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Casting Commentary

Sam Heughan and Friend at Outlanderworld

Sam Heughan and Friend at Outlanderworld

Goodness, can’t leave you lot to your own devices for long, can I? [g] Given the amount of traffic I see in the stats for this blog and my Facebook page, I conclude that the Casting Wars are still boiling along.

Well. Look.

1) People are entitled to their own opinions. Naturally, I’d prefer these opinions to be expressed—and received—civilly, but up to you, of course. I believe in the virtues of free discourse.

2) I—of course—am likewise entitled to an opinion. [cough]

Now, my opinion is based on rather more information than most others expressed here, because

a) I created Jamie Fraser and thus—presumably–have a pretty good idea of what he really looks and acts like.

b) While I haven’t yet met Sam Heughan, I’ve seen Rather a Lot of him (about 95%, at a rough guess), both in terms of

a. Photographs, and

b. Film, and

c. Bits and pieces, like audition tapes

Naturally, everyone forms mental images while reading. Everybody. I do it when I read other people’s books, too. Now, I can’t imagine why anyone—having read OUTLANDER—would form an image of Jamie as a 7-foot tall Bozo the clown on steroids, but you know….whatever floats your boat.

Why anyone should expect a film company to a) telepathically extract your personal vision of a character and b) try to replicate that onscreen is one of the Great Mysteries of the Universe, and I’m not about to try to solve it here—I got a book to write, among other things, and there are only so many hours in the day.

So I’m just going to say This about That:

Y’all have not seen Sam Heughan “be” Jamie Fraser.

I _have_.

Now, when they told me who they’d chosen and that they were sending me the audition tapes, I was in the car, driving from Phoenix to Santa Fe with my husband. Unable to get to my computer until we got to Santa Fe, I was madly googling “Sam Heughan” on my iPhone (my husband was driving, I hasten to add).

Frankly, I thought he looked bizarre. He’s 6’3”, that’s fine…very chiseled face, but oddly chiseled, and what’s with the large forehead and cleft chin?!? Jamie doesn’t have a cleft chin and his nose is not all that long, though it _is_ straight…and good grief, I know we wanted somebody who could play a 22-year-old virgin, but this guy hardly looks like he has hair on his behind, let alone the dangly bits…but…


But you know, I _do_ understand what it is that actors do.

(Do you know that, btw? What they do is magic. They can become somebody they aren’t—and their physical outline is just Really Not That Important. (Within limits. Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher is a long way outside those limits…).)

So I sat down at my computer, sort of looking warily through my fingers. Willing to suspend disbelief if I could, but kind of dubious, you know?

So here he is, dark-haired, in a long-sleeved gray T-shirt, and I’m thinking, “Boy, he doesn’t look _anything_ like his IMDB photos, he actually looks pretty human, that’s a relief…”

And five seconds later, Sam Heughan was GONE, and it was Jamie Fraser right there in front of me. True. No costume, no makeup, no props, nothing but cues from an offstage casting director, and…it was him.

He did two scenes. First, a confrontation with Dougal, right after Dougal’s ripped his shirt off in the tavern.

“Devil take ye, Dougal MacKenzie! I dinna owe ye that!” Blazing blue eyes, swelling shoulders, and…bam. Showed this small bit to a (male) friend recently, who blinked at the screen and said, “Man, he’s powerful!” He was.

Second scene was even better; it’s the scene where Jamie explains to Claire exactly why he’s about to punish her. [g] And he had it all: patience, seriousness, annoyance, patience, humor, menace, humor, and…enough sex to drop anyone with functioning ovaries in their tracks.

Now. In the months since then, the production people have been kind enough to show me the occasional glimpse of this or that. I _have_ seen the red hair in its full glory (it took seven tries—and 27 hours in a salon chair, I was told by the victim), and speaking as someone married to a red-head (himself Jamie’s original body model) and with two more in residence…it’s definitely the right kind of red.

Red hair—as I notice a few red-heads have been mentioning—looks Way Different, depending on the light. Unless it’s truly carroty (and Jamie’s is Definitely Not), sometimes it looks almost brown, sometimes it’s red-gold and sometimes it’s all different colors and sometimes it has almost-blond highlights and sometimes…well, let’s put it this way: it doesn’t look like Bozo the clown or Shamus the Wrestler, it looks like Real Hair, just red. (And if you really worry about this, do go and google “red deer images” and _see_ what the heck a red deer’s pelt looks like.)

