Colum MacKenzie journeyed to see the Frasers for help with a grave situation in Saturday night’s “Outlander.”
(Spoiler alert! This article contains major plot details from “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 12 – “The Hail Mary.” Bookmark this link to come back to later if you haven’t watched.)
While the Jacobite army was on a break from battle and plotting its next move, Colum MacKenzie traveled to see Jamie and Claire Fraser to ask them for help. Knowing he was dying, Colum asked healer Claire for some medicine to stop his suffering and let him pass on in peace. Colum asked his nephew, Jamie, for something else. In front of his own brother, Dougal, Colum asked Jamie Fraser to become the guardian of wee Hamish, the son he named as his successor. The request angered Dougal (Hamish’s real father) and resulted in a charged exchange between the two men in the episode.
Gary spoke with Access Hollywood about the big moments from “The Hail Mary” episode, including that scene, why Colum approached Jamie and Claire for help and his character’s final exchange with Dougal.
AccessHollywood.com: When did you find out your [character’s] death was going to be different than it is in Diana [Gabaldon’s] books?
Gary Lewis: When I saw the script. I had no idea up until I saw the scripts. I knew how it was in the books, but I was not unpleasantly surprised with how it is in the show. I think it’s very sensitive and yeah, I like how’s it’s done.
Access: Colum had to go to Jamie and Claire for help in wrapping up his life, so to speak. Was that something you thought would have been difficult for him to do – to ask the two of them for help?
Gary: No, I’ll tell you why — I think in Colum’s view, both as individuals, and as a couple, I think Colum recognizes that Jamie and Claire are hugely significant for the future of his clan. Jamie, obviously because of his potential to be the heir and Claire — I think Colum has recognized from way back… that she has some part to play. I think he recognizes there’s a difference. Obviously, he can’t put his finger on it. She’s useful because of her skills in medicine and the herbal remedies and she helps him way back with the massage. So he recognizes her worth, but I think he also recognizes that she is significant for the MacKenzies. That, of course, ups when they get married, much to his disapproval, initially (laughs). But then, he is, of course, aware of the significance and the importance of those two as a couple, because Jamie – he knows way back that Jamie is the person who’s going to lead the MacKenzies. … I’ll tell you from my point of view — this goes way back to ‘The Gathering’ when Jamie straddles that very difficult position where he doesn’t pledge a complete and absolute oath of allegiance to Colum, but he doesn’t get himself killed by [Dougal], by refusing to, and he makes that very wonderful and diplomatic, but heartfelt and intelligent pledge to Colum — way back then, whether he knew it or not, he just made a successful application for the job. That’s how I see it. He showed his mettle, he showed his potential, his maturing wisdom and then later, Colum actually takes counsel from him. So it’s a developing thing. It’s not that unusual from Colum’s perspective to go to Jamie and Claire to take care of business.
Access: Let’s talk about the scene with Caitriona [Balfe] where [Colum has] to ask her [character, Claire,] basically for a death potion. It’s super serious, it’s super emotional. Did they keep it kind of limited on set that day, there weren’t many extra [people] around? I’m curious if they cleared the galleys, so to speak, for you guys.
Gary: Not especially so, but the crew are fantastic and there was an acknowledgement of the nature of the scene. You don’t really know how it’s going to be until you’re in there and you start dancing with the other actors, you start exploring the space between you. And of course Cait is so wonderful, so once we started going to work, the somberness of the scene and the gravity of it became apparent. And, because it’s the amazing ‘Outlander’ crew, yeah, they were respectful of that. So yeah, things just go quiet with a nature of understanding and this is what’s happening. He’s basically saying, ‘Hey, I need to leave the planet now. I can’t take any more and… you’re gonna help me get to the door.’ … And even the lighting and everything – everything’s subdued, and basically, he’s saying goodbye. That’s when he’s saying goodbye to Claire and he’s emotional about that. He still has to take care of business, but this is goodbye to somebody he knows will play significant part in the future of his nephew.
Access: Dougal doesn’t take the news well that Colum wants Jamie to be Hamish’s guardian. Why you think Colum can deliver basically kind of devastating news to Dougal and know full well that Dougal isn’t going to [go crazy] on his brother?
