'Outlander': Sam Heughan on Jamie and Claire's Wedding, Nerve-wracking Sex Scenes

"By the end of the episode, they’re basically making love, it’s not just consummating the marriage," the Scottish actor tells THR
Courtesy of Starz

[WARNING: Spoilers ahead from Saturday's episode of Outlander, "The Wedding," and future events from the books.]

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Jamie Fraser.

The moment fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series had been anticipating since the August debut of the Starz drama finally took place on the penultimate episode: Jamie and Claire's wedding. But the occasion wasn't the product of a lengthy courtship, it was merely an idea proposed by Dougal with the sole purpose of protecting Claire from the wrath of the ruthless Black Jack Randall. There were rules, of course, like consummating their marriage to make it official — a difficult task considering Jamie's virginity. To say their first intimate moment as husband and wife was awkward is an understatement. But ultimately, through a run of alcohol-aided conversations, Jamie and Claire have sex — lots of it.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Scottish star Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie, breaks down the biggest moments from Saturday's episode, "The Wedding," the "intimate" sex scenes and yes, that line about the horse.

You've been filming Outlander for more than a year. Has there been fan reaction to any particular moments that has surprised you?

I'm always amazed by the small things; there are a lot of little details that you maybe put in yourself as an actor and the fans always seem to pick up on him. For instance, I used words of Gaelic in the show just to express myself and fans will go out of their way to find out what they mean, and to then translate them [to English]. Little things that I sometimes think the viewer wouldn’t even notice. There was a reaction in episode four where I’m talking about Dougal and the scars he leaves, and I touched the back of my head because I was thinking about the scar that was on my head [when] Dougal knocked me out. I was amazed that fans picked up on that. They’re always watching and I’ve seen that they really dissect the episodes and slow things down and I think that’s wonderful — slightly terrifying as well. (Laughs.) But there are so many details in the show that I think, if the fans look deep enough, they’ll see a lot of things that are there that maybe on the first viewing they wouldn’t catch.

Those who have read the first Outlander book have been anticipating Jamie and Claire’s wedding episode for a while. Was this an episode that you circled on the calendar? How important was it to get the intricacies of the wedding and the aftermath right?

The wedding is a big episode for Jamie and for Claire. There are many big moments we have to get right and going back to the flogging that was another big one that we have to mark right. How we get from one to the next the writers have a bit more freedom in the way we portray it. Yeah, we got to get it right. But the subject matter — Caitriona [Balfe] and I have never done anything like this before, so it was a bit of a learning curve. We were lucky that the director, Anna Foerster, was good. We did a lot of rehearsals. We discussed how we wanted it to work. When you watch the episode there is a progression in the way that Jamie and Claire get to know each other. Their relationship grows quite quickly so by the end of the episode, you can see that they’re basically making love, it’s not just consummating the marriage. Their friendship and their relationship is really bonded, but is also left in a place where Claire is reminded of her husband, Frank, back in the future. That leaves a wonderful discord at the end of the episode.

You mentioned that you had never really done an episode like this before. How comfortable were you with the nudity? 

Caitriona and I had already filmed a scene from episode 10. When we were filming, we shot two episodes ahead so we did a scene after [the wedding] — a big breakup. It was very physical and lustful. To do this somehow felt easier, but more intimate because this was more about discovering each other. Yeah, we were both slightly nervous, which I think helps. In the scene, it’s part of them finding each other. We worked it out in rehearsals what we wanted the viewer to see and not see and how we wanted it to be portrayed. Again, we don’t want [the sex] to be gratuitous but it’s very important for the characters and what happens to their relationship.

We get a sense, too, of Jamie’s naivete when it comes to sex, which is a source of humor. Plus, it’s a nice role reversal to see Claire being the one who is more experienced sexually rather than Jamie, who hasn’t reached that level yet.

In most TV dramas and films, it’s normally the other way around. It’s the guy [with more experience] than the woman, so it’s kind of turned on its head. Jamie’s very willing to learn and Claire is a very good teacher. (Laughs.) He couldn’t ask for better really. But it’s wonderful that they do have that kind of relationship. It’s very physical; there are no barriers. That’s what made their bond even stronger. I think he grows up very quickly and learns a lot, but it is lovely his humor. He’s learned a lot from looking at farmyard animals [which] is slightly disturbing. (Laughs.)

How tricky was it to keep Jamie and Claire’s courtship fresh, especially in the early going, considering the fact that nearly everyone knows that they end up together?

The writers and [executive producer/showrunner] Ron [Moore] have been very carefully developing their relationship. Clearly there’s been something simmering there. But again, they’re not getting married because they love each other and they live happily ever after. It’s very practical and it’s dealing with a very real threat that Claire’s under. The wedding and the wedding night is a great episode and their relationship is in a good place, you can certainly be sure that it doesn’t stay there for long. (Laughs.) They encounter a lot more problems along the way, but each one makes them stronger. It’s nice for them to have this moment where they get to know each other and where the viewer gets to know the characters a bit more, because I think Jamie, up to this point, we know who he is but we don’t know him.

