‘Outlander’ Cast and Producers Preview Fraser’s Ridge Troubles for Jamie and Claire in Season 6

TheWrap gets intel on the new season from Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan and executive producers Matt Roberts and Maril Davis

Jamie, Claire and their family at Fraser’s Ridge are facing much more than the coming of the American Revolution as “Outlander” returns for Season 6 Sunday night on Starz. 

This season, the tight-knit Fraser clan — Jamie (Sam Heughan), Claire (Caitriona Balfe), Brianna (Sophie Skelton), Roger (Richard Rankin), Marsali (Lauren Lyle) Fergus (César Domboy) and Ian (John Bell) — will have to navigate new threats from Richard Brown and the Brownsville community, and brewing tensions with a pious Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones), who Jamie clashed with two decades ago at Ardsmuir Prison following the battle at Culloden.

Jamie and Claire’s bond will always be strong, and they’ll have to draw on each other’s love and support as outside pressures threaten to tear apart the community they’ve built in the new world. Things won’t be as easy for the younger couples – Roger and Bree, and Marsali and Fergus – who face new challenges as they navigate the continued threats of 1770s America.

Ahead of the Season 6 premiere, TheWrap spoke with series stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan and executive producers Matthew Roberts and Maril Davis, who set the stage for the drama to come.

On the characters being tested this season

Matt Roberts: “I always think of it as pressure, you know, you want to put characters under pressure and the books do it and we try to pull the best parts of that and put pressure on them and how they react to that. And I do think because it’s a condensed season, you feel it more in this [season]. There’s no … place for you to, you know, take a deep breath, be relaxed, you know, let’s go out and pick some corn or whatever else is growing up in the garden and they just don’t have a lot of time to do that because something else arrives. And I think over the course of a longer season, you might be able to do that. But this particular season was a little more condensed. So I think – it feels more rapid because of that.”

Troubles at Fraser’s Ridge

Caitriona Balfe: “I guess the community that they’ve created turns against them in some ways, which is a really hard thing for them to be able to accept, I think, and also overcome.”

Sam Heughan: “Jamie is obviously – well, one of the strongest attributes he’s got is that he’s a very loyal man and I think that he’s been torn by having this divided loyalty to the Brits, and yet knowing that he also will have to change sides. But I think what Caitriona is saying about the community – I think, Jamie and Claire, well, Jamie especially, has always been very popular and I think we really start to see that decay amongst the new settlers at Fraser’s Ridge. … They always have each other … and I think [their] strong bond means that they can face everything. But there are so many things obviously; Claire’s PTSD, I think the Browns; there’s so many factors and they really are fighting to protect the whole family unit. 

Lauren Lyle as Marsali in "Outlander" Season 6 (Starz)
Lauren Lyle as Marsali in “Outlander” Season 6 (Starz)

Marsali & Fergus Update

Maril Davis: “We’re picking them up [when] they’re struggling. I mean, Marsali is pregnant; they have quite a few kids; she’s not getting the help she wants from Fergus. I think Fergus is still struggling with the aftermath of the attack on Claire, what happened with Marsali and feeling there’s some guilt there. And I think we’re going to see them struggle. …  I think we’re going to see an amazing arc for them and see they’re such a strong partnership, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen them at odds and not communicating, not talking to each other. So we’ll see this great kind of arc for them to see how they get through this and where they go.”

Richard Rankin as Roger and Sophie Skelton as Brianna in "Outlander" Season 6 (Starz)
Richard Rankin as Roger and Sophie Skelton as Brianna in “Outlander” Season 6 (Starz)

