In support of Outlander’s return, The TV Watercooler had the opportunity to participate in a panel interview with Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton to discuss what the much “calmer” season sixth season has in store for Roger and Brianna as they now have a “cleaner” slate. The actors also share how the pandemic influenced production and how they’ve bonded with the set of twins who play their son Jem.
What can we look forward to in season six?
Sophie: Without giving out any spoilers, but there’s always major disruption on the Ridge and you’ll see that the Christies don’t look like the calmest family. So, I think a major thing is to just look forward and to just see how that slowly but surely unhinges the normal dynamic at the Ridge. You’re in for a good rollercoaster ride with it!
Richard: We’re starting to see that the family have had time to settle on the Ridge, so we’re starting to see the home and the community build and sort of thrive around them. So, I suppose the stakes are higher now that we’ve truly started to settle.
So outside of us coming in, we’re accepting people on the Ridge and with that comes a lot of potential and a threat…we obviously have the revolution coming up ahead of us. And what does that mean to people who know about it but can’t talk about it?
And in typical fashion, how are things going to be thrown into the melting pot that is Outlander? It’s sure to have some pretty significant consequences for our central characters.
Season six feels like a bit of a clean slate for Roger and Brianna. Can you give us a little bit of insight into what they are going through this season – individually but also as a couple?
Sophie: Well, it’s funny you say that because yeah, Richard and I have discussed it, but it does feel like a clean break for us this season. They’ve both been hugely put through the wringer and a lot of the storylines have been about how it’s affected the family and how the family have helped Roger and Bree both as individuals and as a couple. Obviously, they’ve had relationship problems and they love to bicker, and they’ve been torn apart, and yeah, this season really feels like a fresh start.
I think that with the choice of time travel taken away from them, and that they’re going to stay in this place now, I think they can really put down some legitimate roots – and long-term roots – and just start to really build a life together.
I think that as individuals and as a couple, it is the most calm, collected, and together as we’ve seen them. So, mainly this season is less about the potential of unhinging them as a couple and it’s actually more about watching them deal with things as a couple…more in a Jamie and Claire kind of way! Meanwhile, other couples are being torn apart a little bit more, but for once, Roger and Brianna are the solid ones, so that’s what’s cool about this season. It’s just a totally different version of them that we haven’t seen before.
What was the biggest challenge of this season?
Sophie: Oh, I mean…
Richard: There’s more than one challenge in this season! Oh, but go ahead Sophie!
Sophie: No, no no! Please go on! I feel you have a sarcastic comment that will entertain us! [Laughs]
Richard: I actually don’t have a sarcastic comment for once! As much as I wanted to come up with a real challenge to overcome this season, for me, anyway, I don’t know if Sophia is in agreement, but I think the playing of Roger and Brianna this season was kind of a gentler rate this season. I didn’t find it too taxing emotionally or physically. I mean, we are establishing a lot but there’s a lot to come for them.
There’s a lot happening in which we get involved [with], but I didn’t find it [as taxing]in comparison to season four and in season five. Filming this season was quite calm and enjoyable. I didn’t find anything too stressful.
That’s all going to change, but it’s nice to have a little bit of a calm before the storm, you know.
Sophie? Sophie’s challenge was working with Richard Ranking. [Laughs] And his constant immaturity.
Sophie: [Laughs] No, no. I mean it sounds obvious, but actually, the biggest challenge really was just navigating filming during coronavirus and the lockdown. Every day, you just don’t know if you’re going to be shut down and scenes had to look differently.
Obviously, we had a lot less supporting artists and scenes had to be scaled down to allow for that, but actually something beautiful came out of it in that we have lots of scenes, especially with Roger and Brianna and them interacting with the other characters on the Ridge. There’s a lot of one on one for us, and which not to speak for Richard, but was one of my favourite things of the season because it just means that you get these really intimate and lovely scenes which we don’t always get time for.
Outlander can be very fast-paced, and I feel like, as for characters, Roger and Bree are the glue holding everything together a little bit this season. The challenge was the external circumstance of where we were shooting, but like Richard said, in terms of the storyline, this was actually the most chill that we’ve seen these characters. There wasn’t a tremendously awful emotional place that we had to go to or that we’ve been to before. In this season, we just see them seem happy!
