“Love forces a person to choose. There’s no room for sentiment here. You do things you never imagined you could do.”
When Jenny justifies her anti-Red Coat actions to Claire with that brilliant set of lines, we’re pretty sure that becoming traveling minstrels was not quite what she had in mind. Yet, that was exactly the tactic the new lady of Lallybroch and her sidekick in search and rescue, Murtagh Fitzgibbons, employed to locate the fugitive Jamie Fraser in this week’s episode of Outlander, “The Search.”
The short wander into buddy comedy was a welcome reprieve from the typically gruff, tough, and all-business side of Murtagh actor Duncan Lacroix has to maintain. Yahoo TV spoke with the bearded Brit (who has resided in Ireland for years) via telephone about working closer with Caitriona Balfe (Claire), cutting a rug with cutlery, and getting to deepen the character with a juicy backstory of unrequited love that resulted in his godfather-like devotion to Jamie.
This episode had laughs and a generally lighter feel. Murtagh becomes a bit of a sidekick to Claire, a pairing someone who has not read the novels would have never seen coming.
It does indeed turn into a kind of buddy road movie. Reading the script, I was surprised by the humor. I think maybe some of my own sense of humor was bleeding into the part by that stage. There is a time when the actor and the character start to merge, and I think that was happening. But it was great fun working with Caitriona and doing the singing and dancing act.
Are you any better than Murtagh at singing and dancing? Did this plot development require lessons?
No, I’m not a great singer at all. I remember getting an email from production way before this episode asking me about my dancing skills. I dance at parties, so I think I fooled myself into believing I was a better dancer than I was. They immediately signed me up for Highland dance lessons, which I really enjoyed. And I have to say that I really am much better at it than Murtagh. I went in twice a week to learn the sword dance. I really got into it. Then the first day I had to do it on set, they had the extras all whipped up into a frenzy before I got on, and I was immediately pelted with rotten vegetables the minute I hit the stage. I thought I better tone down my act to match the crowd reaction.
Must make it easier to get in character.
Yeah, once you’re hit with a bad turnip, you’re pretty much into the role 100 percent.
We’ve always seen Murtagh as a tough, stoic, loyal soldier. But in this hour, we see a softer side with his concern for Jamie, his helping of Claire, and a retelling of his lost love. Was it a welcome transition?
It was great, obviously. The first episodes are largely exposition. He’s there to explain what’s going on to Claire. He’s a solid, loyal clansman usually, but I liked that this episode gave him context. It is always welcome when you get to deepen a character.
When Murtagh comes across Jenny and Claire in the woods torturing the Red Coat, he calls them natural outlaws. Was it as fun for you as it was for fans to see the ladies hold their own?
Absolutely. I think that is what is interesting about the whole show, that element of feminism and independence that Claire brings back to that period. There have been so many movies — Rob Roy, Braveheart type things — where it was purely guys running around in their kilts doing swordplay. So it is great to see the girls getting in on the action. Laura [Donnelly]’s performance as Jenny is so strong as well, and the two of them together are quite a formidable pair. They were brutalizing that Red Coat and just about to murder him when Murtagh steps in and handles that last step to save their souls a bit.
We also establish why he feels so strongly about Jamie, which feels important given that he risks life and limb to save Jamie in the next two episodes.
Murtagh is a black-and-white honorable guy. He swore an oath to Jamie’s mother, who was the big unrequited love of his life. He stayed in love with a woman who he couldn’t have and even though she died. It shows his steadfast romantic side. He was there throughout Jamie’s upbringing and he cares for him like a big brother or godfather. He’s also an idealist who lives vicariously through Jamie. Jamie is the real deal. He is who Murtagh sees as the ideal laird succeeding Colum. They are really tight. It’s a clan thing. They are the two Frasers among those MacKenzie fellas. They’ve got each other’s back all the time. He also sees the true love between Jamie and Claire, something he never got to have.
Things are about to get very dark. When Murtagh helps rescue Jamie from Black Jack, it is very obvious he has gone through a violent, degrading, intense ordeal and Jamie may never be the same. I assume this will be something that affects his relationships with his men.
They really go for it in the last few episodes. Tobias [Menzies] and Sam [Heughan] don’t hold back. In 115 and 116, it is all very immediate, so at that moment, they are just concerned about picking up the pieces of Jamie, getting him healed, and staying hidden from the English. Murtagh is a very practical guy. He deals with what is in front of him. Jamie is in such a state at the monastery in the end though that there is no way there won’t be after effects. But those won’t be seen until the beginning of Season 2, which we are just about to start shooting.
What has been the biggest challenge about going back to 1743?
I’d never ridden a horse before, but I really took to the horses. I love that part. Not a lot of it would be something I would term as “hard.” I get paranoid about the accent. We have a great dialect coach, but it is still something that keeps me awake at night because you are never too sure of yourself. I suppose the Gaelic was quite tough. The sounds you need to make to perfect that language are just not sounds I am used to. It takes a lot of practice. My first line of dialogue was in the cabin in Gaelic, and I thought I completely mucked it up. I started talking gobbledygook, but apparently it still made sense in Gaelic somehow. I was improvising subconsciously in Gaelic.
They say when you start dreaming in a language you have finally mastered it.
Oh God, if I did that, my neighbors would probably think I’m possessed.
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.