The Droughtlander is officially over! Now that Outlander is finally gearing up to premiere its fourth season on Starz this Sunday, fans are eagerly awaiting the chance to pick up where they left off with all of their favorite characters. While Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) have safely made their way to the American colonies, their daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and her new beau Roger (Richard Rankin) are dealing with the aftermath of Claire's recent choice to travel back through the stones to be reunited with her true love.
Based on what we've seen in teasers so far, Claire and Jamie appear to be settling down relatively comfortably in America — but back in the present, how are Brianna and Roger coping, and more importantly, how has their journey both together and apart shaped their relationship? Ahead of Sunday's Season 4 premiere, SYFY FANGRRLS had the chance to sit down for a chat with Skelton and Rankin, where we asked them about where this new connection will go and where they would use the stone circle to travel to.
How does the relationship between your characters grow and change in Season 4?
Sophie Skelton: Yeah, so initially the relationship's the same in terms of where they're at, sort of the same headspace with each other, but we see Brianna and Roger now kind of on different sides of the world, trying to work through a long-distance relationship together. I mean, they do grow a lot closer together throughout the season.
Richard Rankin: There are so many challenges between Roger and Brianna in terms of [their] relationship. There's challenge after challenge. The relationship really takes it from start to finish in Season 4, but in very different ways as the story goes on. It's quiet domestic respect, I think. You see it start because you find them obviously in the '70s, struggling, having a good go at a long distance relationship. Brianna's in Boston, Roger's at Oxford. You know, the world was a much better place back then. Travel's not easy, so they only see each other a couple times a year, maybe at holidays. They call each other on the phone maybe once or so a week.
SS: It's quite ambiguous at the beginning in terms of how much they are seeing each other and where the relationship's at. But I think it does show what a kind of strong bond they have with everything that they've been through, this unique situation, that they're even trying to make it work. Long distance relationships are hard enough anyway, but in the '70s it was a very different thing altogether. So the fact that they've made it this far is quite a testament to how they feel about each other. Even if they don't say it.
RR: To stay together, that phase says a lot before you even go down the road of whatever challenges may be thrown at them through Season 4.
Last season, Claire's decision to go back to the past and find Jamie felt very bittersweet. How is Brianna coping with her mother's choice and what has she been up to in the wake of that departure?
SS: In the wake of that, which almost comes off in this wake of Frank dying as well, and finding out about Jamie being her real father, Bree has sort of changed. She's changed her life a lot. She obviously was studying history, which I think was something that she'd kind of done to... not appease Frank, but she really admired Frank and that was a way of them bonding through history. But now finding out that actually, her blood came from somewhere else, she's let herself be herself a little bit more. And now she's studying engineering. She's still struggling with the fact that, she doesn't have a mother around anymore. It's like you said it's all been quite bittersweet. You saw from Season 2 that there's always been a sort of strained relationship between Brianna and Claire. It's so ironic that as soon as they bonded and got closer through this whole bomb of a situation, now they've been torn apart.
And actually, I don't think Brianna regrets the decision at all to send her mother back. That was a very brave and selfless thing to do, and she knows it's the right thing to do for her mother. But at the same time, she was struggling with Frank's death anyway. Then she found out she had a father in Jamie who she's never gonna meet and now she's lost her mother. So I think she's lost a lot.
The one person in the world who can understand what she's been through is Roger, yet he is also a reminder of what she's been through. So at the same time, she almost needs him in a way of just having that person. She can't talk to anyone else in the world about the fact that it's not as simple as her mother's not there anymore. She doesn't know if she's alive in the past. She doesn't know if she's safe. She doesn't know if she found Jamie. So it's not even as simple as knowing that she's sent her back and everything's safe and great. For all she knows, her mother could be in danger or she could have been killed or anything. So for Bree, there's just a lot of worry there. I think she just really does want that affirmation that her mother's okay, but at the same time, she has to sort of let it go. And being able to talk about that to Roger is great, but she almost needs to distance herself from him just to process everything and move on with her life without being reminded about it all.
If either of you could travel through the stone circle to another place in time, where would it be and why?
SS: I always say the '20s. I just think Prohibition-era would have been really cool. Flapper dress, speakeasies, you know.
RR: I'd like to go back to the '20s to look after Sophie.
SS: Thanks, man.
RR: Violent, aggressive world and...
SS: So you can smoke in public places and not tunnels. Which happens in book 6.
RR: Why don't we go back and smoke?
SS: We go to the '80s, right?
RR: That's a spoiler!
SS: It's in the book!
Of the decades that you actually end up visiting in the show, which one's been your favorite or do you think is gonna be your favorite?
RR: I've only really done the 60s, early 70s. It's just a lot of fun play. I like the style of it, the clothes.
SS: Even the demeanor of the people is just a little bit bigger and a bit more free, so that's always kind of fun to play.
RR: That whole mid-century thing, I remember thinking while shooting in the airport, you know, you got all the passers-by walking up and down the concourse area and how they're all dressed.
SS: So much color!
RR: Paisley colors. People just put more effort and generally they have a poise about them.
SS: When we did the airport scene, they had some stewardesses walking and it was very Catch Me if You Can.
Bree and Roger come from two different worlds. Is there any part of her more carefree character that's rubbed off on him a little bit? And vice versa?
RR: Yeah. Can't say no. I think that's one of the things that Roger finds most attractive about Brianna, other than her face. She's a very modern woman. She's very free-thinking, she has an opinion. And she's not scared to share it. And there's a fineness to Brianna that he really respects. I think he is more used to, I suppose, a more reserved, kind of traditional attitude. And Brianna sparks something in Roger, kind of excites him in many ways that have a very direct influence on him that he enjoys very much. And she very much stimulates him in that respect.
SS: Yeah, and in terms of Roger's influence on Bree, like I said before, Bree's quite a held person. She's very guarded. She doesn't really let you see much of her or what's going on. But actually, Roger really allows her to open herself up and she really does let him in. And what's lovely about this season especially is that the audience sees that happening. She really does let her guard down and, yeah, he softens her.
This interview has been edited and condensed.