For “Outlander” enthusiasts eagerly anticipating the final half of the first season, the long wait is finally over. Diehard fans of the Starz series stood in lines around the block of the Ziegfeld Theater Wednesday night for up to seven hours in the bitter cold to attend a special screening of the midseason premiere, followed by a Q&A with stars Caitriona Balfe, Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan. “The Reckoning” — season one, episode 9, the midseason premiere — aired on Starz Saturday night.
As you may recall, the great feminist adventure about Claire Randall (Balfe), a 1940’s English nurse on a second honeymoon with her sensitive, moody husband Frank (Menzies), took off in the Scottish countryside when Claire happened to touch a phallic-shaped monument that transported her to 18th Century Scotland. It’s there she met, fell hard and married kilt-wearing hunk Jamie Fraser (Heughan). Their relationship is continually derailed not only by their different century sensibilities, but also by the machinations of wonderfully wicked Black Jack Randall, an English officer played in a dual role by Menzies.
Claire and Jamie enjoy a long and lusty wedding night, but their happiness is not to last. The first half of the season ends with Jamie and Claire’s capture and then escape from Black Jack. Spoiler alert: Claire is captured again by Black Jack after she strays from Jamie’s demand to stay put. Jamie manages her escape, but her disobedience results in a spanking that strains the couple’s relationship.
Also ahead – without giving too much away– there is more sex, violence and scheming. Some of the manipulation involves the bickering Mackenzie clan, brothers Colum (Gary Lewis) and Dougal (Graham McTavish). There is also the presence of the enigmatic Gellis (Lotte Verbeek), Claire’s frenemy and also like Claire, a time traveler.
Following are highlights from my red carpet chat with “Outlander” cast members:
What did you discover about yourself playing the role of Geillis?
We see Geillis going from being really playful to actually being more vulnerable, and I can relate to both, so I’m not sure if I learned that about myself, but definitely both of these things are important in my life, to be both be playful and vulnerable, as well.
How does your relationship with Claire play out in the second half?
Geillis and Claire are drawn to each other. You’ve seen that they both kind of want to have a friend. They wanted to have a friend because they’re by themselves in this world. Claire just got into this world. Geillis has been there for a while, so they’ve become friends, but throughout the second half of the first season, that gets shaken up a little and their friendship is definitely being tested. Its interesting how that is being played out (as the season moves on)… They’re not certain of their lives at some point, and they’re being quite brave, truly strong women.”
Gary Lewis and Graham McTavish did interviews together.
As brothers, you have this amazing relationship. You both rely on each other and then at times probably want to strangle each other. Other than each other, which characters do you consider your greatest allies and your greatest threats?
Gary Lewis: It’s so strange because from where Colum is standing, I could say that it is Jamie… I sheltered him. I fed him. I kept him out of harm’s way, but sometimes he’s led astray by my loving brother here. (Points to McTavish).
Graham McTavish: I would say the same. My greatest ally, my greatest threat, is Jamie, for sure. I spend a fair amount of time looking after him and saving his life, and I spend a fair amount of time trying to have him killed, so it’s a very interesting side of Dougal’s character. He has other allies. Geillis is an ally, for sure. Other threats, well obviously, Black Jack Randall, but those are kind of obvious ones. The ones that you have to watch, it’s keeping your enemies close and that sort of thing. And Jamie is a perfect example of that.
What can you tease about your characters for the rest of the season?
GM: An interesting development has been my relationship with a woman and an interesting development in my relationship with my brother would be my two.
GL: My relationship with my brother. He brings problems to my door. I just wish he would stop it. I just wish he would act in the best interests of the clan, but he does play a very important role. I don’t know if I can say it. I’m struggling. I’m dancing around it here.
How would you describe the second part of the season?
GM: Surprises, shocks, devastating moments.
GL: Dark, profound and shattering.
GM: Very much like Gary’s character here. It’s like being around Gary.
GL: And then really I should pull one of my legs off and beat him around the head with it.
What’s the biggest challenge of playing these two very different people?
I guess just being two different people, of being convincingly two different people but using the same face to do it. That’s the challenge, the conundrum, the what’s exciting about it. I was always very keen not to make it based on some very overt piece of physicality, be it kind of a limp or a patch. To make it sort of the soul of the person looking out so obviously that makes it, how do you calibrate that, so really I sort of do my homework, learn my lines, trust the story to that extent, but just hope that there’s some other quality coming out, and I do feel like two different men.
The first episode of the first season, you have a sex scene in a Scottish castle with your wife Claire that is still being talked about. Have women reacted differently to you since it aired?
Are you saying are women throwing their knickers at me? Is that the question? (he laughed.) Not that I’ve noticed, but I live in London and the show hasn’t been playing in England yet or it’s only just come… I can do anything in London and no one gives a shit.
What are some of the challenges Claire and Jamie are going to face, emotionally and every way else?
I think one of the main things is that up until this point, it was falling in love. It was the romance, but now you know, there are two people in very different times, a different world code. They have a different way of approaching things and I think that tension really comes into play, and I feel even though they may not be able to accept each other’s actions always, they really have to find a way to understand where each other is coming from and in that way, they can build a bridge to make their relationship stronger.
How does your character evolve?
I think Claire, she’s had such a singular focus in the first half of the season just to get home, it started to get sidetracked a little towards the end of the season, but now I feel she really has to make a decision about whether she’s going to accept her fate or keep fighting, and once she might accept her fate, what does that mean? What does it mean to stay in this time, and I think you’ll see a lot of changes happening for Claire then.
She’s a feminist and that’s a great quality she has. Was that the great pull in taking the role?
I never thought of her as just a feminist character. I thought of her as a timeless, strong woman, and I think Claire would never think of herself as a feminist, even though I don’t have a problem with that terminology at all because I think it’s amazing that there’s this conversation about her. But I just think that she regards herself as an equal and, in fact, a lot of times as superior, so I love that about her.
How will Claire and Jamie’s relationship grow?
It gets more complicated. It gets darker and they don’t always see eye to eye. Ultimately, they have to come to sort of a conclusion and that’s the great part of any relationship, that you learn from each other and the relationship moves forward. It doesn’t just stagnate.
What have you learned about yourself playing this character?
It’s about growth and I am a young man having to grow up rather rapidly and face responsibilities. That’s exactly what Jamie does in the second part of the season.