Exec producer Matthew B. Roberts talks with The Hollywood Reporter about the big picture questions the time-traveling drama will explore in its upcoming season.
Time travel helped bring an extended Fraser family together across a two-century divide when the Starz historical fantasy series Outlander wrapped its fourth season more than a year ago. As their clan continues building a community in the back woods of early 1770s North Carolina, political unrest looms large in the colonies, setting up grave danger and ushering in the emotional turmoil that drives the drama’s upcoming fifth season (bowing Feb. 16).
“Last season, the question was: Where is home, what is home? … Is it people? Is it a place? Is it the building that you’re in? This year, we know what home is — it’s family. It is this community. What lengths will you go to in order to keep that whole, to protect it? That’s the question we asked; that’s the question [Diana Gabaldon’s The Fiery Cross book] asks. So, we try to answer it throughout the season,” executive producer Matthew B. Roberts told The Hollywood Reporter of what the characters are grappling with across season five’s 12-episode run.
For family patriarch Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), that question takes root in the season four cliffhanger that saw the land-granted Scotsman receive orders from Governor Tryon (Tim Downie) to form a militia and hunt down and kill the leader of anti-corruption rebels the Regulators — Murtagh Fitzgibbons (Duncan Lacroix).
“Between Jamie and Murtagh, their love is so deep,” Roberts said of Jamie and the man who — unbeknownst to the Redcoats — is his Highlander kin and godfather. “You can only imagine putting them on different sides of a cause, the dilemma that would cause; Jamie being trapped by an oath that he gave and Murtagh being trapped by an oath that he gave. And that was the dynamic that when we were breaking out this story [in the writers’ room] that we wanted to kind of dive into and see how that played out.”
With corruption rife in the colonial justice system and outrageous British taxes, violent Regulator riots and clashes with the Redcoats increase. Just as Jamie urged his pregnant wife, Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe), to go through the standing stones at Craigh na Dun to the safety of 1948 in season one, season five will find Outlander’s matriarch considering how the 1970s might safely shield their grown-up daughter, Brianna Randall (Sophie Skelton), Roger MacKenzie (Richard Rankin) and baby Jemmy from pre-Revolutionary War dangers in America. “There’s that dilemma of wanting your family with you, but knowing that they’re better off in another place and that’s a dilemma that you just kind of put the character through,” Roberts said of Claire.
As for Jamie, who didn’t get to raise Brianna, “he doesn’t want them to go,” Roberts explained. “Jamie feels like he can protect anybody as long as they’re around him. So he feels that it’s safer to be around family — people that they can trust, which is a great argument. It’s a great argument on both sides. … And Roger and Bree are both caught in the middle of that as well.”