You know you’re interviewing someone about Outlander when they refer to the future as a memory. Sophie Skelton, the actress who plays Brianna in the show, is musing on Brianna and Roger’s realisation that Fraser’s Ridge – their 18th century homestead – is more of a home to them than the 20th century they were born in. “They can now talk about the future fondly as a memory as opposed to something that they’re striving for,” she says, quickly laughing at the absurdity of the sentence. Ah, time travel. Luckily, Skelton and her co-star Richard Rankin, who plays Roger, are on hand to explain the latest goings-on for us.
Season Five of Outlander ended with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) suffering a harrowing ordeal at the hands of Lionel Brown and his men. Jamie (Sam Heughan) and the other Ridge men rescued her and killed all of her captors, resulting in Lionel’s brother promising revenge.
That promise still hangs over the heads of everyone at Fraser’s Ridge, as does the lingering effects of Claire’s trauma, something her daughter Brianna understands all too well. Skelton says that early on we see “Brianna opening up to Claire again, reminding her that ‘I’m here, I’m not going to press you to talk about anything but please don’t forget I’ve got you, and please don’t forget I’ve been through it’. Brianna says ‘there was a time when I’d say I was fine too’. Brianna’s not over it, it’s not something that ever leaves you, she’s still getting through that in her own way, she’s just a little further on with it than Claire is at this point.” According to Skelton, Claire and Brianna’s relationship is the strongest it’s been “now [that] they’ve learned to embrace their similarities in a bonding way, as opposed to in a way where it’s caused a rift with them”.
Roger and Brianna are also stronger than ever now that they’ve fully committed to staying in the 18th century, and Season Six sees them settling into the community in new and surprising ways. “Motherhood and married life really suit [Brianna] and she’s just trying to find her place on the Ridge and incorporate futuristic ideas,” Skelton says. Meanwhile, Rankin says that “we see a different side to [Roger] in Season Six, which is a more grounded and earthed version of that character,” now that he has adapted and learned the skills needed to survive in this rougher era.
Season Six also sees the Revolution inching ever closer. “Their world is changing and developing at a rapid pace that no-one can keep up with, not even Jamie Fraser,” Rankin smiles. “We have the Revolution ahead and everyone – those who are blessed, or burdened with the knowledge of it – have a lot to think about there.”
Season Five saw Ian finally learn the truth about his aunt’s origins, and his loyalty to the Mohawk adds an extra layer of complication as European settlers threaten the tribe’s very existence.
As ever, Fraser’s Ridge has enemies to contend with, both from outside – Richard Brown’s men – and from within, as Jamie’s fellow former Ardsmuir prisoner Thomas Christie arrives at the Ridge with his family. Christie’s religious fervour quickly causes conflict with the Frasers. Skelton tells us that Brianna has the good sense to steer clear of the Christies, but promises that “they’re going to cause some unsettling moments at the Ridge”. The arrival of the Christies and their travelling companions leads to a necessary growth in Fraser’s Ridge, as more buildings spring up thanks to the industrious settlers – and an even more industrious art department behind the scenes.
Skelton says that Fraser’s Ridge increasingly feels like a real place, especially during external shoots as whole new edifices pop up. Unfortunately, those external scenes are shot in Scotland, where things can often get pretty chilly. Do those 18th century costumes keep them warm? Skelton answers in a strong negative. “I have heat packs stuffed everywhere and I actually bought myself a pair of electric socks off Amazon. Here’s my review: They suck,” she laughs.
We enter Season Six with, for once, no immediate time travel shenanigans. For now, everyone seems to be happy to stay put. Brianna and Roger have found a way to not only survive, but to thrive in the 18th century, and we can’t resist asking which of the 18th century characters Skelton and Rankin think would thrive in the modern day. Neither of them need to think for long: “Marsali,” they both agree. “She would cause absolute havoc in the modern day, she’s so ballsy,” Skelton says. “I think she’d make modern-day people feel like they were out of touch with their time.”
Petition for a reverse-Outlander, in which Marsali runs riot in the 21st century? Yes please. But maybe after we’ve finished Claire and Jamie’s story…