stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan have a lot of weight on their shoulders for their portrayals of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser to live up to audience expectations, it’s “Game of Thrones” alum Tobias Menzies who arguably has the hardest job as an actor on the new Starz series.
He plays two roles within the story: one as the 1940s husband of Balfe’s character Claire, and the other as 18th century villain Black Jack Randall.
“I obviously tried to dig into the different people and find out who they were, the different times, the 1940s versus the 1740s, their different lives and what their experiences would be,” Menzies tells Zap2it
during a San Diego Comic-Con interview. “I think the settings, the costumes, everything that the show gives you is incredibly helpful. The narrative also supports that, as what they say and what they do are very different.”
Frank and Jack are two very different characters, but Menzies explains that he found they both had one key similarity (beyond their lineage) that ties them together.
“I remember the first conversation I had about them with [showrunner] Ron [Moore], he kept saying that he was also struck by the fact that these were two men both shaped by war; one by the second World War and one by this insurgency war of the Jacobite rebellion,” Menzies says. “They obviously reacted in very different ways and ended up in different places, but to find some ancestral similarities as well as how they differ was a part of the conversation.”
Playing the two different characters allows Menzies to have two very different relationships with Balfe’s Claire. While she and Frank are a (mostly) happily married couple, Claire and Jack’s relationship is fraught with distrust, violence and hatred.
“I’m very lucky to get to work with Caitriona. We got along very well and found it quite easy to build a rapport,” Menzies says. “The early stuff we were shooting was Frank and Claire, and we had to work quickly and really hit the ground running. We had to establish a marriage that was separated by a war and then rebuild it. … Then what’s interesting about Jack is that it can be a one way street with him. When Jack comes into those scenes, he drives the whole thing. It’s less of a conversation and more of a monologue.”
As for the difficulties of bringing a troubled character like Jack to life, Menzies says, “In the portrayal of Jack, I had to understand the context out of which his behavior comes. It’s absolutely having to do with what his men have suffered, what he has suffered and what he’s seen. He’s seen too much. Frank and Jack are both men formed by war but one has arguably the love of a good woman and he’s salvaged from it or survives it and arguably, Jack doesn’t.”
After having seen the first six episodes of “Outlander,” Zap2it can attest that Menzies does a phenomenal job pulling off both roles, and imbues a tragic depth to Jack while also fleshing out Frank as a character.
“As an actor, you just cross your fingers and hope that the work you’ve done to decide who these people are and how they behave and how they hold themselves will show up in the eyes in a way,” Menzies says. “I really hope that pays off through the show. I think it’s also interesting as to what’s similar about them as well.”
“Outlander” premieres Saturday, Aug. 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
Reporting by Sydney Bucksbaum