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Sam Heughan as Jamie with co-star Caitriona Balfe as Claire in season one of Outlander
When it comes to guilty pleasures, we've got our fair share: donuts, bowls of pasta as big as our head, a glass of orange wine on a Friday afternoon. But no guilty pleasure is as guilty - or, indeed, as pleasurable - as Outlander. The sumptuous melodrama follows a feisty 1940s' feminist who is hurled back in time to rebellion-era Scotland when she touches some magic rocks. Once in the wilds of the North, she stumbles upon the softly-spoken, kilt-wearing gentle giant Jamie, and lots of steamy, sexy sex ensues. All with a steadfast and resolute focus on female pleasure. It's not only rare when it comes to television, but downright applause worthy. What's not to love?
The show is pretty much our favourite thing to binge-watch, and it's thanks in no small part to this man: Sam Heughan, who selflessly spends most of the series shirtless for your viewing pleasure. (His bottom trended on Twitter after Outlander's climactic - ahem, pun intended - episode seven when Claire and Jamie first consummated their union.) We sat down with the man making television so, so great to find out a little bit more about the new season.
MARIE CLAIRE: Is this your first time in Australia?
SAM HEUGHAN: It is. I have had an amazing time. It’s such a beautiful... [Pulls a face] It’s so sunny I want to be outside! [Laughs] But it’s been amazing. We’ve had two days off, so when we landed we went to a rugby game. Then I went to Bondi, Manly cove [and] up the Bridge. It’s been great.
MC: And have you tried Vegemite?
SH: Yes, I had Vegemite on TV yesterday. I loved it. I really like it. Anything on toast is good though.
MC: The fans of this show are legendary. Is that something you had ever encountered before?
SH: No I had never encountered anything like this. What’s surprising is that we have been to America and we’ve been in Europe and the fact that the fans over here are just as enthusiastic about the show [is amazing]. We had an event last night and they all turned up and they were all wearing some piece of tartan and they were really into it and it’s crazy to think that the show has that far of a reach.
MC: What's the craziest thing a fan has done to get your attention?
SH: I probably can’t say, because I think it’s a bit embarrassing. But they’re great, they generally are very, very well-meaning and very supportive of everything we do. And some time it might go a little too enthusiastic, but they’re also self policing as well and they have a great community of support for each other.
MC: A lot of people - ED'S NOTE: Ahem, marie claire staffers included - love the fact that the sex is so feminist and realistic in the show. How important was that going in?
SH: The show is from the point of view of a woman so therefore we see it from her eyes. Myself and Caitriona [Balfe, who plays Claire] are very aware of what we do and why are we doing it. We don’t want it to just be some explicit, pornographic thing on television. We want it to have a meaning and move the characters forward and show something about their relationship.
MC: What can fans expect in the bedroom in season 2?
SH: I think they’re going to be surprised actually. Very surprised.
SH: I don’t know. You know, at the end of season one Jamie has a great trauma happen to him, so he’s still suffering mentally and physically and Claire’s now pregnant. So they’re not the young lovers that have fallen for each other for the first time. They’re grown up and have a grown up relationship with all of its intricate details and that will be reflected in the bedroom.
Sam Heughan as Jamie in a still from season 2 of Outlander
MC: There's a ninth book coming very soon. How abreast are you of where Jamie’s story arc goes?
SH: I think she’s getting there. From what I hear. She allows us the odd bit of information. I know what happens to Jamie in the end of the series. We do talk a lot and she does give us little insights into our characters. If we ever have any questions or anything really she’s a great source of material and she’s helped me and Caitriona in lots of ways.
MC: You and your co-star Caitriona Balfe are very close. What's the best and worst thing about that?
SH: The best is that it’s reflected in the show. We go to know each other well in the first season and developed this bond and this trust. I think it’s great to be able to share the journey with someone. The worst... Now what could be the worst thing... I think recently we’ve had people discussing our personal life and whether we were in a relationship and it’s almost a shame that that has to be discussed because we’re just doing our job. I don’t know what other job you do where you have to discuss your personal life or relationship with a co-worker. It’s very strange.
MC: Do you guys make a point of not talking about it when asked?
SH: For a while. I mean we were asked in every interview and we were quite candid about it. I felt like we should just not discuss it at all but she wanted to make it clear and I think that’s totally fair. I don’t know. Part of me thinks it breaks the spell. And the other part of me says we should just be honest about it and make it clear but then, you know… I don’t think it matters.
MC: On a scale of 1-10 how great is it as a Scot to wear a kilt everyday to work?
MC: Are you very Scottish?
SH: I would say I’m an honorary scot. I’m from the borders, My mum is English, I don’t have the strongest accent. But I’ve certainly fallen in love with my country and the many facets that make it up and the history of it. And now staunchly proud of it and the history of Scotland and its culture. It’s great to be able to film there and bring our culture to the rest of the world. My responsibility is to make sure that we are as authentic as possible.
MC: There are so many raunchy costume dramas at the moment, from Outlander to Game of Thrones and Poldark. What do you think is the appeal for audiences?
SH: Things that are based on books are always very rewarding. I guess people like epic drama because they can commit to it and grow with these characters and learn more about them. I think Outlander is very different to the others. Game of Thrones is an epic fantasy, Outlander isn’t. I think Scotland is part of the appeal of Outlander, certainly. Poldark I haven’t seen. But Aidan Turner is probably the drawcard there. [Laughs]
MC: So what do you like to watch, of an evening?
SH: A documentary. Love a good doco. Love ‘em.
MC: Like nature documentaries? [ED's NOTE: Could you seriously not come up with any other kind of documentary? HRY: Nope. Just not a doco kinda gal.]
SH: Nature’s alright. Anything factual, anything real. I’m finding it harder and harder to find something to watch. I do watch a lot of American TV shows and dramas, but, especially when it comes to books, I find myself drawn to factual stuff. It’s just as exciting and in fact even more so because it’s real.
MC: Are you a binge watcher or an episode-a-week kinda guy?
MC: What is your advice to people suffering from the Droughtlander?
SH: Well they haven’t got long left now. They’ve got this far. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Be prepared. It’s going to be different. Drink some red wine, because it’s [set in] France. Eat some cheese.
MC: How would you describe the series in three words?
SH: Poisonous. Political. Two Ps I need another P… Purpose. Does that work? [Laughs]
Outlander season 2 will air on Foxtel's SoHo Sundays at 8.30PM from April 10