There are two important things to know about Sam Heughan: He’s as nice as his social media persona and work on Outlander suggest. And he is that attractive in real life.
Even after a week of nonstop appearances promoting the third season of the hit Starz fantasy drama, (Sundays, 8 ET/PT), he’s all winks and Scottish charm, joking about getting bad takeout salad stuck in his teeth and fanboying over Whoopi Goldberg.
“We’re going on The View, and I’d say 75% of people there were Outlander fans and they were just so enthusiastic, and I’m like, ‘There’s Whoopi Goldberg’!” Heughan, 37, laughs.
He still genuinely seems shocked by how many fans the show has amassed — and there are many — but he’s quick to praise them.
“They were just really happy to see us. I felt very lucky,” he says. “I’m beginning to realize, I don’t think every other TV show has that kind of support.”
That might sound insincere if Heughan didn’t have that rare combination of charisma and humility. At a time when so many of your faves are problematic — the tabloid mess of Hiddleswift and Brangelina, the airing of Joss Whedon’s dirty laundry — that down-to-Earth air feels refreshingly pure.
It’s as if he was plucked from a hilltop in Scotland and dropped into Hollywood. And fans, as well as casting directors and major brands, are eating it up.
“Why did we do it? We met him a little over a year ago in New York at an event we were hosting and he’s just such a nice guy,” says Barbour general manager Tom Hooven about signing Heughan as the fashion brand’s first global ambassador.
The partnership has worked so well they’ve signed him for two more years, and are releasing a collection he helped design later this month.
His lack of pretense may stem from the fact that his 2013 casting in Outlander, the historical fantasy series set in Scotland and based on the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon, came asHeughan was questioning his career choice.
“I was a little like, not disillusioned, but certainly looking at my life. I was 30, maybe 33. I had toured a lot, did bit parts in TV and theater, was just coming back from America where I tested on a lot of big TV shows and films but still not sort of broken that barrier yet,” he says. “I think I was just looking at life going, ‘Is this what i’m going to be doing for the next 10 to 20 years?’”
It’s almost here: Starz’s ‘Outlander,’ returns Sept. 10. The new season finds Jamie and Claire separated by 200 years and trying to find their way back to each other again following the Battle of Culloden.
Turns out, he was on the precipice of a major change. He got a call from his agent, after returning to Scotland following a string of rejections in L.A., with a script for the part of Jamie Fraser, the highlander who falls in love with Claire, a nurse from the 1940s who has traveled back in time after touching standing stones while on vacation outside Inverness.
“I read it, and I just knew that I knew that character.”
He was quickly brought onboard, and helped with the casting of his co-star Caitriona Balfe. The pair’s chemistry has helped the show become a ratings boon for the premium-cable network and a social media phenomenon.
It also got him the attention of director Susanna Fogel, who hired him, alongside Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, for feature film The Spy Who Dumped Me, due next summer, after an audition via iPad as he was shooting Outlander’s new season in South Africa. It was enough, however, to convince producers he was ready to break out from the historical fantasy genre for a high-budget comedy thriller.
Heughan plays a federal agent in the film, which follows two 30-year-old best friends Audrey (Kunis) and Morgan (McKinnon) in Los Angeles, who unwittingly become entangled in an international conspiracy when Audrey’s ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment followed by a team of deadly assassins on his trail.
“Sam is that rare actor with such a breadth of talent that he can effortlessly move between genres. In our film, we asked him to do it all, and he did,” Fogel said via email from Budapest, where filming is nearly complete. “He’s a bona fide action star one minute, a grounded dramatic actor the next, and a comedic foil for Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis throughout.”
The film may be the next break he was waiting for, hurtling him to a permanent place on the silver screen and giving fans a full-blown movie star to fawn over.
“It was exciting to give him an opportunity to explore a different tone and dynamic in his work and watch him master it like he did, and I can’t wait to see what he does next,” Fogel says.
The Heughlians couldn’t agree more.
Caitriona Balfe talks to USA TODAY about the sex scenes in the Starz series “Outlander.”