- Outlander -21 Behind-The-Scenes ‘Outlander’ Stories From Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish’s New Book ‘Clanlands’
Most Outlander fans will never get the opportunity to experience the show up close and personal; even after consuming all the interviews, behind-the-scenes features, and extras the Outlander fandom provides, you always want more. Well, Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish may have the answer to your wish of experiencing Outlander first hand in their new book Clanlands (released Nov. 3).
While documenting their Scottish road trip (that we'll eventually get to see in Men in Kilts), Heughan and McTavish share Outlander set stories from their days portraying Jamie Fraser and his uncle Dougal MacKenzie together on screen. I've gone through the book and documented all the behind-the-scenes Outlander stories that Heughan and McTavish tell in Clanlands to get you one step closer to the action. Without further ado, here's every time they dished on Outlander.
McTavish's Latte Habit
Heughan establishes his disdain for his costar's latte habit early on.
"Graham always needs a latte. On the set of Outlander, Graham's catchphrase was 'I'll have a latte,' and he swiftly became known as Lady McTavish for being so high-maintenance, the polar opposite of his hard-core warlord character in Outlander, Dougal MacKenzie."
– Sam Heughan, page 13
Hungover At Work
McTavish hosted a whisky tasting party for some of the Outlander Season 1 cast and crew, including Heughan, Caitriona Balfe (Claire), Tobias Menzies (Black Jack / Frank), Grant O'Rourke (Rupert), Duncan Lacroix (Murtagh), and producers Maril Davis and Matthew B. Roberts. Much whisky — and sake — was consumed, making for a painful day at work the next morning.
"I wasn't sure if Caitriona could speak. She glazed over and her head began to fall forward. As the stage directions were being read out I gave her a nudge. Maybe because I was watching out for her, I didn't notice my hangover as much, but I was sweating hard and clinging onto each word hoping they'd reveal some meaning. Constructing a sentence or following the story was beyond my grasp, we were definitely still 'aff our heids' drunk. ... I could tell the director and producers were angry and beginning to suspect we were not at our best. Or was it my paranoia? Were they looking at me? What if I started drooling or throwing up on Cait?"
– Sam Heughan, pages 30-31
McTavish Gets Out Of A Shirtless Charge
Heughan gives some insight into McTavish's work ethic with an anecdote about "a shirtless Highland Charge" from Season 2's "Je Suis Prest."
"After maybe two takes, Graham starts to complain he’s cramping and his quads are seizing up. It happened every time he was required to ride poor old Lambert, his faithful horse in the show. Graham gives 100% . . . for a couple of takes. And then, as soon as he feels he's done enough or he thinks the director has enough footage, he suddenly gets cramp or an injury and has to have a wee sit down. And a latte. And definitely a snack. 'And could I possibly trouble you for a copy of The Times – thank you so much.' And perhaps a shoulder massage from a fair wench . . . There is a lot I can learn from Maestro McTavish."
– Sam Heughan, page 57
Leaving Angus In The Dust
McTavish credits his horse Lambert for covering up all of his equestrian shortcomings, citing this incident while filming the last shot of "The Gathering."
"There was a shot at the end of Season One, Episode Four – with me in the front, leading a long line of Highlanders away from Doune Castle (aka Castle Leoch). As I rode, hand on hip, I could hear the screaming of Stephen Walters (Angus) behind me, arguably even less happy with a horse than I am. His horse was careering back and forth, with him holding on for dear life, shouting, 'Woah, woah, woah!'
I resolutely stared ahead, I didn't want to give Lambert ideas, my only concern being whether I was in focus on camera. As Lambert and I passed the lens, Stephen's voice fading in the background, I gave Lambert a thankful pat on his neck. He'd managed to make me look vaguely competent, yet again."
– Graham McTavish, pages 57-58
McTavish's Time To Shine (Sing)
McTavish was thrilled to get the opportunity to lead his Highlanders in song in the Season 1 episode "Rent," but Grant O'Rourke (Rupert) was less than impressed.
