6 Questions With ‘Outlander’ Star Sam Heughan: Emmy Contender Quickie

Starz actor shares toughest, funniest scenes to shoot on Season 1 of Diana Gabaldon adaptation

“Outlander” may be best known and beloved as a time-traveling romance, but the Starz adaptation of Diana Gabaldon‘s best-selling series of books went to some very dark places by the conclusion of its first season.

Sam Heughan plays Jamie Fraser, the male lead in the series, who romances Caitriona Balfe‘s time-displaced 1940s nurse Claire after she crash lands in 17th Century Scotland.

Jamie starts out as a dreamy protector, but by the season finale, he had become a victim of sexual assault and torture at the hands of the cruel Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), and lived to tell the tale.

A strong contender for a Best Actor Emmy, Heughan talked to TheWrap about which scenes were the toughest to shoot (pretty much the ones you’d expect), which were the most fun (maybe not what you’d expect), and why the Emmys needs a category just for Gingers.

What was the toughest thing you had to do this season?
I think the last two episodes … It’s a very difficult show to do because we’re outdoors a lot, and it’s a very gritty story, but the last two episodes — with the torture and subsequent rape of my character — that was a really tough couple of episodes. I totally relished it, I really sort of enjoyed it, if that’s the right word, to have that challenge, to play something that dark. We had great writing and a great director on board. But yeah, they were a tough couple of weeks, just going to that dark a place for that amount of time. And also there was a lot of prosthetic work as well, so days were just never-ending. But I’m really pleased with the outcome.

What was the funnest thing you got to do this season?
I would say I kind of enjoyed that stuff. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment but I enjoy anything where you get to flex your acting muscles, you get to really go for it. In the second half of the season my character got a lot more to do and you see a lot more of his point of view. There’s some great scenes between myself and Caitriona’s character Claire, especially the one by the river in Episode 10 where it’s the first time you get to see us really going at each other and I enjoy that, it’s really fun to do. You’re outdoors, you have this whole story built up where I rescued her from the clutches of Black Jack Randall and there’s a lot of emotion involved. It just felt like a day where it’s more about the acting as opposed to getting the right shots or the location or whatever. So any day where you get to let off steam is great.

Let’s assume someone who’s been living under a rock has never heard of “Outlander.” What would you say to convince them to watch it?
I’ll probably say I’ll give them a bottle of whiskey if they watch it. I would say it’s based on a series of books, it’s an action adventure, historical romance with time travel, but ultimately it’s a really good story with some great characters. It’s maybe a slow burner but people want to invest in a TV show and we give them that. If you watch our show, you’ll get sucked into Scotland and the world they’re in. It just gets stronger and stronger each episode.

Who else on the show really deserves an Emmy and why?
I think everybody does. Caitriona is terrific. She has so much stamina and she carries the show. She has to show up everyday and just give her best. Tobias, equally, he’s an amazing actor. Those last couple of episodes where I really sort of got to go to some interesting places, he was there and we really supported each other and trusted each other. I think trust is the most important thing. If the actors and the director and the crew trust each other and you set up perimeters and boundaries, you give everyone space to do great work. I think we’ve got an amazing costume department, amazing writers, directors — just give us an Emmy for everything.

Are you a binge-watcher? Once-a-weeker? What was the last thing you binge-watched?
I’m a total binger. I kind of love documentaries, I know this sounds terrible, but the last thing I did was spend a good few hours on Netflix just watching every documentary they’ve got. So I love that. But TV shows — I love “Vikings,” “The Walking Dead,” “Mad Men.” “Breaking Bad,” of course is like the ultimate. The depravity of my addiction goes back to “The Sopranos” and way before that. Any American TV show, I really think American TV is where it’s at at the moment. But I do love the documentaries, I gotta say.

If you could add a new category to the Emmys, serious or silly, what would it be?
The Ginger Award. The most ginger actor. I’m not a natural ginger, I have to dye it for the show, but I think I would be allowed in that category. Christina Hendricks would be in there for sure, Damian Lewis. I think there’s quite a few out there. The Ginger Award. Gingers get a bad rep. They get teased at school. So we should feel sorry for them. I’m only saying this because now I have a ginger beard, I’m playing a ginger. So I’m beginning to understand what they have to go through.

“Outlander” is currently in production on Season 2. Stay tuned for more of our interview with Heughan.