Sophie Skelton knew what she was getting herself into when she accepted the function of Brianna Fraser on Outlander—or a minimum of she thought she did. She had already spent hours poring via Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, which function the premise for the Starz present, earlier than her very first audition in 2014. “I learn from e book two to e book 4,” Skelton says, remembering the best way she feverishly scanned the pages for all of “Brianna’s bits.”
She wouldn’t hear again in regards to the function for one more yr, however throughout that point, Skelton by no means stopped interested by Brianna: the witty, headstrong faculty scholar from Boston who travels again in time to reunite together with her English mom, Claire Randall Fraser, and meet her organic father, Scottish highlander Jamie Fraser, in 18th century North Carolina.
To the uninitiated, Outlander’s time-traveling, globe-trotting premise may sound like fairly the doozy. Add Gabaldon’s exhaustive supply materials into the combo—9 books, three novellas and counting—and also you’ve bought an epic story that rivals the likes of Recreation of Thrones. Like George R.R. Martin’s collection, Gabaldon’s books had a devoted readership earlier than Outlander’s premiere in 2014. For years, these followers waited for his or her model of Bree to look on display screen; she was towering, strong-shouldered, blue-eyed and boasted thick pink hair like her father Jamie, whose luscious locks have been as soon as described by Gabaldon as a “shining mass of auburn, copper, cinnamon and gold.” However that’s not Skelton.
When she arrives at StyleCaster’s places of work in New York Metropolis, Skelton stands shorter than most members of the make-up and photograph crew—and that’s with Louboutin heels on, their signature pink soles peeking out together with her each step. Her eyes, a deep honey brown, gaze across the small library the place we’ve arrange for the day. After getting acquainted, she pulls off the black peacoat she arrived in, revealing the lithe body of a former dancer. “I did ballet for years,” she tells us later throughout her photoshoot, stretching her arms in ways in which solely somebody with a practiced sense of grace can handle to make look so good. Her hair, darkish brown with a pure wave, is a stark distinction to her character’s curly ginger mane on Outlander. Now she wears it slicked straight behind her ears, gently pushing any rogue strands again between pictures.
Days later, talking in her mild British accent over Zoom, Skelton reminisces on the start of her Outlander journey. She remembers a second with showrunner Matthew B. Roberts, proper earlier than her casting was made public in early 2016. “I bear in mind him sitting me down and being like, ‘Simply remember when the announcement goes out, you’re going to get some hate since you’re not American, you don’t have blue eyes, you don’t have pink hair. However don’t fear, you’re our Bree.’”
Whereas Skelton was warned of the potential blowback over her casting, it wouldn’t be the primary time an actor within the forged didn’t match up with their character’s description from the books; Irish actress Caitríona Balfe, who performs her mom on the collection, isn’t precisely the curvy, brown-eyed Claire of Gabaldon’s novels. However 4 months later, when Skelton’s character made her onscreen debut through the second season of the collection, the actress was up towards yet one more hurdle: In line with Skelton, some viewers simply “didn’t like Bree,” interval.
After we first meet her on Outlander, Bree is a hanging, brainy highschool senior going via all of the rising pains of adolescence—and that features frequent arguments together with her mom, Claire. Skelton says this was removed from probably the most “palatable” introduction on the collection, however however believes this preliminary pressure between her and Balfe’s character was needed. “It was a extra fascinating dynamic to start out off with,” she says, including that it made for “extra of a journey for them to change into nearer as mom and daughter.” And this journey has been a protracted one, seeing them via shared previous and current traumas—from the dying of Frank Randall, Claire’s modern-day husband and the daddy who raised Bree, to situations of sexual assault that occur to each mom and daughter following their travels via time.
Six years and 5 seasons later, Skelton admits that Brianna can nonetheless “generally be a tough tablet to swallow” for some viewers. “Generally as Sophie, I feel Brianna takes issues too far. I’m like, ‘Cease punching individuals, Bree,’” she says with amusing. “However I’ve to have the ability to defend it.” Certainly, Skelton is one among Bree’s fiercest supporters—even, if not particularly, throughout her character’s messier moments.
Skelton brings up an notorious scene from season 4 of Outlander, the place Brianna slaps her father Jamie throughout the face after he mistakenly beats up her companion Roger, performed by Richard Rankin, for pondering he was the person who raped her (that disgraced title goes to Stephen Bonnet, an Irish pirate performed by Ed Speleers). At first, it was a response that Skelton herself couldn’t fairly perceive: “Brianna is clever sufficient to realize it wasn’t Jamie’s fault. It was a mistake,” she says. “I simply needed to assume she’s doing that factor the place, if you’re mad, you’re taking it out on those you’re keen on as a result of you’ll be able to.’”
In a present like Outlander, the stakes are all the time excessive. Feelings run even greater. For Bree—who got here from the identical period because the Free Speech Motion and traded her Seventies bell-bottoms for the prim and correct petticoats of the 1770s—Skelton is aware of that generally a uncooked response is just overdue. “What I really like about Brianna is that she reveals that folks don’t all the time behave in one of the best mild. None of us are good,” she says. “I like that Bree’s not Hollywood-washed. You actually see all of her vulnerabilities, you see the instances the place she behaves ‘badly.’”