"Grant fancies himself as a bit of a singer, among other things, but he did not approve of my singing ability. He constantly corrected me and offered advice (all, of course, ignored by me). Instead, sitting astride my trusty Lambert, I belted out the song, in the wrong key, but with all the pent-up frustration of a man repeatedly denied his chance to sing. If I wasn't going to get naked in Outlander (more on that later . . .) I was bloody well going to sing my lungs out. So when you watch that moment, remember the singing voice that had so long been denied its chance was finally being set free, while four horses back Grant O'Rourke was shaking his head in disbelief. The only silver lining was – Grant got thrown from his horse. Ha ha."
– Graham McTavish, page 58
Murtagh's Farting Horse
The horses on Outlander are like fellow cast members and Heughan joins in on the horse-talk with a story about Duncan Lacroix's equine costar.
"Do you remember Duncan's horse? At the first arrival at Leoch it had severe flatulence. Every time they called 'Action' it would let rip! You can almost see Caitriona covering her face in the scene as she couldn't control her giggles. It would have to be Duncan with the farting stallion!"
– Sam Heughan, page 59
The Art Of War
Heughan outlines the secret to a successful stage-fight.
"... Graham and I share a unique skill — we're not masters of the choreography, we are masters of the sound effects. Jedi warriors in vocal fighting. During a fight scene, vocalizing can help the other actor by indicating you're hitting them, so that they can react in time. The vocalization also helps to add power and strength; it looks and feels stronger. However, we always take it too far... groaning, blustering, seething, panting, and shouting, Dougal MacKenzie is particularly ferocious and you can definitely hear it! But it's short-lived, the magic lasting for only a take or two before Old Graham needs another sit-down. And another latte and a protein bar."
– Sam Heughan, page 60
The Bar Brawl
McTavish fondly remembers how filming the bar fight in "Rent" with Stephen Walters (Angus), Duncan Lacroix (Murtagh), and Grant O'Rourke (Rupert) — Heughan missed out on this one — got a bit out of hand.
"We'd rehearsed the action and everyone seemed to know what they were doing, but just before the take, Dominic [Preece] (our stunt coordinator) utters the immortal line, 'Just go for it! The stuntmen will be fine.' Big mistake when you're addressing Walters and Lacroix. On 'Action' it was mayhem. Duncan grabbed a guy and threw him against a wooden post. I started throwing him back and forth screaming, 'Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!' (not in the script) and Stephen Walters actually bites the stuntman’s nose. When we cut, Stephen apologized to the stuntman who said, 'No mate, it's great, do it again!' And that's all you need to know about stuntmen. [Sam: It must be mentioned that my character Jamie wasn't allowed to be in this scene as he’d easily have beaten everyone. Fact.]"
– Graham McTavish, page 61
No Full Kilt For McTavish
McTavish regrets that he was forced to wear pants to play Dougal.
"... landing the part of War Chief of the MacKenzie clan I looked forward more than anything to sporting a kilt, charging through heather, the wind blowing free and generally having a rare old time in the Highlands. However, our costume designer, Terry Dresbach, had other ideas. Apparently, as a man of status, Dougal would not have worn a kilt. Trews (trousers) was the verdict and so it was that I spent two and a half years (with the exception of the Prestonpans bare-chested episode) wearing trousers with a kilt wrapped around me like a cloak, denied the opportunity of wearing the outfit that I loved."
– Graham McTavish, pages 66-67
Jamie's French Fashion
Heughan reflects on the fashion that he was required to wear once Jamie went to France in Season 2.
"Wearing the now infamous French knee-high buckle boots that took a good ten minutes to put on each morning — each boot had around fourteen buckles, which made 'intimate scenes' rather difficult to direct. (How does Jamie get his boots off so quickly?)"
– Sam Heughan, page 84
The Case Of Dougal's Missing Jacket
McTavish recollects another scene from "Rent" where there was a bit of a continuity error due to his state of dress. (You can spot it at 21 minutes and 5 seconds into the episode.)