He’s still a mystery, even at this point.

He’s a mystery still. It’s nice to discover a bit more about him.

There is the case of Claire having a husband in 1945, who is alive and well. How would Jamie react if he were to find that out?

She does reveal where she’s from and that she has this husband. Jamie has to deal with that, and he does, but he becomes very aware of Frank. I don’t know what would have happened if she revealed to Jamie that she was still married and he was still alive. I think Jamie, even though he’d desperately want to be with Claire, would do the honorable thing and refuse to wed her. It’s interesting because in this moment, he’s forced into this relationship, as is she, and it’s all very new. He’s obviously attracted to her, but to be a husband and to be responsible for someone is something totally new to him. It takes him awhile to become used to that.

The proposal of marriage is only brought up as a way to protect Claire from Black Jack. How much of a sacrifice was it for Jamie to go through with it, as it must not have been what he may have pictured, or is he looking at it like he’s fulfilling a duty?

He obviously is attracted to her and possibly has fallen in love with her very quickly. But ultimately he’s doing an honorable thing, he’s doing the right thing, he’s protecting her. That’s the default. Later on throughout the series, you start to see him start to realize what it means to have responsibilities. Before this point, he only had himself to answer to — he’s left Scotland, he wasn’t working at home, he didn’t see his sister, he only had himself to look after. Now, suddenly, he’s married and he’s expected of things, he’s got to discipline his life, he’s got to teach his wife, he’s got to stand up for her, which he will do of course but he’s certainly learning a lot at each moment.

There is also the Dougal factor. On the one hand, Jamie could thank Dougal for setting up this marriage in the first place, but on the other hand, Dougal is already making the moves on Claire. Jamie’s relationship with his uncle is already tense, so where do they stand now?

It’s maybe saved Claire from Black Jack for a while but there are, as we know, many dangers in Scotland. You can’t trust anyone. Certainly the strained relationship between Dougal and Jamie; they’re blood and they’re kin but there’s still animosity there and distrust. As long as Dougal has Jamie where he can see him, he’s safe, but they’re very wary of each other. Dougal has other plans that Jamie doesn’t want to be a part of, and that gets him into the trouble in later episodes.

Now that Claire and Jamie are married, how does this change their dynamic moving forward?

We see Claire begin to fall in love with Jamie and by the time they go back to Lallybroch, she’s certainly leaving the will to return to the stones to go back to Frank. There are all these other issues of having children as well. Jamie would love to have children and it’s later on that Claire reveals that she can’t, which is a big blow for Jamie. That’s the start of another journey for them really.

Going back to last week’s episode, we have to discuss the violent lashing scene between Jamie and Black Jack Randall. Tobias Menzies called it an “elegant way” of communicating Black Jack’s sadism. What was it like to film that moment for you?

It is a very brutal scene. I was very aware that this was the moment that really bonds these two characters together. It all started in that first flashback back in Lallybroch that really consolidates their bond and the beginning of this struggle between the two characters. It was a big buildup. It was filmed sometime in November, or was it February — it was definitely very cold. I had had a long prosthetic that took a few hours to get done. It was very physical. Obviously I’m not getting whipped but hanging by the chains, sort of throwing your body around and having those metal manacles on, it was good and Tobias really went for it as well. I think Jamie standing out to him and using a bit of humor is a sign of things to come. And I think also, people who read the books and people who know what happens to Jamie, you don’t really think about it. You know he’s been whipped, but actually to see it, it really brings it home. I think a lot of fans were like, “Oh my god, this is actually what happened.” Not to go too far ahead, but in the books, some terrible things happen between Jamie and Black Jack and they will be equally hard to watch. People will be shocked and it will make for some fantastic viewing.

Was it a difficult scene to watch?

It’s such a big scene. There’s a lot going on there. Brian [Kelly], the director, did a great job. There were so many extras. That location is a fantastic location and we had a lot of other things going on there. There was Dougal in the background, and Jamie’s father, who you’ll see more of in episodes to come, is actually in the ensemble of people watching, there is the person who faints. I am really pleased with how it turned out.

Do you have any favorite moments or scenes from this week’s episode?

I particularly liked [the scene with] the other Highlanders [when they’re ribbing Jamie after he and Claire have sex]. They provide more comedy and you can imagine the embarrassment. They brought some light humor to the whole affair.

What is one question that you still have about Jamie that you’d like to explore further?

Especially the last couple of episodes, we start to see that he is having to take the laird of Lallybroch and possibly have children. He struggles with that. You see him yearning to be the man he was, which was a young, free mercenary and maybe going back to war. That’s something that Jamie battles with a lot, his real self and character, and if Claire hadn’t turned up, he’d probably still be doing that, probably in a foreign country. A lot of Jamie’s great happiness is brought on through Claire, but also a lot of his problems. Her turning up in his life creates a lot of difficulties. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of that yet.

Outlander airs 9 p.m. Saturdays on Starz.

Email: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
Twitter: @insidethetube

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