Grant O'Rourke as Rupert MacKenzie in 'Outlander' (Sony Pictures Television/Starz)
It took some convincing (and the young Willie to volunteer first), but Rupert MacKenzie is in on the plan to help Claire and Murtagh rescue Jamie on "Outlander."
"I think it speaks of the evolved loyalty, I guess, that they have towards them or the affection that they have towards them that they would do that," Grant O'Rourke, who plays Rupert, told Access Hollywood of Rupert and Angus agreeing to put their lives on the line to help.
In the Starz series, Rupert is a fierce Highlander, but one with a wit that's brought an enjoyable levity to the serious drama, and Grant has that sense of humor in common with his character.
"Rupert just enjoys what he enjoys in life and doesn't let things stand in the way of him getting them, I guess, if he can," Grant said. "So even if it's a, 'That's what she said,' joke, that's what we do. I think I'm very similar to him, we just live in different ages."
A few hours ahead of one of his performances on stage in "The Venetian Twins" at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, recently, Grant spoke with Access Hollywood about his "Outlander" Season 1 experience, working with Stephen Walters, who plays Angus, and why his character said yes to joining Claire on the courageous, life or death mission to try and save Jamie Fraser from Wentworth Prison.
AccessHollywood.com: What has it been like to go on to the stage after doing 'Outlander' and being heavy into that [TV production] for such a long time? Has it sort of felt a bit freeing?
Grant O'Rourke: It's been almost about 18 months since I was last on stage. I was actually on stage – in a play – when I found out I was doing 'Outlander,' so that was 12 months of shooting and to get back on the stage now, it's great to get in a rehearsal room, it's great to be creative all day every day. It's very tiring as well, in a completely different way, but obviously when you're on set, about 15-20 percent of your day is being creative so you spend a lot of time hanging about, but there's certainly not hanging about in this play at all. It's kind of the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It's exhausting (laughs). I can't wait to get back on set.
Access: [Did] doing Season 1 of 'Outlander' help you out at all because it seemed like it was a bit of an endurance test, especially filming outdoors? It's not often that you film, braving the elements and having to do those kind of long days.
Grant: Yeah, it is an endurance test, but it's more about your concentration. I mean, in Scotland, you're kind of used to that weather. It's no big shakes, to be honest, and we're very well looked after, so really, it was just about keeping the focus together and keeping the creative juices flowing, I guess, so that you're always ready to work.
Access: You say in Scotland you're used to that weather, but you get to choose to go indoors when you want to in your own personal life. We spoke with Caitriona a while back and she mentioned how cold it is and how the weather would change and how some of the costumes you guys are in aren't necessarily the warmest attire compared to the crew in their jackets.
Grant: Well, to be fair, Caitriona kind of had it much harder than all of us anyways, costume-wise. My costume's very comfortable and it's also very warm as well, so I can tell you, if you spoke to any of the other guys and they're complaining about the weather, I can officially give you an exclusive -- that they're all a bunch of wusses (laughs). It's not that bad. There was one day we were filming up near Aviemoor and it was particularly cold. I put a jacket on that day, but generally it's never been that bad.
Access: Now obviously Rupert and Angus are so much fun to watch on screen. Did you and Stephen have a chemistry test?
Grant: No, not at all. I met Stephen [Walters, who plays Angus] after I'd been cast, when we were up at the stables together. I think, you know, Stephen has to take a lot of the credit for that. I mean, he's a genuinely lovely person and he's one of these people that, you know, the world [is] a better place for him being in it. He loves people and he's always kind of – he especially loves sort of like one on one conversations with people. He's always off in the distance talking to someone constantly… and we bonded over talking about football and we both have little boys that are about the same age as well, so we get on, pretty well and I think he's easy to work with just because he's such a good actor and he's such a nice guy.
Access: Do you remember doing any productions with Laura [Donnelly, who was in the same year at drama school] or Sam [Heughan]?
Grant: Sam was in the year above me, so I think I was like the Prince in 'Romeo & Juliet' when he played Romeo and I think yeah, Laura and I did some plays together. I can't remember what we did. I went away and worked for most of my third year, because I was in a production professionally, so I missed out on a lot of productions [at drama school], but I'm pretty sure we did. We must have done.
Access: [The story caught up with your characters at the end of Episode 14]. What do you think they were up to while they story wasn't following them?
Grant: I think they were probably just surviving in the woods, you know? Those days it was just about survival. I think Rupert's a little bit better at it than a lot of people judging by the healthy state of his appearance (laughs), his robust shape. But yeah, I think they kind of – they just have to live off the land and go and just be themselves. It's probably very similar to the 'Rent' episode, just sitting around campfires, eating chicken, drinking whisky and telling jokes.
Access: When Claire asks them to help out, how big of a deal is it to them? Obviously [it is dangerous] to go up against the Redcoats. What's their thought process when Claire comes to them with the 'Please help me' offer?
Grant: I think it speaks of the evolved loyalty, I guess, that they have towards them or the affection that they have towards them that they would do that. I think if they'd asked them at the start of the season, it would be an entirely different answer, but by that point [they've] come to respect Claire and you know, grown fond of her and obviously, I think the loyalty and the clan system is a big deal as well, so I mean these men kind of cared about honor and loyalty and kinship. ... They placed very high importance on it, so it's kind of it – it shows the development of the journey and the relationship that they would be willing to do that for Claire, I think.
Access: Can we call it a friendship? It seems like [Claire and Rupert] respect each other.
Grant: I think so, yeah. I think they've definitely grown more fond of her anyway. I mean, she's valuable. Her medical background is certainly valuable to them, and I think they can sense that and of course, she's married into the family so there's an element of that, but I think that kind of relationship does grow. It's a respectful one, I think. Things changed slightly into that… when she got married. But, yeah, I think there's definitely a fondness there.
"Outlander" continues Saturday at 9 PM ET/PT on Starz.
-- Jolie Lash