Warning: This postmortem contains spoilers for the “La Dame Blanche” episode of Outlander.
We thought someone showing up uninvited to a carefully planned dinner party is a host’s worst nightmare. But that social snafu is next level when that unexpected guest is the man you think tried to poison you a few days earlier, as it was for Claire and Jamie in the latest episode of Outlander. Their newly acquired adversary Le Comte St. Germain arrived at their first foray into French society with their old frenemy the Duke of Sandringham.
As it turns out, their feast, which was an elaborate ruse to get Prince Charles to act a fool by exposing his affair with Louise de Rohan and her surprise pregnancy, was foiled by a whole different drama unfolding in the foyer. But it looks like the Comte might find a way to use the abrupt and controversial end of the festivities to his unscrupulous advantage.
Yahoo TV picked the brain of the man behind the wig, Stanley Weber, about the new bad guy in the Sassenach’s life (and how he was inspired by the old one, Black Jack), what might be next in his plan to make our heroes “pay a price” for costing him his boat in the Season 2 premiere, and his thoughts on theories that he might also be from the very future the Frasers are trying to save.
How familiar were you with the Outlander series before you applied for the job?
I only knew a little bit about the series because a friend of mine directed a few episodes in Season 1, and when they started working on Season 2, I heard they were looking for some French people. When I got the part, I watched the entire first season to do my homework and learn about this thing I was now on board of. I watched it in two days, not because I had to but because I loved it. Then I read the second book, and I felt even more grateful because this is a cracking part to get your teeth into.
Rumor has it you first auditioned for another part, but producers asked you back for St. Germain. What part did you first try for, and why do you think Germain was ultimately the better choice for you?
For Louis XV, the king. I don’t know why they thought of me for this part more than the other one, but I am glad they called me back. I take every part that has been given to me as gifts, as jewels. I think the Comte St. Germain has a little more to do and a little more contact with the two leads. Not that the king doesn’t, but he is so above the other characters. He is playing in another zone. St. Germain is very interesting because he is a real enemy for Claire and Jamie.
How would you describe the character to someone who has not seen the show or read the books?
He is a business man, a wine merchant. He is ready and capable of anything to achieve his goals. And if the job requires him to be really nasty, then he’s gotta do it. He is smart and elegant and desires success.
Do you see him as a villain as the fans do?
Everyone asks me how it is to play such a villain, such a baddie, but as far as I am concerned in my head and in my skin when I play him, I do not feel like a baddie. He is just a human being who was wronged. The most important thing to do as an actor is to find the humanity in every single character you play, no matter how horrendously bad he is going to behave, so that the audience can find him believable. But as Stanley, I know he is a villain. He’s so bad. When you read the book or the scripts and when you watch the TV show, you see him as the enemy of the heroes Claire and Jamie and you acknowledge that he is doing outrageously bad things. But on the other hand, he is attractive: I really admire the freedom of bad guys. They have no limits, no boundaries. They do whatever they need to do to achieve their goals, and that is admirable in a way. Everyone has a dark side. He just embraces his.
Tobias Menzies says the same thing: He likes playing Frank, but he loves the challenge of going to the dark side as Black Jack.
It is so much fun to be bad. It brings me so much joy to play someone with the absolute freedom of nastiness. When you see Tobias work, you can only be inspired. After watching Season 1, I was amazed by the amount of humanity he brought to Jack Randall. I was impressed by how attached and attracted he made the audience to such a bad guy. That proves he is doing his job well, and that’s what keeps the audience interested. If you are only bad, the audience won’t care if they get rid of you. Tobias adds so much depth to him. I am trying to find those things to make people feel for the Comte, or at least be interested in learning more about him.
Sometimes fans take the villain thing too seriously and start treating the actor who brings that character to life poorly. How has your fan experience been? Any weird encounters, mail or social media posts?
Not yet. I am not looking forward to that really. That could be interesting as an experience, but so far the experience has been so great. The fans are invested and so keen and kind. I am feeling once again very grateful for all the warm and welcoming words I have received over the last few months.
Were you nervous to join an established show with a tight-knit group of actors? To be the new guy?
Now that the show is on, all I remember is the fun I had on set and how all the people I got to work with were so passionate and nice. But I was very anxious and nervous when I got the job. I hate the first day on set. They’re the worst. You don’t know what to expect or what you are doing. But Sam [Heughan] and Cait [Caitriona Balfe] were the first people I had a scene with and they are the most adorable people and really passionate and really skilled actors. I met with Cait first thing in the morning, and she gave me a hug. I was hypnotized by her beauty, but that was an adorable thing she did to make me feel confident and welcome. Everyone on the crew and the cast made me feel like I’d made the right decision to join this family. There is nothing easier than doing the job in those conditions. You uncover and explore a lot of emotional areas doing this job, so it is important to feel safe and comfortable to try things. Acting is best when it is done as a unit, and from day one that is the feeling I got working at Outlander. We got along so well. I miss those two, that lad and lassie.
On the run from one enemy, Claire basically makes a new one in the Comte when she diagnoses your sailors with smallpox, which leads to the ship being set ablaze and costing you a pretty penny, or should we say, franc. You vowed that both Claire and Jamie “will pay a price.” Then we see you in the apothecary’s shop and you throw shade. Next thing we know, someone attempts to poison Claire and then attacks her in an alley. Is he out to get them as he promised, or just a too obvious scapegoat?
That would be a bit of a shame to let you know if he is guilty right now. That is up to you really. The Comte is too clever to be discovered right away, but it would make absolute sense to think it was him who poisoned Claire. He has every good reason to have his revenge on her. It is really extreme to poison someone, but it is also really extreme to burn someone’s boat. It is her fault. She cost him a lot of money and his boat. The Comte St. Germain doesn’t care about his crew. He cares about his merchandise. It is the most heartbreaking thing to watch — your boat full of very expensive wine on fire because of this one woman who opened her mouth about smallpox. I was about to make a deal with the harbormaster, but she arrived and she ruined everything. So in his head, he has every good reason to be vengeful.
Given that he is not their fan, why do you think he agreed to attend the Fraser dinner party? Psychological warfare?
There is probably a little bit of that, but let me remind you that there is someone around the table who is very important and powerful — the prince Charlie.
Speaking of getting in someone’s head, let’s talk about that glorious wig of yours.
I have had wigs before, and this one is one of the most comfortable. Massive thanks to the team who worked on them and would set them up on my head. It is a costume on its own. It says so much about the character. It tells everyone that he is elegant and noble and wealthy so I don’t even have to play that. Just putting it on does a big part of my job.
Can you tease what’s coming up for Le Comte? We do see him leave with the prince. Is he working an angle?
The prince is a very important person and the Comte is very attracted to power. He is striving to have a very wealthy business, and he sees getting close to the prince as a way to expand his business and gain more power for himself. You can definitely expect interactions between those four. Jamie isn’t going to let it go that someone tried to poison his wife and then attacked her and her friends. He is going to keep trying to prove that I planned those things, and he may have to deal with me if I become close to his prince.
Some folks speculate that he knows more than he is letting on about Claire, perhaps even that he may be similar to Geilis or Claire. Care to comment on that? Do you hope that he is a time traveler?
Look, I have heard about this theory as well, but I chose to keep it in my head as a mystery. I think it is important for the audience to figure it out on their own and for the truth to come out in its own time. I think there is definitely a connection going on internally when I am looking at Master Raymond or at Claire. But who knows what it is. Do I hope he is a traveler? Yes, if that means I get to come back and do some more Outlander. I personally don’t know if he is, but I think it is a very exciting prospect.
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.