- Outlander -Will Steven Cree Return To 'Outlander'? One Expert Fan Has A Theory About Season 7
Even though he hasn't been on Outlander since 2018, Steven Cree can't help but make a crack about his old costar Sam Heughan. But perhaps this teasing is less about harassing Heughan and more to keep him fresh in the minds of fans. Because Ian Murray could return to Outlander Season 7 — and that's not only because of what happens in Diana Gabaldon's books but because what Cree himself has said. Major spoilers ahead for Outlander Book 7, An Echo in the Bone.
When I interviewed the Outlander author in April 2021, I asked Gabaldon which of her book characters she wished she could have seen on the TV adaptation. Rather than pick a completely cut character (of which there are plenty), she replied, "I would like to have seen more of Old Ian in his prime, so to speak." Although Ian's days of being young may be behind him (thus, the existence of Young Ian), Cree tweeted on May 20 that he would be interested in coming "back to Outlander for a stint at some point in the future."
This wasn't exactly brand new information since, while promoting A Discovery of Witches Season 2 in February to The Scotsman, he mentioned something similar. "I couldn't do Season 5 because of A Discovery of Witches, but Ian Murray returns in Book 7, in which he dies," he said. "I haven't been asked back for this season but sometimes it's very last minute, so I don't know. If they do a Season 7 and the story where Ian dies, it would be nice to tie it up."
Uhhh, did he allude to Outlander possibly wanting to feature him in Season 5?? (The mind reels...) But to the topic at hand — yes, Ian dies in An Echo in the Bone after Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian visit Lallybroch. Since Cree spoke to The Scotsman, Season 7 has been greenlit and production's set to begin in 2022. As for Cree's schedule, he finished filming the final season of A Discovery of Witches long again on Feb. 7. (Season 3 will premiere in January 2022.) He currently has one project on his IMDb page that's in pre-production. Of course, there's always the chance he'll book more roles (especially for an actor who's versatile enough to play a Highlander, a vampire, and the Little Mermaid). But perhaps he's leaving his schedule open for once Season 7 starts filming in a few months.
With Cree stating his willingness to return as long as 1. he's asked and 2. his schedule allows, book fans would be mighty displeased if Outlander didn't put Cree back to work. Below, I spoke with Jackie Merrell, who runs Angus' Angels on Twitter, about how Cree could be utilized in Season 7... and possibly beyond.
Ian's Story In Echo
In An Echo in the Bone, pretty much the whole Murray gang is there at Lallybroch to greet Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian back home. But it's tinged with sadness since Ian is dying of consumption. Jenny is mad that Claire (whom she knows is from the future now) can't help heal him. When Ian does pass, Jenny decides to move to America with Jamie after Claire and Young Ian had already gone back to the colonies.
Considering Ian's relatively small presence in the seventh book and how Outlander truncated Brianna's visit to Lallybroch in Season 4's "Down the Rabbit Hole," Cree's appearance could very well be short. And his statements on his return — calling it a "stint" and saying it would be nice to "tie it up" — make it seem that that's the level of commitment Cree is comfortable giving.
Will The Show Feature The Trip Back To Lallybroch?
Even with an extended episode count for Season 7, the show could not include the trip back to Scotland. As Merrell says, "It's always possible that the Jenny and Ian storyline could be skipped in Season 7, or spoken about by other characters without being seen on screen." Yet, she feels the visit is important. And who doesn't want to see Jamie back at Lallybroch?
But there are a number of concerns that have nothing to do with the plot. Although Outlander films in Scotland, Gabaldon mentioned to me that there could be difficulties keeping "Fraser's Ridge and Scotland going at the same time on the lot." Lallybroch comes into play in another storyline as well, which could increase the odds of the production featuring it. But with the real-life Lallybroch exterior undergoing renovations, the show could also eliminate the location completely.
Another major factor is the unlikelihood of Laura Donnelly returning as Jenny. She didn't appear for Brianna's visit in Season 4, with Cree stepping up to fill part of her role (though his appearance was far too brief for many book readers), and she told W Magazine that she probably wouldn't come back later either. Donnelly said of her character in An Echo in the Bone. "She's old ... so I think that's probably me out."
Donnelly already played an older Jenny in Season 3. And considering how the show handles aging, the 39-year-old actor playing the older sister of a 50s-something Jamie wouldn't be a problem. But, reading between the lines, it seems Donnelly is simply not interested. That's probably more true now than ever that she's starring in The Nevers , which — even though it hasn't been renewed for a Season 2 yet — is set to be back for the second half of Season 1 in 2022.
"Laura Donnelly has been fairly vocal about loving her time on Outlander, but feeling that there wasn't much more for her character," Merrell tells me. "With a new series ... I imagine it's unlikely she'd return."
As for recasting Jenny? "I've heard fandom rumblings," Merrell says. "But I'd prefer they didn't. Laura definitely made the character her own, and I'd rather that performance remain in my memory."
How Could The Show Keep Ian In?
Under the assumption that there's no Jenny in Season 7, Merrell has a few ideas about how the adaptation could still incorporate Cree.
"Perhaps Young Ian could return to Scotland alone, to speak to his dying father," she says. "Ian Murray wisdom being passed down to his youngest son could be incredibly moving." Seeing Cree and John Bell at Lallybroch one last time together might be simpler to recreate while still giving closure to the father and son.
If a trip to Broch Tuarach is entirely out of the question for production, Merrell has another idea. "The series has a history of voiceover montage scenes, so a letter from Ian to his family in the colonies could also be a possibility," she says. "They could easily slip in some flashbacks, as well.
A Very Wild Ian Theory
So far, Merrell's been conservative with her theories regarding Ian. But, way back when I wrote the first Outlander article for The Dipp, she had pitched a pretty bold one — that Cree's Ian could take Jenny's place in the story if Donnelly was no longer involved.
Following Ian's death, Jenny continues to be a featured character living in America in Book 8, Written in My Own Heart's Blood. So if Cree would be down to return in a larger capacity, could the show have Jenny die and let Ian be the one who moves to the colonies?
"I imagine that if the series changes up which Murray survives, we probably won't be present at Lallybroch for Jenny's death unless production could get Laura Donnelly for a few scenes," Merrell explains. "Jamie and Ian mourning together, though — holding each other up in their grief — could be a beautifully haunting scene. (I'm tearing up at the thought of it.)"
As far-fetched as the theory may seem, let's not forget that Duncan Lacroix's Murtagh far outlived his book counterpart, so there is a precedent for the show to make such drastic changes. And it wouldn't be out of character either. "Ian promised to always guard his Laird's right, and returning to the colonies with Jamie would allow him to keep that vow," Merrell says. Plus, she notes his son Ian could use some guidance when it comes to an upcoming romantic relationship. "The possibilities are intriguing," Merrell adds. "You never know, Jamie just might need a new factor at Fraser's Ridge!"
The show has often gotten creative when it comes to adapting the books and Merrell does offer a fascinating solution to the Jenny problem, especially if Outlander went on to get a Season 8. But even if Outlander doesn't go so far off the beaten track, Merrell says, "I do hope, since Steven Cree is keen to return, that they use him in some way for upcoming seasons." And what Outlander fan could disagree with that?