Roger MacKenzie & Brianna Fraser MacKenzie Latest

Roberts: “What’s nice about our couples is they’re all different. Jamie and Claire are kind of the bedrock, you know, their relationship. We don’t ever delve into, ‘Hey, let’s rip them apart and see if they can find a way back to each other emotionally.’ The world … may rip them apart – villains and antagonists might rip them apart, but not them. They’re a couple, whereas Roger and Bree this season, you can see that they both have feelings about something, but they’re not necessarily sharing them. And, I think over the course of the season and the seasons, they learn to do that. Whereas Claire and Jamie kind of learned it in Season 1 and Season 2. You saw them working through those issues. …  We go back to the staple that we’ve always said – we say it in the writers room, it’s in the book, is: we can have secrets, but we can’t have lies, and I think Jamie and Claire, over the course of their relationship, learn that secrets aren’t always necessarily a good thing. Sometimes you just keep things to yourself because you don’t want to worry someone else, you don’t want to have them stressed out. And I think that’s where Jamie and Claire’s relationship is this season. I think Roger and Bree will learn the more that they can be open with each other, the more that they can rely on and support each other, that life might be easier that way. But you just have to come to it. I think Marsali and Fergus will struggle with that as well.”

Jamie & Claire’s physical connection (and intimacy) remains strong

Roberts: “I think one of the reasons why this resonates both with the book readers and the viewers is that the passion and the romance that you’re talking about is just part of the way they communicate. Some people have different ways of communicating and part of it is they’re physical with each other. They need to be physical with each other. In joyous times, traumatic times, it’s just the way they talk. And, it’s important for us to show that and not to shy away from that. Do you call it a modern relationship or an old-fashioned relationship? Who knows?! It’s their relationship and that’s what makes it so unique. If they weren’t communicating that way, then the audience will step back and go, ‘Wait a minute, something’s wrong.’ So that’s why we need to show that every season; we need to show that over the course of this maturing relationship that they don’t – just because they’re getting up there in age – they don’t care, that’s the way they talk; that’s the way they communicate. I think it’s fantastic because you don’t see that very often.”

Davis: “I would just add that I think also, beyond like, intimate communication, they also have an amazing way of communicating with each other that there’s very little they keep from each other. I mean, this season, we’re going to see a little bit of that, but I think it’s very sexy to see a couple that has this open, honest communication with each other and isn’t afraid to kind of bare their souls. And so, I think that’s very appealing when you’re watching a relationship like that.”

Balfe: “It’s such an integral part to the relationship, right? I think they connect on such a deep level metaphysically and physically, and we always want to be able to explore that. And I think just because they age, it doesn’t necessarily mean that, that has to disappear. I think one of the things that we see, especially after the events at the end of last season, is that, that’s such a sacred space for them, you know, that this is something that especially Lionel Brown tried to take away. … And I think Claire was so scared that she would lose that because it’s so sacred. But, you know, even if she is still recovering, psychically, or emotionally from those events, she’s able to find some solace still in the arms of her husband.”

Heughan: “Yeah, I think it’s a really integral part to their relationship, right, that they still have this physical attraction to each other. … But it’s also, you know, the humor, the mental – like there’s this real lightness to the two. … I really enjoy the scenes, you know, when they spar or they flirt with each other and it’s really nice to see. See the old ones, you know, still enjoying each other’s company and sharing these intimate moments.”

Caitlin O' Ryan as Lizzie in "Outlander" Season 6 (Starz)
Caitlin O’ Ryan as Lizzie in “Outlander” Season 6 (Starz)

Bonus bit for the book readers: Lizzie and the Beardsley twins and how much of that relationship the show gets into in Season 6

Davis: “If you’re asking from a book perspective, I mean … you know, it’s funny, someone had recently asked me which of the characters I thought sees the most change [in] their character. And it’s interesting because Claire doesn’t change. Most of our characters don’t change. They know who they are. They’re pretty consistent. Things just happened to them. I will say, Lizzie, for me, is a character that really comes into her own this season. She goes from kind of – not meek, but she’s definitely a little more low-key. We haven’t seen a lot of her and I think she just comes into her own, decides what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it and speaks up for it, and she’s very passionate. So, I think we’ll definitely see some interesting stuff with her and I’m excited for everyone to see that. So, you know, some relationships, some stuff. 

“Outlander” Season 6 premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz. New episodes air every Sunday night.