Gather round, Sassenachs, we have quite the wee treat for ye!
On Tuesday night, EW kicked off its A-List, a series of subscriber-only events, with the red carpet premiere of Outlander in New York City. The event included a sneak peek of the season 3 premiere (OMG!) and a live Q&A with stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. Not to worry — if New York was out of reach and there weren’t any handy time-traveling stones standing around, we’ve got you covered with all the fun tidbits and insights the star-crossed Highland lovers shared with EW’s Lynette Rice.
Without further ado, pour out a dram and enjoy 11 things we now ken from the cast’s answers. (Dinnae worry, there’s no spoilers to frighten ye aff!)
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Working on a show that involves time travel gets confusing for the actors, too
For Balfe, jumping around to different time periods and locations was a bit of a “head turner.” “We had to do [episode] one and three together and then we did two and eight together,” she explains. Heughan agrees it could throw them at times.”You have to be really in control of where you are and where you’re at,” he says. While Balfe joked that she didn’t notice the time apart from Heughan at all, her costar admits he felt a whole different energy on set when she wasn’t present. “We’ve worked together now for so long, so long, that there is something missing,” says the Scottish actor. “We share the same makeup truck and there’s just an energy on set and it’s very different when your costar isn’t there. This whole season has been very different… We’re saying goodbye to a lot of actors and characters that we really love so it has been a sad season, but also very exciting because we have a lot of new characters coming in and new energy as well.”
Tobias Menzies does a weird grunting thing to get into character
Discussing a pivotal and up-close scene he shares with Menzies (Jack/Frank Randall) in the season premiere, Heughan described his costar’s process for getting into character. “I had a lot of people lying on me,” he says about said important scene. “I had Tobias for a couple of nights lying on me — it’s quite intimate. He does this thing [makes pig-like snorting sound] I think he’s getting into character. He’s like an animal, but I love that whole sequence with him. We worked on it for a few days.”
Balfe thought her on-screen lover was a very calming presence when they first met
“I remember I was running a tinchy, tiny bit late — which is never a good thing for a test — but I just remember Sam being very calm and just very sweet and he was just very friendly and there didn’t seem to be… some people, you walk in the room and they’re very poser-y and they’ve got a lot of ego and there’s a lot of posturing,” she says, joking that hasn’t lasted. “That didn’t come until much later with him. In the beginning he was very, very sweet — how things have changed. I just remember him being a very calming influence and it was very helpful when I walked into that room because I was very nervous — he’d already got the job at that point.”
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Heughan chimes in jokingly, “Yeah, I didn’t care. I just remember we did this scene by the water in season 1 (episode 9) and it’s a very big scene of the book…and it got very physical as it tends to on the show and I just remember she was sort of pissed off at me for putting her in a bearhug.”
They haven’t seen the pilot in a whiiiiiiile
While Balfe believes the last time she saw the show’s first episode was before it even aired, Heughan has kind of seen early episodes more recently. “I was on the plane to Comic-Con,” he explains, “and there’s a woman watching the first season and I was watching it over her shoulder and it feels like another person and a long time ago. It feels very different.”
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They’re enjoying getting to know their characters more and more as the show progresses
“You start from a place of, okay, this is what I think this person is but you haven’t gone through any of the experiences,” says Balfe. “You can amass as much background information… but once you live through scenes and you live through the experiences it informs everything you do afterwards. So it’s just a continued process of learning and growing and hopefully we have a long time more to go and we’ll get to know them more and more as we go along.”
“They surprise us,” agrees Heughan. “This season has been very different and it’s been amazing to discover who Jamie was or is without Claire. Every time we get presented a new scenario by the writers or it’s in the book, there’s always a slight struggle in terms of us going, Would I do that? Or would they do that? You have to find a place where you ultimately allow the character to do what they would do and you have to justify it.”
Heughan hasn’t asked Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington for advice because ‘he knows nothing’
All joking aside, Heughan recently worked on a movie with a makeup artist who also works on Game of Thrones and talked to her about the similarities between the two shows, adding it would be “lovely” to sit down with some people on an equally successful show. Balfe also knows someone who works on a long-running show and had the opportunity to discuss with him how to retain the “freshness” season after season. “I think that’s something you always try and strive for,” she says. “You never want to rest on your laurels. You never want to do the same thing over and over again; you want to constantly feel like you’re being challenged and that retains your interest and that retains your excitement about the character. I think it’s always interesting to hear people who have done it before how they’ve gone about it and how do you make sure you’re doing the best job you can do and getting as much out of the experience as you can because it is very rare that this happens and we’re very aware of that.”
They spend about 144 hours shooting an episode
The cast and crew generally shoot 12 hours a day for 12 or 13 days per episode. “In comparison to a lot of shows that are shot in the U.S. that are generally on an eight-day schedule, we do have the luxury of more time,” explains Balfe. Adds Heughan, “There’s a lot of prep as well. On a modern TV show you can probably turn up an hour before and get your hair and makeup done and you’re on set but we have so much hair/makeup.” Quips Balfe: “It takes a long time to make him Jamie Fraser.”
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If they could appear on Broadway they’d costar in The Lover by Harold Pinter
“In the second half there’s a young couple on the hill,” says Heughan. “I could be the really young kid — he’s like 14 or something.” Balfe doesn’t think he has the youthful looks to pull it off, however.
When they read Diana Gabaldon’s books now, they don’t picture one another in the roles
“No, they’re different people in my head,” says Balfe. Adds Heughan of his costar’s character, “She’s a bit more mouthy in the book, isn’t she?”
Heughan loves being in a kilt
“Scotland for me is the character and it’s something I really enjoyed,” he explains of the nation’s traditional garb. “The progression away from that was hard to swallow, but that’s the story of what happened to this culture. It’s kind of sad to say goodbye to it, but it’s also exciting to see where these characters go and the costumes have always been a reflection of the characters.” Surprisingly, Balfe’s favorite outfit isn’t one of those fancy Parisian gowns she sported early in season 2. No, she, too, is a fan of the good old traditional tartan. “It’s probably one of the least glamorous, but the tartan navy and green dress,” she says is her preferred costume to date. “It feels like that’s Claire in Scotland and that’s so representative of who she is. It’s very bold but it’s sensible.”
Both actors listen to music to get in the zone before intense scenes
“I think my favorite thing about this job is that I get to daydream and pretend that that’s work, which makes up for a huge amount of my childhood where I would be given attitude for daydreaming and not focusing on what I was supposed to be doing,” says Balfe. “Now I get to just live in my imagination and play out scenarios. You just go into a dream world and that’s where I find a lot of stuff. I also like to read or sometimes it’s a piece of music that will bring you to the place. As an actor you’re an observer of people and human behavior and you have to keep your eyes and your ears and your heart open to what people are going through and then you can try and understand and put yourself in people’s shoes.”
For Heughan, he had images in his head for certain scenes to get him to the right place mentally, but “music, too, was very evocative” for him. “You have to find the things that trigger you for each moment,” he says.
Outlander returns Sunday, Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.