‘Outlander’: Clive Russell On Playing Lord Lovat

Claire and Jamie Fraser returned to Scotland in Saturday night’s “Outlander” and were quickly met with serious new challenges. 

In Season 2’s “The Fox’s Lair” episode, the couple was forced to make a trip to visit Jamie’s grandsire, Lord Lovat, played by Clive Russell, to try and convince him to send men to fight on the side of Scotland in the uprising against the British. 

Lord Lovat is a character in “Outlander,” and a real historical figure, so when AccessHollywood.com spoke with Clive, we asked him if he did a lot of research or went off the pages of the script.

‘Outlander’: Clive Russell On Playing Lord Lovat (Starz)

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“There’s a very good book about the character. [He was a] very, very extraordinary, but not very likable man, which was interesting. But I’m a bit wary of research in that sense. I remember when I worked for the BBC and did ‘Middlemarch,’ and I played a character in that, and I was very, very faithful to the way in which George Eliott described him. And one of the things she described was the fact that he had long pauses between words, and so I took that with me on to set, and after a bit, the director said to me, ‘Clive, you’re going to have to speak quicker than that…’ So, it can be interesting and it can be very misleading. In the end, your bible is the script — the adaptation in the case of ‘Middlemarch,’ and the script, which is a mixture/compilation of history and not history and that’s what you have to pay attention to, really,” he said. “Obviously there are hints from the way in which the character is described not in the dialogue, and how people talk about him, as well as the history of the character, but it’s really about the script.”

Asked about the costume process for “Outlander,” Clive said his Lord Lovat look was “done very beautifully,” and aged to fit the character’s lifestyle. 

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“They broke it down quite a lot because he didn’t look after himself properly,” the actor said. “And I had a pair of spectacularly wonderful decayed teeth, which in his day would’ve been made of wood. He had no teeth, but he had wooden false teeth, so rather than having to do that, I went and had a fitting for some ghastly brown teeth, which must have made him extremely unattractive.” 

Filmed on the show’s set in Scotland, “The Fox’s Lair” episode reunited Clive with actors he’d worked with before, including Gary Lewis, who returned in the episode as Colum MacKenzie, and Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie. Clive and Sam were both in UK docuseries “The Wild West” in the mid 2000s. 

In Saturday night’s “Outlander” episode, the two actors had several interesting scenes opposite each other, including a private exchange where Lord Lovat asked for Jamie’s family home — Lallybroch — in exchange for his men joining the Jacobite cause, a request Jamie answered by calling into question whether the two were actually blood relatives.

“That particular scene was done quite late in the day and just flowed very easily,” Clive said. 

“I’d worked with him very briefly,” he continued of his previous project with Sam. “We did a documentary about an American cowboy gangster — Jesse James, and I was [Sheriff Brady], a very famous cowboy sheriff character, and there was a group of us [who] did it over a week in Almeria, in Spain, up in the mountains where they shot one of the Clint Eastwood cowboy movies. So I briefly knew him about 8, 9 years before when he was very young. So we had a certain ease between us. It was good. Very much a kind of older man/younger man vibe and it was very easy working with him because it – not quickly, but it fell into place, the director gave us some notes, but it played itself very well. Beautifully written scene.” 

Another scene Clive enjoyed filming was the moment when, just as it seems Jamie is going to sign away Lallybroch, Claire (Caitriona Balfe), pretends she has a vision.  

“It was actually quite electrifying, the moment when palpably, everybody in the room believed what she was doing and what she was saying,” he said. “It was a pretty good moment.” 

Claire’s “vision,” though, didn’t get Jamie’s grandsire to agree to join the rebellion. Instead, he signed a declaration to stay neutral. It was only later, after his heir Simon was on his way with Jamie and Claire to begin fighting preparations that Lovat showed his cards. He rode up and confirmed he was secretly taking part in helping them, giving them men, but via the document he signed, giving the appearance he was remaining neutral. 

“The horse riding was great fun. I cantered down hill for the first time in my life, arriving, which was great fun,” he said of the memorable scene. “We cantered off afterwards quite quickly.” 

Asked if he has an interested in coming back to the show, if the opportunity were to come up, Clive said he would welcome it.

“I had a terrific time. I’d be delighted to go back. I rather think it would be a one off, although I am one of the central character’s grandfather, so depends how it goes down, I guess,” he said. “I think in the book he only appears the once. Whether they’ve done all the things that he does in the book, I’m not sure, but we’ll find out.” 

“Outlander” continues Saturdays at 9 PM ET/PT on Starz.

Jolie Lash

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