To build on on kind of what you were just talking about, we know the on the Ridge, the families are growing, and we suspect there’s a lot more younger cast members on set. Do you have any fun stories about the interaction with the children on set that you have to deal with?
Sophie: Very funny, so we adore our twins. We’ve had a lot of twins, but we have settled with these ones – Andrew and Matthew Adair. Actually, because of coronavirus, we were a little bit worried that we might have different twins come in [to play Jem]because they grew a lot in that lockdown year. Obviously, filming got pushed and pushed, and they were growing and growing. It’s supposed to be a direct continuation and yet Jem has just grown a foot! [Laughs]
We have found a really good dynamic. It was the luck of the draw as the kids are so chill and they just seem to make no noise and they’re really quiet. They are so easy, whereas Roger and Brianna love to cause havoc! They’re amazing.
The twins came in one day, and one said, “One acting, and then I’m done!” So, he’s basically saying I’ll give you one take and I’m going home! I wish we could do this!
They are amazing, but the biggest challenge is once the kids get bored and that’s it. So you’ve got to get the takes in while you can because they’ll go home.
Richard: You need to keep them engaged and keep them focused on what they’re doing, because once they wander and once their attention is drawn elsewhere or from what we’re supposed to be doing, getting them back into that mode of filming can be [a challenge]because they are used to doing a bit of work and then they are allowed to play or are given treats or other games to play with, so they’ll do their one-act thing and then they want to climb all over the car or play whatever.
We have many stories of the toddlers causing endless entertainment and stress for the actors and crew!
Sophie: We really get on with their parents, which is incredible too. I think we’ve potentially caused them some problems at home because anytime the kids don’t want to do something, we’ll just bribe them with chocolate! “If you do this, mummy will give you chocolate when you get home tonight!” and you just see the parents looking at you, like “thank you for that, for making that promise on our behalf!” But it’s just anything to get them through the day!
Will Claire confide in Brianna about the shared trauma they have each experienced with rape?
Sophie: The fact that Brianna and Claire are modern-day women from the 1960s and even they struggle to talk about this. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with something, or think that you should or shouldn’t talk about it or whatever…
I think that the great thing about this season is that Brianna is letting Claire know that you can process things in your own time and in your own way. As long as you know that there are people there to reach out to you should you need to, they are people who genuinely understand what you’re going through. That’s really all you can do for somebody to a certain extent, like when Claire says she’s “fine,” and then Brianna says, “You know there was a time where I would tell people that I was fine too.”
You’re talking about being in that time, but I think even today, in 2022, people are being encouraged to talk more. Especially after coronavirus. I think mental health issues are becoming more recognized. I think that things that were deemed taboo have been pushed aside a bit and we’re being able to talk about things a lot more. People don’t always know how to process things or say something traumatic out loud or even know who to talk to or how to process it.
I think that’s where Outlander is great. It shows that there’s no right or wrong way and it just lets you sit with the characters and see them process something which hopefully helps people who have been through it.
How will Roger deal with the knowledge he has about the war going into this season?
Richard: I think it’s a really difficult position to be in. I think Roger and Brianna having both explored history and Roger being a professor of history will know a significant amount of it. There are a few of us on the Ridge who know about what’s coming and what’s happening, but I suppose the question is what can be done about it and should anything be done about it – as in what is the morality of that situation?
If you prevent the war and could they even prevent the war? And in which manner would they even do that? They’d probably be burned at the stake for coming forward with information about the future, and X, Y, and Z is going to happen.
I’m not sure how lightly that would be looked upon, but that aside, if they were to prevent the War of Independence, then what would that America look like? Would you be doing any good in doing so? Would it ultimately be better or not? Would another war occur anyway through some other outcome because of how you interfere? Should you interfere in the course of history?
They are clever, intelligent people, and I think these are in professions which would ask, and ultimately, the decision that would come to it would be not to try and interfere with something that could have catastrophic consequences if you were to meddle in the course of history and time itself.
I think that they’re clever enough to know that. They just have to live with the bother of that information and use it, and in whichever small or intimate way that they can. For their friends, or family and loved ones, but also on a grander scale. I think it’s much bigger than they are.
Outlander airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on W Network and streams on STACKTV, GlobalTV.com and the Global TV app. Images courtesy of Showcase.