Aside from the infamous print shop reunion, few scenes in Outlander are as highly anticipated as the moment Jamie finally meets his daughter Brianna for the first time. She’s exhausted from her journey from Scotland and bruised, both mentally and physically, following her rape at the hands of Stephen Bonnet. And despite the less-than-ideal circumstances—let’s be real, no one wants to travel through time to meet their father, only to stumble upon him peeing against a wall—it’s affecting to watch as she sinks into his arms in relief.
In advance of “The Birds & The Bees,” T&C spoke to actress Sophie Skelton about her character Brianna’s emotional reunion with her parents, why the showrunners made a key change to Lizzie’s character, and her thoughts on showing rape on television in the era of #MeToo.
I want to start by asking about Brianna’s reunion with parents because that’s what this season has really been building to. What was it like to shoot that first scene with Sam Heughan?
It’s quite a nice parallel because I think that was actually the first scene that Sam and I ever shot together. We’ve done press and been in and around set together for a couple of years, but we haven’t worked together yet. So that was really cool because it gave it that fresh sort of energy.
Their reunion is actually one of my favorite scenes, not just because it’s one of the most anticipated moments from the book, but because there’s so much going on for Bree. It’s not a simple “meeting your father for the first time” moment. She’s got Laoghaire’s voice in her head about will Jamie accept her?; she’s missing her mother; she’s come fresh off the back of losing Roger; and a rape; and losing her virginity; and everything else. She’s so broken.
She’s sort of lost all hope, and I think in that moment, meeting Jamie is relief more than anything else. He’s bringing her one step closer to her mother, and she suddenly feels home and safe. And as soon as he wipes that tear away, it feels like he accepts her. Then she just kind of falls into him because her whole world has unraveled and she needs a hug.
That moment with Sam is so touching, but I almost think the more impactful scene is Brianna’s reunion with her mother.
Bree just needs her mom so badly. What’s beautiful about the scene is that it shows how far Brianna and Claire have come.
In season two and even season three, we’ve seen that they have had a very strained relationship—for all of Bree’s life really. We’ve seen it sort of piecing together slowly and slowly, and as soon as they come closer, they fall apart with Claire going back to the past. They really thought they’d never see each other again—Bree was an orphan as far as she thought.
Their reunion scene shows that no matter how old you are, sometimes when things go really bad, all you need is your mum and a hug. Bree’s been on this voyage for months and months and months, and she really needs her mother. So I wanted to kind of throw Bree at her mum almost, showing that desperation and that need for her mother. I kind of winded Caitriona a bit, nearly knocked her off her feet, but that’s the moment. I think it’s lovely. I think the look on both our faces is just so heartwarming.
And of course later in the episode, there’s another poignant conversation between Brianna and Claire. Tell me about that scene.
One thing about Bree this season is I feel like there’s always so much going on in her head. It’s always a paradox for Bree—there’s always relief mixed with heartache, and everything else. In that scene, again, it’s relief that her mother still can read her. It’s not just that Claire knows she’s pregnant because she’s a doctor, it’s showing what a great mother-daughter bond they have.
In that moment, Bree’s probably been thinking about how to tell her mother, or if she should tell her mother [about the pregnancy]. When Claire finally says it, it’s like okay, phew, you know, and I don’t have to brooch this. Then obviously, she’s wanting to get the rape off her chest as well. But you know what it’s like when something terrible has happened: if you say it out loud, it makes it true.