But beyond the physical details (which are, um…Really Good, and decency prevents me going further, save to say that while Jamie certainly doesn’t look like Thor (gag me with a spoon), he—and Mr. Heughan—look Very Nicely Muscled indeed)….Sam Heughan can _act_. And he totally nailed it.

So. Feel perfectly free to express your own opinions. (I don’t know quite what people expect as a result. Surely they don’t figure that Starz will say, “Oh, no! Robyn MacGillicuddy Stimson thinks Chris Hemsworth should be Jamie! Get Hemsworth’s agent on the phone!” Or at least I hope they don’t think that…) You’ll change your mind in due course.

Or I’ll pay you a dollar. [g]

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387 Responses »

  1. I remember we were going camping many years ago and I ran into the library 5 minutes before closing and found a book with an interesting cover titled Outlander. Ever since I’ve been a huge fan and have read all the books, some more than once. I was sure that it would never be possible to make a film version because to find Jamie seemed impossible. I also had doubts about Sam (from stills), but when I watched the first episode I knew he was right and perfect as Jamie. I am so thrilled to be able to watch the books come to life and that Diana is so involved as a consultant! I am sure they value her opinion immensely. I hope the show is on for several years!

  2. Read the series and loved it. Started the show and am 8 episodes in. I can’t believe how well done the casting agents did. Like many before the series could not think of one well know actor to capture Jamie’s character. Sam has nailed it. Hope the series runs thru the whole adventures of Jamie and Claire.

  3. Just stumbled across this…
    Having read the Books and having seen the TV Series I cannot agree more:
    Sam was born to play Jamie!
    And he does an awesome job at it!
    I personally do not approve to slag off someone before he even got a chance to proof himself.
    Jamie is a very powerful character, dominating the pages of the books, yet in a comforting way. He stands out, hes something special. But Sam Heughan manages to bring it across.
    Also the rest of the Cast was very well chosen, I have to say.

    Since I write books myself and I know how involved one can get with her own creation I can only assume the nerve wrecking process the casting proved for you, Mrs Gabaldon.
    I do love the fact you are an consultant for the TV Show. Just a shame dear old Granddad Fraser’s wonderful red undergarment did not make it into the show. Nevertheless said scene at the mill was hilarious even without it.

    Thank’s for creating such a wonderful world for us all. You make us fell, as if we would have traveled through the stones of Craigh na dun ourselves and dived headlong into a new yet fascinating world.

    Tapadh leibh

  4. Think the casting and acting have been spot on. Love the actors both that play Clair and Jamie. Also the rest of the cast. Loving the series.

  5. I have been reading that an Irish actress by the name of Maeve Foley has been cast as Brianna Randall. I think that is a huge mistake, I believe an American actress should be cast (why are there no Americans actors in the Series?). First you describe Brianna in your books as having been born and grown up in Boston, MA. You are well aware of the accent Bostonians have, that is not easily emulated. Sam Heughan’s version of a Scott’s accent is extremely poor and not believable. However, many of us like him so we accept him as Jamie. But that same would not be true if we have an Irish actress trying to emulate a Bostonian accent and the show would loose credibility. I sure hope that Mr. Moore selects the right actress. As it is I have to wonder why he is discriminating against having any North American actors/actresses in the show.

    • Dear Maria–

      Maeve Foley works on the production; she’s not part of the cast. (Fwiw, ONLY Starz, Sony, the producers (Ron Moore and Maril Davis), or–occasionally–me will post casting announcements. Anything else you see on the internet is just people amusing themselves with speculation). As for your opinion of Mr. Heughan’s accent….he, um, _is_ Scottish. As for Irish actresses trying to emulate American accents…you, um, do realize that Caitriona Balfe is Irish? She seems to do all right with Claire’s English accent. As for Ron “discriminating against having any North American actors/actresses in the show,” neither he nor anyone else with sense would discriminate against any actor on the basis of nationality. It’s called “acting” because the person can appear to be something or someone they’re not, aye?

      That said, the show is _made_ in Scotland and _set_ in Scotland. Naturally, British actors have some advantage, if only proximity and familiarity with the necessary accents.

      Best wishes,


  6. I agree that the casting and the acting are absolutely wonderful! Sam and Cait truly bring Jamie and Claire to life. The rest of the cast is amazing also. And the whole team! I am getting endless hours of enjoyment from watching/listening to all that is out there on how this wonderful show has been brought to life. Your writings on your writings, Diana, Ron and Terry’s take on what they do and and their parts and all the actors’ influences and viewpoints on their characters.

