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Outlander's Lotte Verbeek riffs on returning to the series and Geillis' literal blood bath

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Dec 4, 2017

Outlander's penultimate episode of the season welcomed back a familiar face to the series, the time-traveling "witch" Geillis Duncan. As played by actress Lotte Verbeek, Geillis has been revealed to be a shrewd seductress that knows how to use men to her advantage, across the ages. The keeper of many secrets, it's only in "The Bakra" that Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and the audience finally get some answers. 

In an exclusive talk with Fangrrls, Verbeek tells us about what she's enjoyed about playing Geillis over the years, her amazing introduction in her return episode, and what the future holds for Ms. Duncan. 

Obviously, you knew that the character was going to have an arc that was beyond where we last saw her in finale for Season 2. You're really busy as an actress. Was it complicated this season being able to find a window for you to come back? How was the conversation started for Season 3?

Oh yeah, good question. That was a little bit complicated because I was shooting another show for Starz as well, Counterpart, and I was shooting The Blacklist a little bit. It's been a really busy year. But it all magically worked out. I was in Cape Town for a bit in May and June. Then I was in Scotland in February. They actually cross-boarded [ed. note: shot out of order and at the same time] the last two, or maybe even more episodes. Like we're outside and walking to the Great Hall, and the outside was shot in Cape Town but the inside was shot in Scotland. It was quite complicated for everybody involved really to make this work, but it worked out.

Geillis is just so enigmatic. You obviously get pieces of her in the books and such, but where have you gotten the most insight about her psychology?

I don't even have time to read the books, let alone all of them. I'm a very slow reader so I realized soon enough that wouldn't really do it. So I just sat down with the producers and they said "Well, just run with it. Just do whatever you like with the part," which I thought was really awesome, because we had just started working together then. For this episode, we talked through the first episode, the whole bloodbath idea. We made that true to the books but the bloodbath was an idea of Matt (Roberts) and I thought he was joking at first when he came up with the idea. He said, "So would you be willing to do that?" I actually thought it was a great idea. It is a way to explain how she still looks relatively young. Even though we use some facial prosthetics for aging, I thought it was a great idea. Visually, we took pretty much a day to work on this bloodbath scene.

To get the right consistency and see how the camera reads how it looks on you?

Yes, and I hadn't really seen it until I did ADR. I just was focused on not slipping, because it's really slippery. Plus, there's trying to stay under blood. You float in blood, as it turns out. So, they had to build a cool construction for me to stay under the surface. And then the showering; how do you get all the blood off your body? Cause its now everywhere. So that was quite a big deal to shoot that, but when I went to do ADR, it just looks so interesting on your skin, because it almost becomes like a statue, or like a body paint. It's just so eerie looking but also there's an aesthetic to it. And when you realize it's blood, you know she's completely out of her mind now.

You've been able to come back, in and out, to the series over the years now. To come back this year and to have that great reunion scene with Claire and Geillis, their friendship was always very interesting. What was it like to come back to these women again with the years inbetween?

Well, first of all, Cait is always just lovely to work with so that's always great. And the show has always felt like, to stay in the terminology, it's always felt like a warm bath. It's always been really nice to come back. But I will say about the relationship this season, first of all, literally, the scene that we had I think was five or six pages of dialogue, which is quite a lot. So, we had a lot on our plates with that and a lot of things are finally actually being said, whereas in the past they were always not being said, and there was always this dance around what was actually going on. So, it's a face off. They have a face off, and I think that's very interesting. It's great to shoot those scenes where two strong women are talking about something other than the guy. We're talking about the things that have importance in our lives in all these years, and I think that's just truly powerful to be able to shoot that, and also have the time to shoot it and do it justice. That's the great thing about Outlander, we do have quite a lot of time, because it is period drama and just takes more time, so I never feel rushed or anything, so it was great to really explore this.

Geillis is a woman who came from the sixties and has experienced a tremendous amount of misogyny in all these times she's lived in, and yet she's been able to empower herself. She's really no different in certain ways then how Dougal or any of the men, who have killed in their lives to get what they want, and Geillis is able to do that herself. Do you acknowledge the villainy but also the logic to Geillis?

Well, you have to at least land in the middle as an actor to play the character. So you have to at least have an understanding, and I would even say, defend what they're doing. I think it's helpful that we never actually catch her red handed. We never see her actually kill somebody, really, so that helps. It would've been a whole different story if she was actually seen killing these guys cause then it's harder to sympathize. So I think that's really smart in the way the books are written and in the way the series is made, that this allows us, as an audience as well, to still love her in a way. The passion for her cause doesn't really justify what she does, but makes people understand it, and even if they don't understand it, at least believe it, and that is a great gift in being given a character like this. I've always tried, not so much to make her likable, but to give the audience access to her heart basically, because that's where she's so passionate, but that's also where she's really vulnerable and ultimately alone. She does end up being quite alone on that island by herself, as a slave owner, even though that's not pretty either, but she's alone.

Open eye Close eye Show Spoiler Obviously, Geillis is a big part of the finale. Book readers will know but I don't want to spoil anything for people that are just watching the series, but will we get the opportunity for more insight into her?

Open eye Close eye Show Spoiler The way it sort of all unravels in the end, those are quite feverous sequences and again, we took quite a lot of time to shoot them. I do feel like, for me, it was important to do justice to the character and to the way she goes in the end, which you obviously never know how she might come back, because it's time travel. Even when something looks final, it might not be that. But it's true that it's quite dramatic, and its traumatic for Claire as well, and I think that shines through very well. I was just watching the episodes last night, I checked them both out, and I'm just very proud of this season and proud to be part of it.

Outlander's season 3 finale airs December 10, 2017 on STARZ.