Outlander‘s Young Ian doesn’t seem all that young anymore. After the climactic season 4 finale, in which the adventurous young Scot changed the entire path of his life, the puppyish enthusiasm and wide-eyed naiveté melted away; left behind was the steely determination and Fraser-ish loyal fire we knew he’d had all along.
Ian and his uncle Jamie have spent the past couple of episodes trying to make up for their brutal mistake by tracking down Roger and bringing him back to Bree. Long and uncertain though that mission was, when they finally found the Mohawk village where he was being kept, they still couldn’t secure his safety. And when, at the final minute, Jamie was tearfully ready to exchange himself for Roger, Ian shocked everyone by having already offered himself up instead—allowing Roger to be free, and committing to spending the rest of his life with the Mohawk.
We talked to actor John Bell about Ian’s biggest episode yet, whether he’ll be back next season, and—of course—Rollo.
What did you think at first, when you read the script, first of all?
With the title “Man of Worth,” I looked at it and went, “I wonder who they’re talking about.” Then I got into the script and was just blown away. I knew this point in Ian’s story was coming up, as I’d read the books, but to see it on the page and then sitting in that table read and saying these words out loud for the first time with everyone…there were chills on my spine. It was the payoff that I was looking for. I’m super proud of it and what the team created; I thought it was magical.
First of all, we had stunt performers there, of course, who did a lot of the rehearsals and training, but I was very much up for doing it myself. So we did a lot of rehearsals beforehand with the First Nation cast members who were involved, basically learning the choreography as if it was a dance. And then…I’m kind of a springy individual. I can jump high, I can run around. We just hit it hard for two days. That is me in 95 percent of the shots of that gauntlet scene.
Even with the best intentions, I still got a war club to the face at one point. But don’t worry, it was rubber.
It’s really impressive. We’ve laughed a bit at Ian in the past, you know—when he offers to marry Brianna, for example. But even though we knew he could fight, we’re seeing him in a different way.
Absolutely. You know, I think that’s part of the Fraser within him. His Murray side can be a bit of a laughing matter, as you say; but it’s this Fraser fire that really comes out in that final episode. I do love Ian because he doesn’t mean to be funny. He’s not there trying to crack jokes. It’s always at his own expense, but you’re kind of laughing at him. But that just makes him even more endearing, and shows that there’s that side of Ian that doesn’t take things too seriously. I think this decision is going to really impact his personality and how he continues on as a man.
When he comes out the other end of that gauntlet triumphant and the Mohawk accept him as one of their own, I think that’s truly the happiest we have ever seen him.
That is absolutely the happiest we’ve seen Young Ian. From the minute he landed on that New World, he was fascinated by Native American culture and immediately wanted to know their language, know how to communicate with them, know their customs and traditions. From a really respectful point of view, I love that line he has when they’re at the party at Jocasta’s house when he says, “The Native Americans were here first, were they not?” and I think that shows his modern viewpoint on the world.
He falls in love with what they deem important, and that has a lot to do with how he was raised—the Frasers put family and relationships above all else. That’s what the Native American culture was, so I think he just absolutely just loved it. So when he finally got that acceptance, that note of approval for doing something that he chose, that he wasn’t a victim in, he triumphed; he was allowed that moment of pure joy. I don’t know if that will last, but at the moment that’s how he is feeling.