An Interview with Sam Heughan


One drama has brought sharpened focus to Scotland and its uniquely dramatic history . . . so we are delighted to invite you to our heart-to-heart with its star.

Outlander Star Sam Heughan believes the global hit TV show has been ‘life-changing’ for the Scottish tourism industry.

Sam, 41, says the time-travelling drama spawned an interest in Scotland and helped boost visitor numbers, adding: “Outlander has spawned an interest in Scotland and created a film studio that wasn’t there before. It’s been life-changing for the tourism industry and also for our careers.

Scotland is always at the heart of Outlander – I’ve always said it’s like another character in the show.”

Filming of series six of the Outlander series was held up for months by the Covid-19 pandemic but Sam suggests the show will be better: “It’s a shortened season of eight episodes, but the episodes are much longer – the first episode runs for around an hour and a half.

That extra time spent with the characters means they are really strong episodes and there are a whole load of new characters coming in.”

The actor and his Outlander co-star Graham McTavish, 60, were speaking at the launch of their new book, a spin-off from travel show Men in Kilts. The pair developed the new show when the pandemic brought production on Outlander to a halt.

McTavish says he had an idea to make a series of films about clans to sell on DVD to clan members living abroad back in 1991 but no one was interested at the time.

He said: “I’ve always been very interested in Scottish history and, in particular, the clans.

I had this great plan in 1991 that I was going to make a series of films about clans and then sell them on DVD to clan members living abroad, but nobody was interested at the time.

It’s so lovely to be talking about something like that 30 years later that has actually come true.

We’ve been terribly lucky.

We were able to write the first book because of the lockdown we were experiencing. If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t know if we’d have been able to do it. The way we did the show it was almost entirely unscripted, but it kept it very spontaneous and real.”

Sam added: “Men In Kilts was pretty much one of the first shows to start shooting with Covid protocols after the first lockdown.

We were very fortunate in that we had a very small crew, we were up in the Highlands and
we were outdoors a lot as well. We have a great core of people and because everyone had been locked up we were all excited to be outdoors and working together. We were like a travelling family.

AS the hit television show Outlander returns for a sixth series, we asked Sam about his life and loves . . .

The TV show that changed your life?

Hamish Macbeth. I remember Bobby Carlyle and Plockton and it very much being part of Scotland.

At an early age, I wouldn’t miss it and always sat down with my family to watch it. I guess that might even be the early days of seeing Scotland as a great brand and beautiful country. Then having a very strong and charming central character, very likeable, and some great writing. Maybe there is a part of it that inspired me?

Childhood aspirations?

When I was younger, I wanted to be a magician or a knight. To be honest, I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be an actor – I did – but I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t realise I could do it.

I had to apply for university because that is what you do, right? I applied for English and film studies. But I had zero real interest in film studies or English. I wanted to be on stage.

Dream dinner party guests?

[Scotland’s First Minister] Nicola Sturgeon would be an interesting guest. I would invite Billy Connolly – what a legend. There would have to be a chef. I am going to say Rick Stein because of his great seafood. No, let’s keep it Scottish – sorry Rick. Let’s go with Tom Kitchin because I know Tom. A wee Scottish dream dinner.

If he could meet anyone from history?

Someone from the American War of Independence because we are dealing with that right now in Outlander.

Maybe one of the central characters, not one of the politicians, but one of the guys who actually lived through it to know whether we are actually accurate or not.

When we talk about historical accuracy, I wonder if people from those days looked at us now, would they be like: “What are they doing? What are they wearing?”

Choose a superpower.

To make the days longer and get more stuff done. If I could elasticate time.

Handy skills learned on Outlander?

If you want me to knife throw or juggle or ride a horse backwards or speak Gaelic, I can pretty much do all those – or pretend to.