"There was one scene where I was making a speech inside a cottage with a roasting fire. Trying to gather money for the Jacobite cause. I suggested to the director I do it in my shirtsleeves, very 'Obama Town Hall meeting' style, a man of the people!
We started shooting the scene this way. After we'd shot half the scene we were told that I ‘had to have the jacket on’. Word had come through. So as a result if you look at Episode Five of Season One, I keep jumping between jacket on and jacket off, in the same scene."
– Graham McTavish, page 121
McTavish's Workout Regiment
Heughan discusses his Outlander workout schedule while questioning McTavish's commitment.
"During the first year of Outlander I asked for a gym at the studio (we got a small room with a weight rack and I bought some other gear). Occasionally he would be seen in there, grunting and sweating profusely. I offered him a slot to workout with my trainer. After one session he never went back, apparently complaining that the exercises were 'dangerous.'"
– Sam Heughan, page 138
No Love (Scenes) For Dougal
Throughout the book, McTavish makes his disappointment in never filming any nude scenes for Outlander — a stark contrast to his traveling companion — known. Here, he reflects that we never saw how Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) became pregnant with Dougal's child.
"I only had one scene with Lotte, where I look at her lasciviously across a crowded room as her poor husband (played by John Sessions) chokes to death in front of her. Perhaps my look alone was enough to impregnate her . . . When I signed the contract for Outlander it included a nudity clause. In signing it I agreed to perform scenes of nudity. For me, rather than seeing it as allowing for the possibility of nudity, I took it as a promise of nudity. (Ever since my days of theatrical nudity I've clearly been itching to get my kit off. Maybe itching isn't the sexiest of words. Dying. Nope. Yearning. I've been yearning to rip it all off .) As it turned out I didn't even get a peck on the cheek."
– Graham McTavish, page 161
Dueling Shinty Perspectives
Both Heughan and McTavish give their opinions on what it was like to film the nephew-uncle game of shinty in "The Gathering."
"In Outlander, we recreated a shinty game with Jamie and his Uncle D playing on opposite sides. Apparently, Dougal taught Jamie to play; no doubt he cheated a bit, and Jamie was ready to teach his uncle a lesson. I too wanted to see if Graham would keep up. During shooting, Graham was ruthless, aggressive, and dominant. For a take. Then he pulled a hamstring or was it a tendon? Maybe a migraine? He then sat and watched from the comfort of his chair, latte in hand, snack bag discarded as he finished the last cereal bar, as his stunt-double ran, wrestled, fell, and played ball, over and over. I even had to pick him up and throw him over my shoulder and onto the hard ground."
– Sam Heughan, page 176
"When we filmed the shinty game, I made sure I tried to act as well as I could with the violence and fighting. However, I couldn't help suspecting that if the director had uttered the immortal words 'Just go for it' (words that I have heard uttered more than once before a fight scene), Sam would have gone completely berserk and attacked everyone, including the camera department, catering, and costume girls. You could see him barely struggling to contain his rising rage during each take."
– Graham McTavish, page 178
Dougal & Colum's Last Day
Colum actor Gary Lewis joins the men for a leg of their trip and McTavish reminisces about their rather anti-climatic last day on set.
"We shared our very last shoot day together: his death scene. There was lots of emotion, focus, and truth-pumping. On one's last day on a job, especially one you’ve been on for years, it's traditional for the 1st AD (Assistant Director) to announce that this is your last scene ever, and then lead the applause from crew and cast alike. Producers tend to come on set to join in with this. It's actually quite touching. But this time, as 'cut' was called, the plugs on the lights were pulled, leaving Gary and me in darkness. The 1st AD announced the scene was complete and they started to move to another set. I think the cameraman mentioned, 'Isn't this your last day, guys?' Gary and I muttered an affirmative. To which there was a smattering of half-hearted applause as the crew moved away in the darkness leaving Gary and myself alone next to the empty space where the series producers should have been standing.
