Season 4.
SOPHIE SKELTON AND RICHARD RANKIN
Do you relate to your characters?
Richard says they have to. “The way we go about it depends on the actor—I do research as part of my preparation. Roger is very different to me.” Sophie interjected here with, “Yes, he’s sweet and sensitive” and Richard continued, “yes, he’s intelligent and I’m not. Ha! He’s everything I want to be.”
Of Bree, Sophie says, “well, Bree is stubborn, bratty and hot-headed! She does tend to think before diving in, whereas Claire just dives in— perhaps I share some of those characteristics.”
A fun fact about filming?
Richard: “She farts a lot! No! only kidding. We laugh and carry on and muck about on set.” One day they got stuck in the snow with the guy who looks after the cars. Richard insisted he could turn the car around and he reversed it into a big pile of snow— just as the executive producers drove by and witnessed the scene. The guy was panicking about his vintage cars.
How do you prepare for filming?
Sophie: “Lots of coffee. We start very early—like 4 a.m. for hair and make-up and maybe line changes. You have to learn some new lines for the day. I do gym and ballet to wake myself up.”
Richard says his approach is to keep well, stay fit, eat well, sleep well and learn your lines. That’s in an ideal world and it doesn’t always happen that way.
Your favourite scene together?
Sophie says, “The Boston house with Claire.” Richard realizes it’s a scene he wasn’t in and proceeds stomp off in a mock sulk! Then she said it was the scene where Roger bangs his head on the car—it wasn’t in the original script but Richard came up with it!
Richard said he likes all the scenes he does with Sophie. They both agreed that it was a lot of fun doing the scenes with the cars. In one scene they were chatting and didn’t hear ‘action’—they kept on talking and laughing and the director just kept the camera rolling. They were actually speculating on what would happen if a dead body was in the loch!
Who would you like to play in another show?
So, they can fight and then fly away!
If you weren’t an actor, what would you be?
Sophie—a surgeon, like Claire
Richard—something in the sciences, maybe an astronaut? A physicist?
If you could go through the stones, which century would you choose?
Richard loves ancient history and would like to see the height of the Roman Empire, or ancient Greece. Sophie chimes in, “he just wants to lie on a chaise lounge and be fed grapes!” She would like to go back to ancient Egypt to see how the pyramids were built.
What do you think are worthwhile causes to be involved in?
Sophie cares about helping out in local disasters and mentioned the charities they both support. Richard says his biggest cause is helping Sophie through Outlander, and he’s dedicated to it. Seriously, Richard supports the MacMillan Cancer Support charity in Scotland and Sophie supports Crohn’s & Colitis UK. Also, now that they have increasing numbers of followers on social media, they like to use this position to help raise awareness of other important causes.
SOPHIE SKELTON (later, in a solo moment)
What is the hardest thing about playing Brianna?
Working on Outlander is very intense apart from the character you play. The Scottish weather—the wind, the snow, the rain! Brianna is a slow burner; the hardest part is to pull back and peel her layers slowly. She loves Drums of Autumn, and wants to show that Bree—the woman that everyone loves. Brianna is guarded and its hard to hold back and not show the whole Brianna. “As an actor, that is in your head, so it’s quite hard.”
When you travel, where are you most as home in the world?
She spent a lot of time in Scotland as a child, has family there and feels very comfortable and at home. It’s ironic that when she and Richard started working together and doing some research for their parts, they went to the Highlands and to Culloden. She found out that she had seen more of Scotland than Richard, who grew up in Glasgow. She also loves to soak up the sun and loves the Maldives—sitting on a beach, reading, sleeping.
Do you like the ’50s and ’60s costumes?
Caitriona loved them, because she was free of the heavy clothes and corsets, and the long dresses which soak up water. Sophie found the 60s stuff to be quite itchy, but at least it’s comfy and baggy and you can eat—not like when you’re in a tight corset.
How did you become an actress?
At three years old, her parents sent her to ballet school. She started in musical theater and then moved to film. She didn’t go to a drama school but preferred to learn on the job, doing various courses while working. She wanted to build up her CV that way. She had to learn to cope with rejection, adding, “You need to have a thick skin in this business.”
What’s it like to play Sam Heughan’s daughter when in real life your age difference isn’t that great?
“I have watched Sam playing Jamie, endlessly on repeat—probably more than all of you! I study his expressions and mannerisms so I can play his daughter.”
Phew, and there you have it. When it was over, I reflected upon the fact that anything that involves a crowd of people, a lot of noise and multiple days is, well, tiring. The convention was a lot of fun, but I was equally glad to move on to the rest of my Paris experience. A small Airbnb—tucked in the back streets of the Monmarte (think Moulin Rouge) area of Paris.
I had two touristy days there, seeing the sights and mumbling my schoolgirl French to buy tickets, food, whatever I needed. That part of it was quite daunting. But is was also amazing to plunge into a foreign culture and to reflect on the importance we place on the spoken word. And to wonder about why the concept of the sassenach resonates so strongly with me, and at my continued inclination to immerse myself in that experience and into the World of Outlander.
Life is strange and wonderful.
Would love to hear about your convention and sassenach experiences in the comments below.