Exclusive interview with OUTLANDER actor Richard Rankin on Season 3 of the Starz drama series also starring Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe
Like his OUTLANDERcast mate Sam Heughan (who plays heroic eighteenth-century Highlander Jamie Fraser), actor Richard Rankin speaks with an authentic Scots accent. Rankin hails from Glasgow; his OUTLANDER character, Roger Wakefield, is from Inverness.
The adult Roger entered OUTLANDER at the end of Season 2. English couple Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) and her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) met the orphaned boy as a child during their fateful ‘40s trip to Scotland, when Claire accidentally traveled 200 years into the past. It is there that she and Jamie meet and fall in love.
At the end of Season 2, Claire has returned to the present. Then, in the ‘60s, she and her grown daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) travel to Scotland, where Rankin’s now-adult Roger meets them.
In Season 3 of OUTLANDER, Sundays on Starz, Roger starts to fall for Brianna as both of them try to help Claire return to Jamie’s era.
Rankin (who changed his surname from Harris to avoid any confusion with the late Irish actor Richard Harris) has TV credits that include BURNISTOUN, THE CRIMSON FIELD, AMERICAN ODYSSEY, THE SYNDICATE, FROM DARKNESS and THE LAST KINGDOM. He talks about his history with OUTLANDER, which goes back further than his tenure as Roger.
ASSIGNMENT X: Were you familiar with OUTLANDER when you got this job, or did you get the job offer or the audition and then read up on it?
RICHARD RANKIN: It happened in two parts. Obviously, I’m from Scotland, and when OUTLANDER came to Scotland, it had such a profound impact on the film and television industry in Scotland, a very beneficial impact, it had such a profound impact on the Scottish film and TV industry, it was great for us. It created a lot of work for our film and TV crews, and also, there was a real hike in the awareness of Scottish tourism. So when it came to Scotland, yeah, I was very much aware of it, but it wasn’t for some time after that that I was cast, so I had an opportunity in between to start reading up on it, becoming more aware of the show, watching the show. So by the time I started, I was very familiar with the world of OUTLANDER.
AX: Before you were cast as Roger, had you gone up for any other OUTLANDER roles?
RANKIN: Yes. I went up for a few characters before Roger. I went up for Ian Murray, Lieutenant Jeremy Foster, Taran McQuarrie. My very first script that I ever got through was actually Jamie Fraser, so yeah. I’ve been up for a few parts.
AX: By the time the role of adult Roger came around, or did you still have to come in and test, or did they feel like, “Oh, we know this guy already”?
RANKIN: Well, that’s what [writer/executive producer] Toni Graphia very sweetly says, that I’ve always been in the back of their minds and she wanted to get me in for something, so when Roger came up, I think they were really kind of championing me, I think they were really behind me for that part, which was awesome.
AX: Since you were cast as a man of the twentieth century rather than the eighteenth century, do you feel there’s something more contemporary about you than the other actors?
RANKIN: Well, I don’t think that can possibly apply to Roger, because he can’t be too contemporary. He has kind of a modern shell, I suppose, because he’s in the ‘60s, but what’s very important about Roger is, you have that sense of his lineage, and his connection to the eighteenth century, and his bloodline back to [Jamie’s kin] the MacKenzies. He’s the descendant of Geillis Duncan [played by Lotte Verbeek] and the war chief [Dougal] MacKenzie, who was played by Graham McTavish. It’s important to me that there’s a sense of that, so I need to keep an idea that you feel that direct connection to them, because that story explodes down the line as we move forward.
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