It fair brings a tear to your eye."
– Graham McTavish, pages 196-197
Heughan's Blue Steel
McTavish dishes on the signatures faces of the Outlander cast.
We all have our 'signature looks.' Sam's is a tightening of the eyes as he focuses on a distant object, leg cocked. Cait's is a small smile, a misty eye, an arching of the eyebrows, and the faintest of head shakes. Mine is probably a three-quarter turn of the head, followed by an expression that wouldn't look out of place whilst having a prostate examination."
– Graham McTavish, pages 197-198
Laughing In The Face Of Death
Knowing their days acting alongside one another as Jamie and Dougal were coming to an end, Heughan decided to mess with McTavish a couple more times on set during his death scene. He shares a few stories. In this one, he reveals Balfe is trying to hide her laughter during Dougal's death.
"During the fight that led up to this moment, I proposed putting some knees into his groin. I'd been recently training in Muay Thai (kick-boxing) and knew how to use the knobbly part of my knee. Graham wasn't happy and I could see the distrust in his eyes. It spurred me on. You can even see in the close-up on Caitriona's (Claire's) face as we begin to kill him, she tries to hide her face and look away. Being a notorious corpser, this is the first sign she's about to go. Graham moaned and increased his protestation, which set us off again . . ."
– Sam Heughan, page 205
When McTavish "Saved" Heughan's Life
McTavish credits himself with saving Heughan's life one night on set when a crane holding a massive light fell down on them. But, according to Heughan, McTavish was a lackluster rescuer.
"'Uh . . . uuuuuh . . . uhhhhhhhh . . . RUN!' yelled Graham, off like a flash through the canvas and into the night. As I turned the crane was suddenly upon us, a large piece of steel pipe from the scaffolding perilously close to my head. I ducked and hurled myself out, crashing into Graham as we watched the entire tent, apparatus, and chairs mown down by the runaway tractor."
– Sam Heughan, page 209
When Heughan went to the catering van with Balfe during their first week on set, his costar politely rejected the offer of a "Full Scottish" breakfast and requested a poached egg with the very exotic side of avocado.
"'We will get you some,' I tried to reassure her, not hopeful the chef either knew what it was or could find an avocado at 5 am in a layby outside the remote town of Arrocher on the shores of Loch Long. Apparently Cait actually did receive her egg and half an avocado in its skin, and received the same meal for almost a year, not wanting to upset the catering crew or ask for anything different, lest they thought her difficult or struggled to comprehend her."
– Sam Heughan, page 219
McTavish laments that Jamie and Claire killed Dougal right before Culloden.
"Not going to Culloden was like a knife to the heart. No, it literally was. Fighting in the battle scene would have felt like honoring my ancestors as well as being a bloody great day at the office, but instead I got Prestonpans. Which was a lot of fun – we shot it inside a gigantic inflatable tent so that they could control the atmosphere inside, with horses charging, explosions, sword fights — a child's playground, but it wasn't Culloden.
Instead, I had to die at the hands of Clytemnestra (Claire) and her ginger hubbie. I mean, filming Dougal's death scene was fabulous but I wish it could have happened after Culloden."
– Graham McTavish, pages 230-231
Killing Black Jack
Heughan remembers finally taking down his character's ultimate foe, Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies).
"We rehearsed the final showdown for weeks. Everyone was excited to shoot the famous battle, made all the more poignant that it was the last time I would work with Tobias. He is a softly spoken, charming and generous actor. His natural features, with deep creases down his face, serve like scars from a previous battle and, in spite of being such a nice guy, he plays the most excellent villain. Before a take, I'd see Tobias raise his shoulders and snort like a wild boar, as he channelled his predatory, vicious energy."
– Sam Heughan, page 247
Outlander fans will have to wait and see how Heughan and McTavish's Scottish adventures play out when Men in Kilts premieres on Starz. But thanks to their recollections in Clanlands, we get to feel the tiniest bit closer to the Outlander cast and crew.