“Outlander’s” Claire Randall has been involved in a variety of sticky situations since landing in 1743, but in last week’s episode of the Starz series, the TV heroine was presented with an opportunity to change her fate after meeting a rather chivalrous young man in red.
As Lieutenant Jeremy Foster, actor Tom Brittney made a splash during the broadcast when his English soldier character twice offered Claire (Caitriona Balfe) assistance during conflicts with her Highlander guard Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish). And, despite the color of his coat (previously, Claire’s Redcoat interactions were frightening), Tom’s determined and principled Lt. Foster was immediately embraced by the “Outlander” audience.
“It was incredibly overwhelming and great. At the same time, I was not expecting that,” Tom told Access Hollywood on Friday, referencing the fan response he received via Twitter since his debut episode hit screens. “Sam Heughan [who plays Jamie Fraser] told me about how devoted the fans are, because when I was on set, I remember there were a few that came to set and brought cakes and stuff… but, just having that amount of Twitter followers suddenly come on… it was incredible. Everyone was so nice and saying such great stuff about it. I was not expecting that kind of reaction to my character.”
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There will be more of Tom’s Lt. Foster in Saturday’s “The Garrison Commander” episode of the cable drama, as well as Claire’s answer to his question, “Tell me, madam; are you here by your own choice?” But Access had a few questions of our own for the emerging young talent.
AccessHollywood.com: Tell me about auditioning for ‘Outlander.’
Tom Brittney: It was incredibly quick. … I was sent was one scene, which was the end scene of Episode 5 when I confront Dougal and Claire by the brook, the little creek, so I didn’t have a lot of context about what kind of person he was and it was only one round. I did that one scene and yeah, I got it about a week later.
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Access: What went through your head knowing that you were getting a job on a big American project?
Tom: It was incredible. I’d never heard of the books before. … Obviously, I Googled it before I did the audition. I was confused about whether it had actually come out yet because there were loads of pictures of Sam Heughan and they were doing this thing of like a mini Sam Heughan [Editor’s note: Pocket Jamie] taken around Scotland, so I was wondering whether it had already been filmed, but then, I realized that it had this massive, massive fan base of millions of books sold. … So, to know that I was going to be part of something that big, with such a massive fan base, was incredible. … Because I was an original character, I wasn’t thinking that I would make as much of an impact as I did, and again, I didn’t have the full script, so I didn’t know in what context I was actually gonna be used, but it was just — it was just incredible. And obviously, like to know Ronald D. Moore was behind it as well, who I know from ‘Battlestar [Galactica]’ and stuff. Although, I will admit, I did know him from the ‘Portlandia’ sketch. I don’t know if you’ve seen it?
Access: I haven’t. I’m going to have to look that up.
Tom: Well, there’s one episode where they get addicted to watching ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ and they have to go and find Ronald D. Moore to write more episodes and they get the wrong Ronald D. Moore. But he’s in it and that was the first time I knew him and after that I started watching ‘Battlestar’ myself. So, to see him at the table read was amazing and [I was] going, ‘Wow! I’ve gone from some small British productions, to being in a room with Ronald D. Moore,’ which was incredible.
Access: Was he wearing a kilt at the time?
Tom: He wasn’t wearing a kilt the day I saw him. And I think I missed him on set a couple of the days he was, because I really would have liked to see that. I’m glad he got into the Scottish culture. Took it right on.
Access: What did you like about your character? I was thinking – the English don’t come across that well in this piece [in 1743], but you do. So you get to represent.
Tom: … I didn’t read the books before because I knew I wasn’t in it and I didn’t want to get any context before because I knew that the Redcoats weren’t particularly good in it. So I did a lot of research in kind of the Jacobite period to kind of just get facts down. But from reading it, I kind of felt that this guy was — obviously an Englishman, so on the English side, but… I think, my character is just doing his duty without taking it to the point of being evil and I’m glad people picked up on that.
WATCH: ‘Outlander’: Graham McTavish Discusses Episode 5
Access: Tell me about the costume and how that helped your performance, because you get all buttoned up, and you get to put a wig on.
Tom: Oh, yeah, you can’t help but just instantly be transported into the time period. … I didn’t realize we were going to be wearing wigs. … I didn’t think about my hair at all. But that was great, having a wig fitting, because it just changes your look completely and having like this long, beautiful, you know, sleek hair, from like a L’Oreal advert… I did a lot of hair swishing with it, I will admit — because I could.
Access: If you could’ve kept it, you could have jumped into a ’90s period piece and played a Seattle rocker.
Tom: I know. A lot of people said I looked like I could have been in like a boy band like Hanson, which was cool (laughs). But, it was great. The costume was incredible and so, so regal and everything that you can’t help but kind of walk the way that someone would.
Access: I was on set [in February] before they filmed your episode and it was freezing in Scotland. How cold was it for you and what did you guys do to stay warm? Were there hug parties? I kid!
Tom: Oh, I wish. I never thought of hug parties, because any time I was on set, you know, we were Scots vs. English, so no one really wanted to hug me much. …
[I was filming in Scotland] around March, I think, so it was a little warmer. We were up in Aviemore, up in the Highlands, for the first week shooting the scene where I come out of the farrier’s shed and that was pretty cold. It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. … There were a couple of days when I had days off and I went down to like a little river on my own and had a picnic and sat and read a book, so it was kind of nice weather. … And then, when I went back to Glasgow, that was pretty cold, but then, you’re in a studio… which was absolutely boiling [with] all the lights and all the costumes.
Access: You graduated fairly recently from [drama] school. .. Has it been kind of nuts not only doing ‘Outlander,’ but now being in Canada working on another American production so quickly?
Tom: It’s crazy. When I graduated, I did a couple of adverts and stuff like that, which were good and then I kind of went on and did some small parts in English shows and then kind of worked up the ladder in that. And then ‘Outlander’ happened, which obviously [films] in the UK, but [airs] in America, and that opened up a lot of doors with LA. And then, I went over and got representation in Hollywood. And then, yeah, got this job [for Lifetime] and there’s a few projects that I’m waiting [to hear back] on… It’s incredible. It’s amazing.
Access: Your family and friends must be having a ball watching this happen.
Tom: Yeah. My family are absolutely over the moon to see this. They’ve always supported me and stuff. I know a few actors [whose] parents… kind of look at acting as being a pipe dream, but my mum writes plays, and she writes books, so she’s in the arts as well, and my dad’s a sort of accountant, so he’s a bit more mathematical, but at the same he is — he absolutely is overjoyed every time I call up and get a job.
Access: Tell me about ‘Un-Real,’ which you are shooting for Lifetime.
Tom: It’s basically a show about one of those reality TV shows about an eligible suitor — male suitor… that kind of thing, but it’s about the behind the scenes of what happens. It was based on this short film by Sarah Shapiro called ‘Sequin Raze,’ which won quite a lot of awards and then got picked up by Lifetime for series.
Access: What’s your role in it?
Tom: So, I’m doing a guest star [role] in one of episodes. Freddie Stroma’s the lead guy, he plays Adam. … I play his best friend who comes over from England.
“Outlander” continues Saturday nights at 9 PM on Starz. “Un-Real,” from Executive Producer Marti Noxon (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer”), is expected to premiere later this year on Lifetime.
— Jolie Lash
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