Colum: Everything rests on loyalty. … It would be suicide, it would be the end if he couldn’t handle that. Colum knows that he’s head strong and incapable of acting rationally and the stakes are very, very high. Yeah, he could just explode. But, of course, Jamie’s there as well, so there’s a degree of trust in the situation that his brother has sworn his loyalty. You can’t kill the Laird (laughs). Well, you could, but that would be the end for Dougal as well. You see the thing is, what’s really beautiful about the structure and the writing in this scene is that not only does Colum say that things are going in a different direction – that it’s going to be Jamie, and Ned [Gowan] is going to look after the boy and he’ll be counseled and Jamie and Ned will play these roles, but he also confronts Dougal with his complete – he says to him quite clear, ‘You’re not as popular as you think you are.’ He just confronts him with the reality and then he confronts him with the possibility of the failure of the cause and he confronts Dougal with his inability to take on board that this cause is on its back. They’re not going to be successful, but [Dougal] can’t see beyond that. So it’s his pride, it’s all the things which have crippled — Colum being physically crippled — but all the things, which have mentally and emotionally crippled Dougal are laid bare. … He puts it right out there.
Access: You also had a great line where you get to say to Dougal, if he would swear to put the lives of the men above all else—
Gary: That’s end game. Yeah, that’s the end game when I say, ‘Okay, you say it, you mean it, and that’s it.’ After that, it’s not even checkmate and he falls, it’s like he has to leave. He actually has to physically leave the room because that’s the end and what a beautiful line, ‘You say those words, and that’s it, you got the position. Just say them, but mean them. Mean them. Don’t just make a noise with your mouth. Mean it,’ knowing full well that he can’t. He cannot make that connection. There’s no honesty there. Sure, he can holler and wave a sword and be proud, but he could not possibly say even something as clear as that — ‘you put the lives of your men before this cause.’ It’s a great line.
Access: [How did you feel about how] Colum basically gets the last word with Dougal. Obviously Graham [McTavish] got to deliver probably one if his most emotional speeches of the season, performances, and Colum is not there to hear it, because he’s already taken the yellow jasmine.
Gary: That’s it, he’s gone. I mean, it’s the worst thing you can do to somebody who needs the audience. You just move on, you’ve left, you’ve actually left the theater. … It’s like, ‘Wow.’ And he said to him, ‘I take no responsibility for it. Your life is your own. I take no responsibility for it.’ And he’s basically just saying, ‘Hey, bang. That’s it. Goodnight, I’m gone.’
Access: What are you going to miss most about being a part of this?
Gary: I’ll tell you, Jolie, it didn’t hit me because I was concentrating on the work, so I didn’t really put any investment into thinking about, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to be here soon.’ (laughs) I never thought about it that way and then it was like, the first assistant director says, ‘That’s a wrap for Gary Lewis,’ and I still hadn’t taken it in, you know? And Matt [Roberts, ‘Outlander’ co-executive producer] was there and he [came over and] gave me a big hug, and Maril’s [Davis, ‘Outlander’ executive producer] there and gave me a big hug, but I’m still thinking I’m going to see these guys tomorrow (laughs). … So, it’s really strange. This has happened to me before. I don’t really think about it like that and then you’re in the car. You know when you’re talking to the driver and you’re like, ‘Jesus, am I–?’ (laughs) Then it hit me. ‘Oh, wow.’ … But I never let it hit me on set because there’s too much to do and those scenes are so important. I was still at work.
Access: This project really got to reunite you with a lot of the actors you’ve worked with over the years.
Gary: Oh yeah, and with Sam [Heughan] of course. I’d worked with Sam previously in the Battle of Britain drama and yeah, there [were] lots. It was fantastic in that respect. It was terrific. And lots of the crew of course, and then there was the added bonus of meeting a whole new [group] of incredible people, like Diana herself and oh God, the minute I was in the costume department [with Terry Dresbach]… it was just like something else. Beautiful genius at work… and I had a great time, great time just going through the costumes with her… and Matt and Maril, and of course, Cait, who I’d never met before. There were lots of incredible people and incredible actors to meet and work with. It was a joy — a real joy.
“Outlander” continues with a marathon next weekend, before the Season 2 finale on July 9 at 9 PM ET/PT on Starz.
— Jolie Lash
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