Outlander can be embarrassing to describe to your friends: “While travelling in 1940s Scotland, nurse Claire Randall touches an ancient stone and is transported to the 18th century, where she’s married off to highlander Jamie Fraser for protection from the evil local English captain. Plot twist! The captain is her present-day husband’s ancestor… and thus looks exactly like him.” Once the snarksters actually watch the breakout hit, however, their eye rolls cease, thanks to the stewardship of showrunner Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Caitriona Balfe’s spirited performance as Claire and the sweet, soulful Sam Heughan as Jamie, for whom viewers are lusting after witnessing his scorching love scenes with Claire. (Season one finally resumes April 5 on Showcase.)
Diana Gabaldon’s historical drama series Outlander has sold more than 25 million copies, so casting was heavily scrutinized by the books’ fans, but 34-year-old Heughan of New Galloway, Scotland, won their approval. First up: Outlander boot camp. He received horseback-riding lessons, boned up on highland clan culture and learned Gaelic. “That’s Jamie’s first language, but he speaks many languages. He’s travelled a lot. He’s been in France, fighting; he’s lived outdoors,” Heughan says of the multi-faceted character that stokes such fan fervour. “He’s a very centred person, forward-thinking. He’s almost a modern man.”
Heughan enjoyed stepping into the kilt: “It’s an amazing piece of equipment—it’s not just for ceremony. It can keep you warm or be used as camouflage, a bed or a saddle for a horse.” All the costumes on the show are completely authentic, with no zippers or Velcro. Costume designer Terry Dresbach even used the traditional berries, herbs and foliage to dye the kilt’s tartan wool. “It’s been wonderful to rediscover my home country, to see the people and the history,” Heughan says. “To be able to bring that to the screen is fantastic.” Time-travelling nurses and all.
Watch the first half of Outlander season one and catch up now on Shomi