You never know what you’re gonna get with Richard Rankin.
Last time we met in person—onstage at the 92nd Street Y for a conversation about Outlander season 5—he was belting Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” to an audience of hundreds. (Watch it here.)
Two months later, as the globe weathers a pandemic and we self-isolate in our respective homes, Rankin joined me on ELLE’s Instagram for a live chat about the season 5 finale, Roger Mac’s emotional journey, and his idea for a virtual Outlander reunion. Read on for the highlights from our conversation, which you can watch in full on ELLE’s IGTV (the interview begins at 2:31).
On reuniting the Outlander cast on Zoom:
“I’m thinking if [we] all get together—the cast, maybe a couple of creatives—we can try and film a couple of intermission episodes of Outlander at home remotely with each other…Diana can write them, and we can make a parody of Outlander, and we can all switch parts. So we’ll do Outlander, the lockdown version. It’s like Outlander 5.5.”
On Roger’s season 5 journey:
“It was gradual. First [it] was his mission from the start: ‘I’m going to get Brianna, and we’re going to go home. We’re going to go back to safety.’…It’s sort of lost its weight. He hadn’t realized that. It kind of transformed through him being at Fraser’s Ridge and being more accepted into the family and proving himself as a family member and…he already has a deep respect, in spite of the differences [with] Jamie and in spite of what has preceded them, he’s always loved Claire. He’s very much fallen in love with that family and with that group. [When] you’re happy with something, you sort of cling to something that isn’t real anymore, this idea of going back home, but home for him changed without him realizing it’s changed in his heart.”
On Bree and Roger trying to go to the future:
“He’s being logical. He’s being a man of reason when he’s thinking that, not realizing that deep within him, he has taken Fraser’s Ridge and he’s taken Jamie and he’s taken Claire and he’s taken Marsali and Fergus to be his family. That is truly where he belongs. Had Roger stopped to even think about it halfway through the season, before…they decided when he would return home, [he] would think, ‘No, this is my family. This is my anchor, and this is my home.’ And if [he] was to maintain that idea of going home, it would be purely for practical purposes of safety…like that conversation he has with Claire earlier in the season where Claire says, ‘You have to go back. Obviously I love you guys and I’m going to miss you, but for the sake of the safety of the family, you have to go back.’ That was a whole process for Roger, and I think the realization was a very happy one for him at the end…I think he thought, ‘This is where both of us belong now.’ It’s a really touching moment.”
On the mercy killing in episode 11:
“I walked on set and saw the girl had on all the burn makeup, and I could barely hold myself together. I looked down, and I walked away, and I couldn’t come back until we filmed it again. I thought, I can’t look at her. It’s heartbreaking. It was gut-wrenchingly hard to film that, just to keep myself together and to the point where he’s supposed to get sad was hard. Actually, as dark as that is, that’s one of my favorite scenes in the season. It was really tough, because that character’s supposed nine years old, and it was so real, and she’s passed out in the ground, and she’s got that burn. It was really, really tough to film.”
On Roger’s first kill in episode 12:
“Roger taking a life is against absolutely everything he is or certainly everything he used to be—everything he values. Whether or not that’s changed and he’s not that person anymore, I suppose maybe we’ll explore that later on. But he doesn’t do it lightly, and it’s sort of by necessity, and he’s got forced into this position…And it’s all because of what happened with Claire. [They’ve] got to get her back. He’s thinking of nothing else other than, when he says, ‘There’s a time for blood and it’s now…’ He means that. He doesn’t wish it, but he means it… He wouldn’t have been able to do that a season or so ago, so I think it says a lot about how far he’s come with the family and what he’s willing to do to protect that family.”
On not being involved in the ’60s dream sequence:
“I said, ‘Why aren’t we involved in this? Why are we in the car crash or whatever? Who have we pissed off?’ If anyone’s had practice to be there, it’s me and Sophie [Skelton]. But, no, the story, obviously, it wasn’t very accommodating for us there, so we walked off set in absolute anger and frustration. [Laughs] It was story reasons, obviously. There was impact with the story, so it served its purpose, but it was unfortunate. I wasn’t even there the day they were all dressing up! So I didn’t get to see anyone. I would love to see Sam [Heughan] in ’60s stuff and Duncan [Lacroix] and Young Ian. It was such a great idea.”
On his favorite photo he took on set:
“One that has never made it online and probably won’t because I’m keeping it now, and it’s a portrait that I did of Brianna, of Sophie on the beach, sitting on a boat. It’s a beautiful shot. Other than that, there’s a big group shot at the wedding, just the lane of everyone kind of disappears, and it’s them laying in the background…and the one with Tim [Downie] as Governor Tryon standing with the redcoat’s pink. I love that picture. Tim’s got such a great humor… You can see that playfulness, that humor just really coming out in that one shot.”
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On preferring Professor Wakefield or Roger Mac:
“People often post gifs and memes online of Roger Wakefield. There’s one that I keep seeing, and it’s the one Roger appears at Brianna’s door at Christmas, and he rings the bell, and he’s like, ‘Merry Christmas.’ I look at that, and I think, that man is so long gone…I look at what Roger Wakefield has been forced to become [out] of necessity, and they appear to me to be such contrasting people. I’m not even sure they would get along in life. What if those two people met? I’m not comparing myself to it, but do you remember Superman III where he splits and there’s a good one and a bad one? That’d be quite interesting. Get old Roger and new Roger in the same room and see what the conversation would be like.”
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On acting with twins Andrew and Matthew Adair, who play Jemmy:
“Everyone loves those boys… They are the cutest thing to walk on set… They’re such divas as well. They’ll be quite sort of clear about what they want and what’s going to happen, like how many takes they’re going to do. So they’ll say, ‘I’ll do one take, and that’s been done. I’m doing one acting, and then I’m done.’ You’re like, ‘Okay, master. Yeah, absolutely.’ I had to shout at [Matthew] when he’s just about to touch the pot and burn himself…And it is a real fright, and I had to sort of reassure him afterwards. I was like, ‘It’s only a pretend thing. We’re only playing. It’s not real…’ And he was so upset, and I felt like I was betraying him, like he knew that I’m reassuring him, but we’re going to have to do it again in a minute… And he even gave me such trouble after one take. He’s like, ‘Don’t you ever do that again. You don’t ever do that again.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, my God. My heart is breaking.'”
On the season 5 outtake he misses most:
“There’s a scene where Roger and Jamie go shopping for swords, and they have a sword fight, and Roger does remarkably well because he’s been taught by Jamie for months how to fight… We shoot too much, we can’t put everything [in]…but I was like, but why that? I’m sure there’s reasons for it, but I kind of missed that.”
On eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in episode 11:
“Listen, I didn’t how much Sophie and Caitriona [Balfe] liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Apparently a lot. We filmed those scenes pre-lunch, and Caitriona was enjoying them, too. But Sophie had, I don’t know, seven or eight of those things? God. I was trying to get a nibble…I’m not that young anymore, so my metabolism doesn’t file through seven or eight peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the same way.”