However not everybody takes to this conduct kindly. Skelton is fast to level out the double commonplace that exists for her character—each in Outlander’s 18th-century universe and the world from which audiences are watching the present at this time. “It’s so fascinating to see individuals watch the present who love Jamie and excuse every thing that Jamie does,” Skelton observes, “but when Brianna does the identical factor, it’s like, ‘Wow, what a naughty woman.’”
“I suppose the lads have change into the item of need for lots of followers, and generally they aren’t all the time so form to the ladies, which is a disgrace,” Skelton continues. “I actually hope that that begins to alter. However on the similar time, the vast majority of followers are tremendous supportive.” Sooner or later, Skelton says she needs to see views shift sufficient so there’s “not such a stigma for ladies” to behave the identical manner as their counterparts on display screen.
Skelton is paving a manner for this future, on her personal phrases. “My confidence has grown much more,” she says. “Being on a present for six years, it simply provides you extra space to discover, to talk up and defend individuals.” This not solely consists of defending herself and her castmates, however Outlander’s viewers as properly.
Sexual assault is an unlucky, however actual, element of the Outlander universe. Bree’s father, Jamie, is raped early on within the collection. Years later, her mom Claire is kidnapped and raped by a renegade gang throughout Outlander’s season 5 finale. In coping with Outlander’s harder scenes involving sexual assault, Skelton feels an immense accountability to analysis the bodily and emotional experiences of survivors and method the topic with nice care. “Caítriona and I had plenty of conversations about it. If we’re going to point out plenty of rape and we’re going to speak about therapeutic and PTSD, then we’ve got to justify why we’re displaying it,” she explains.
For Skelton, these scenes supply the chance to foster extra sincere conversations about trauma and restoration on tv. Viewers see this method on Outlander season six, as Skelton’s character doesn’t pressure her mom to speak about what occurred; as a substitute, she provides her the house she must course of. “Even in the event you’ve been via the identical trauma, each expertise is totally different and each manner of therapeutic is totally different,” Skelton says. “I hope it helps individuals who’ve been via it as a result of it reveals there’s no proper or improper method to cope with one thing.”
In fact, therapeutic shouldn’t be all the time linear. However on the onset of Outlander season six, we meet a extra “settled model” of Bree, Skelton says. Her character has grown up significantly on the collection—she is now a spouse and a mom herself—and he or she is trying to find her place on Fraser’s Ridge, the spectacular tract of land and group helmed by her father Jamie. In a single memorable scene early within the season, Bree “invents” matches, an innovation but to have been developed in 1770s America. When she decides to share the excellent news on the Fraser household dinner desk, her father assumes that she’s saying that she’s pregnant (she isn’t—not but, a minimum of). Moments later, when she lastly demonstrates her creation, the response is lackluster; everybody already is aware of how you can mild a fireplace, in any case.
Skelton is wiser now, too, and says she “actually fought towards” taking part in this match scene in a manner that the “older model of Bree” may need. Because the grasp of Bree’s inner world, Skelton is bringing a heat to her character that will have in any other case been eluded on the web page. “There’s a very beautiful dynamic change now, the place she’s accepting the time and he or she needs to make it higher. However she’s not going to berate these individuals for not having her similar mindset,” Skelton notes. “It’s not their fault. In fact they might assume I’m pregnant. That’s simply how this time is!”
In a world the place a girl’s function is essentially chalked as much as child-rearing, it’s not shocking Skelton’s character is going through pressures to have one other child—however these pressures aren’t all the time coming from the place you may count on. Bree and Roger are attempting to get pregnant, however haven’t had luck but after their son, Jeremiah “Jemmy” MacKenzie, was conceived across the similar time as Bree’s rape in season three. Whereas Jemmy’s means to time journey in Outlander season 5 appeared to trace at him having his mother and father’ shared genes for the present, the collection has but to supply conclusive proof that Roger is his father—and the query of his true parentage stays for them to seek out out. “It’s the elephant within the room,” Skelton says.
“There’s a query deep down in there, however I don’t assume it’s one thing [Brianna and Roger] consciously take into consideration on a regular basis,” she provides. “However I do assume as soon as they’re attempting to conceive, it resurfaces that dialog and that doubt as a result of Bree clearly is aware of that she can get pregnant. However perhaps Roger can’t conceive. I feel all of these items shall be going round their heads too. And hopefully, it doesn’t tear them aside.”
No matter you undergo, there’s a mild on the finish of the tunnel.
When she talks about the way forward for Outlander, Skelton has a figuring out glimmer in her eye. “I really feel unhealthy for followers,” she jokes. “They’re simply now watching season six however we’re already ramping up for seven!” Whereas the subsequent droughtlander will hopefully not final almost so long as the final, Outlander followers have lots left to expertise from Outlander season six. And for Skelton, it’s an opportunity to absorb a chapter that took years for her character to lastly expertise.
“We’ve seen Brianna from age 16 to her late 20s now, and he or she’s modified a lot. However she’s additionally who she is at her core—that hasn’t modified. We’ve simply seen her in very traumatizing circumstances,” Skelton says. “This season, it’s very nice simply to have her as a beacon to point out that, no matter you undergo, there’s a mild on the finish of the tunnel. I feel it’s actually vital to point out that folks can come to date.”
Outlander Season 6 is offered to stream on Starz. New episodes air Sundays at 9 p.m. Learn the way to look at Outlander at no cost right here.
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