    I am totally obsessed with your books and the show and have been turning on my friends to it. Thanks for writing a story that is loved by both men and women as the bulk of the people that I’ve turned onto it are male and they love it!

  7. Oh and a female need not have functioning ovaries for Jamie, as portrayed by Sam Heughan, to drop them in their tracks!

  8. Oh my. I thought the love scenes were beautiful, sensual and very well directed. I don’t watch porn so I couldn’t compare.

    The rape scenes were not pleasant to watch but none the less extremely well acted and directed. And all of these scenes begin with words in the books…so……porn? Please.

  9. As a fan of the Outlander novels from the original print dates, I was very pleased to hear a series had come to life. Alas, I don’t subscribe to the network that carries the series. I recently purchased the first year on dvd and watched them this weekend. Fabulously cast and formatted to fit the confines of a television series! While I miss some of the sections left out, what has come to screen flows with an exceptional smoothness. The costumes, the “scenery” and the score are perfect. The cast are superb in their portrayals. Congratulations to you and all involved in this production! Job well done!!

  10. Dear Diana,

    I was given your first book, Outlander, by a friend just this year (!!!). I had no clue about it. I became immediately engrossed in your novel. Having English/Scottish/French background, I had total appreciation for the history and settings. Finishing up the first book, I allowed myself to watch and am just going though the first season of Outlander. From reading your book, I completely imagined Jamie and Claire as they are played by Catriona and Sam — the casting is amazing; they are FABULOUS!!! I am so engrossed in the series, and now reading Dragonfly in Amber — I can barely come up for air! I think the true heart of these books is the character of Jamie — the perfect man in every way. Even if he may not exist in real life, we can enjoy him through your writing and Sam’s amazing portrayal. And I LOVE Catriona’s Claire. I only get annoyed when the show changes what you have written. Why mess with a masterpiece?? I have enjoyed many books, but yours had taken hold so strongly and won’t let go — I feel such an emotional attachment to this love story.

    I am planning a trip to the Scottish Highlands to bathe in the beauty of your novel/s.

    Thank you for such a wonderful, albeit heart wrending, experience.

  11. I watched the series before and after finding out that Sam is gay, and it has lost all the appeal. Somehow it now seems too ficticious on screen. That doesnt happen when I read the books luckily. Still as good as the first day! My question is whyher the casting of a gay actor is because no heterosexual man can be credible as Jamie. Is the character that sensitive and sweet and gentle that only a gay actor could interpret him. He does a great job and the series are the finest I have ever watched. But I am concerned about how different is Jamie from heterosexual portrayals of men he really is in both fiction and in real life. Are we all meant to acknowledge it, that is the most imposible of all fantasies about relationships between men and women.

    • Er, Sam Heughan is definitely NOT a gay man.

      Not that it would affect his acting in the Outlander TV series if he were gay… Sam Heughan is a professional actor. Great actors portray characters on screen and on the stage and transform themselves temporarily in mannerisms, speech, and movement to *become* a character. Methinks you need to learn more about the acting profession, and what it is that actors really do.

      Sam has portrayed a homosexual character before as an actor, as well as heterosexual Jamie and other roles. Just because a character has played a gay (or straight) character means absolutely nothing about the real private life of the professional doing the role. Casting directors don’t consider an actor’s private sex life when choosing an actor for a role, but rather the actor’s talent, and whether the actor physically can resemble the character.


  12. Dear Diana Gabalson & co.,

    I found this site poking around on the internet this morning (October 2018).

    Thank you all.

    I’ve given up wondering why I’m fascinated by everything about the books and the tv series and just enjoy it.

  13. I read all 8 Outlander, watched Starz seasons 1-3, reread all 8, plus all related books. Diana, your prose is a salve for my soul. I have read and reread the shorts for book 9, and they comfort me like a visit from an old friend.

    The actor who is playing Young Ian, is a sweet thing. But how will that fair haired pink boy become your selkie turned native? I am waiting for season 4. So close now.

    The tv production is definitely worth watching. Thanks for the oversight. But it’s the power and beauty of your writing that gives us the real deal. Thank you.

