History was on the side of the Highlanders in Saturday night’s “Outlander.”
(Spoiler alert: This story contains major plot details from “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 10 – “Prestonpans.”)
Jamie Fraser and his men were victorious in battle against the British at Prestonpans, but they paid a steep price. They lost many men, including their beloved Angus and a fellow soldier named Kincaid, and by the end of the episode, longtime Jacobite supporter Dougal MacKenzie was forced out of the main army after an unfortunately timed outburst in the presence of his beloved Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
But, before he was sent off as the new Captain of the Highland Dragoons (Jamie’s suggestion to the Prince to save his uncle after the outburst put Dougal in a dangerous spot), Dougal and the Prince had quite an emotional first introduction.
Earlier in the episode, Dougal rode across the marsh to test out the ground and determine whether it was fit for a Highland charge. He was fired upon as he approached the Redcoats and while he sustained a cut to the head (and a hole in his hat), he made it back with the news that the marsh wasn’t solid enough for the proposed attack. Upon his return, he was given a heroes’ welcome and an embrace from his Prince.
Graham McTavish, who plays Dougal MacKenzie, told Access Hollywood about filming the scene with Andrew Gower, who plays the Bonnie Prince.
“One of the things that I loved about what Andrew did with the part was how he physically created the Prince,” Graham said, when we asked him about working with the Season 2 “Outlander” actor. “The scene where I ride down into the teeth of the guns of the enemy to test the ground and he comes back and he embraces me — I mean, we didn’t rehearse that particularly. He just grabbed me in the moment and so you get a very strong, genuine reaction from me as Dougal at that point. It’d gratified [him] in one sense that his Prince is hugging him, telling him how fabulous he is, but [he’s] also slightly uncomfortable that this man is embracing him.”
While the hug caught Dougal off guard, Andrew said it was the perfect move for the sensitive Prince Charles.
“As Charles, a conscious thing I did from the beginning was to make him incredibly tactile. So that came from the heart,” Andrew told Access Hollywood over the phone while on a break from rehearsals for “1984” in London’s West End.
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Watching Dougal on the battlefield testing the range of the Redcoats’ weapons was a thrill for Andrew’s character, who later made an effort to get into the conflict.
“He does love battle and he does want to be on the front line and he does see himself as a fighter, though [he’s] slightly deluded in that sense, I think,” Andrew said.
While the relationship between the two men started out on good footing, when Dougal returned from the just-won battle and berated Jamie and those in the cottage for treating the British soldiers (unaware the Prince was in the room), it immediately soured. Bonnie Prince Charlie marched up to the fresh-off-the-battlefield Highland warrior, grabbed his face and berated him, a gesture that wasn’t rehearsed (like the hug in the marsh scene), but added to the intensity of the moment.
“He just grabbed hold of it and pinched my face so that he was holding it, and for someone like Dougal, that would’ve been all he could do not to physically react to that. But it informed for me very much the scene that he had to control himself,” Graham explained. “And it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to Dougal – being able to control his emotions in a situation like that, especially given how he is feeling at that point – the elation, the bloodlust, the fact that he’s just come off the battlefield having slaughtered every British soldier he could find. And then, to have that happen to him, it was, yeah, [Andrew] made some really great [acting] choices with that.”
It was an intense scene, but it actually came together fairly fast, Andrew said.
“The scene itself, it didn’t take too much blocking. It was pretty [quick] the way we kind of approached it, both myself, Graham, and the other soldiers and [Sam] all kind of fell into place quite quickly, so it was a fun one to shoot,” Andrew added.
Although it was a great scene for the actors to perform, the teardown by the Prince was crushing for the character of Dougal.
“The hardest moment for Dougal, I think, one of the hardest in the whole season, if not both seasons, is when he incurs the wrath of the Prince,” Graham said. “I mean, that’s the world falling from beneath his feet at that point and to be rescued by Jamie, in that way, that would have really hurt. And it’s only the distraction of Angus’ death that I think pulls him out of that to be honest, because he has something more important to think about. But… that’s a low, low, low moment for Dougal.”
The battle scene in Saturday night’s “Prestonpans” episode was filmed in a tent “the size of a football field” Graham said, and it saw the return of Season 1 character Lt. Jeremy Foster, played by Tom Brittney.
Dougal encountered Lt. Foster after the battle was over and although the Redcoat asked for assistance to the medical tent, when he told the MacKenzie war chief that the Highlanders would not win the conflict, Dougal killed him.
“I don’t think Dougal intends to kill him initially,” Graham said. “I think he’s absolutely going to spare him. He’s not going to help him, but he’s not going to kill him. But then [Lt. Foster] makes the mistake of pissing Dougal off basically and saying, ‘You’re all going to be defeated in the end. You can’t win.’ And really, Dougal’s reaction to that is only going to be one thing and that’s what he does.”
Graham said Lt. Foster’s wincing in pain after Dougal stabs him in the gut also affected what the war chief did.
Lt. Foster “understandably was making a bit of noise while I was disemboweling him, and I suddenly felt that’s really something that would annoy Dougal, that this man would be making so much noise about dying, so that’s why I was putting my hand over his mouth and telling him to shush because it was almost, ‘You’re embarrassing yourself, you’re embarrassing yourself now. You’re dying, but don’t embarrass yourself by making such a big song and dance about it.’ I think Dougal respects people who die well and I think he would have felt that [Lt. Foster] didn’t die well,” Graham said. “That was a fun scene.”