  14. Why is Jamie wearing bangs or fringes ? No where in all your books is there a mention of Jamie wearing bangs. As Jamie, he looks like he’s wearing my grandmothers old wig. No one, man or woman in the cast wears bangs. Yes, I know wigs were common during this period in our history but Jamie’s wig with the sad wee pig tail is just cringe worthy. Please, do away with this horrible wig distraction. Thanks

    • Hi,

      Diana’s Webmistress here. The Starz professionals hired to create the costumes, make-up and wigs make the decisions about what wigs Sam Heughan will wear and in which episode, not Diana.

      So I suggest that opinions like yours about the TV series should be sent directly to Starz. One way is to send a message on the official Facebook page for the Outlander TV series:


      There’s also Twitter and email. Be sure you are using an OFFICIAL Starz Facebook/Twitter page or email address so your input will be received.

      Diana’s Webmistress

  15. Jamie’s wig is really distracting. He reminds me of my grandmother with her wig on backwards. Bangs, really?

  16. I’m enjoying the series but have a comments. One thing is Claire’s height. When she hugs Jamie, she hears his heartbeat. TV Claire is too tall. I try to forget that while watching. I was doing a pretty good at it until Brianna came in. That’s another thing, she is suppose to be a tall strong woman who graduated from MIT with scientific mind. I don’t know why you made her short and from Harvard. I don’t imagine her developing a water system and making matches.
    Another thing is Ian. He is suppose to get brown as a berry and lived with the Indians for awhile. I don’t see redhead Ian getting very tan. When a movie is made I understand why cuts need to be made for length, but a series can be as many episodes as you want. You really butchered the part where Brianna comes in. Anyone who read the books would know all of this. You have devoted fans watching. There, I finally got it off my chest. Thanks

  17. Hello!

    I just want to say how amazing the Outlander series is and all the characters!
    Sam Heughan who embodies Jamie is just perfect! Wow what talent actor is Sam. All the facial expressions are just too sexy! 5 years later, I thank heaven again for having created this series from your books!

    Hi Diana, hi Sam ! hihi


  18. I just read this in Feb 2019 and it absolutely made me laugh with the comment regarding functioning ovaries. I love your writing and have read the Outlander series AFTER seeing the first few episodes of Season 1. Sam and Caitrona’s acting plus others is what made this series alive and drove me to get the first book, which led me to the rest of them. I am not sure I would have discovered them if it had not been for the series, and that would have been a shame. You are very gifted, and also extraordinarily grounded in what must be a semi-crazy world with people criticizing so many little things. While there most certainly are other actors who can play the characters, it takes someone extraordinary to actually become the character. Bravo, Diana, you created a vision of a story that has come to life. Cannot wait to see the next book. I am proud to be one of your biggest fans! Thank you for sharing your gifts with world.

    Best regards,
    Ruthanne Burris

  19. Thank you Diana for your beautiful portrayal of a lifetime of love between Jamie and Claire. The different elements of love are brilliantly written and portrayed in both the books and the tv series and speaking as a woman who has been married to my love for 37 years, the different aspects of love need to be shown to all young people so that they can put love, lust and the acts of love into a realistic context that reduces porn to the pathetic parody of sex that it has become. SAM heugan and catriona balfe well done for a beautiful portrayal.

  20. I’m truly new to the world of Outlander, I was researching my Fathers Great Grandmothers family Daniel Nicol from Scotland who migrated to New Jersey in 1821 and my Grandson’s fathers family McLendon’s who settled in North Carolina before the Revolutionary War, originally they were tracked from Scotland but had left an empty place until a bright researcher made the link with Barbados and had arrived around the area called Perquimans NC. Yep, that would link back to Scotland and the highland. As I reached, I kept coming across a tv series I had seen advertised but not watched.

    In my search, I ran across photos of Sam Heughen – his young photo surprised me, he is a cross between my two grandsons.. both with wooly hair that curls, dirty blonde with our pale cold blue family eyes. I decided I needed to see this series. So I ordered Starz, and I downloaded a set of your books.. After watching the first episode, I was convinced Sam Heughen creates Jame Frazier, and he reminded me of my Jacob.. who smiles out of the corner of his mouth, hair that goes everywhere, and after I had given Jacob a drone for Christmas this past year, I reminded him possible need to have it licensed, he threw that smile at me and said.. Nana, I’m an Outlaw. Yes, on Sam’s casting. And yes, I did find James Frazier and Martha Milligan Frazier recorded in Guilford County, NC.


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