Got a thing for handsome men in kilts, sweeping historical romances mixed in with science fiction, and the natural beauty of the Scottish highlands? Well (as you likely know if you’re reading this), Outlander is for you. Based on the Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon, the show follows Claire Randall Fraser as she hops time and continents, struggling with her love for Jamie Fraser and Frank Randall. With the hotly-anticipated fifth season coming up, we’re all itching to see how Claire and Jamie’s story will end.
1. Au Naturel
Sam Heughan, who eventually won the role of Jamie Fraser in the Outlander TV series, proudly proclaims that he’s a “true Scotsman.” One of the ways he shows this commitment is a little naughty. He doesn’t wear anything underneath his kilt (and neither do most of the other actors). Time for a re-watch, ladies?
2. The Doctor Did Always Want to Be Scottish
Although the show draws its inspiration from Diana Gabaldon’s wildly popular Outlander novels, Gabaldon herself had a very unusual muse for her books. That is, the TV show Doctor Who. The author saw an old re-run of the time-traveling series where a character wears a kilt, and Claire’s wibbly wobbley timey wimey adventures in the Scottish Highlands were born.
3. Salt and Pepper
There are some big changes in the upcoming season. Given the constant time-hopping of both Claire and Jamie, it’s no surprise that their physical appearance has altered. In season 5, Sam Heughan said that his wig now has more grey in it and that Jamie carries around a few more battle scars. Uh…bet he still looks good, though.
Each actor on Outlander who plays one of the clansmen also personalizes their own kilt, wearing them in their own individual way that differs from other members of the cast. Apparently, this helps them to get better into character, and also gives a little more authenticity to the already painstakingly detailed show.
5. Hot and Heavy
Outlander season 5 still hasn’t started airing just quite yet—but we do have some secrets about the new episodes. Especially the steamy love scenes. Heughan revealed some insider information: As he hinted, “We had a scene the other day—I can’t give away too much—but we made love without making love.” Well, our interest is piqued.
6. First Blush
Heughan was cast first on the TV show—the producers found him almost immediately and thought he was perfect for the role. As Ronald D. Moore, executive producer on the show, put it, “He was literally the first one we cast. We saw the tape and we were like, ‘Oh my god, there he is. Let’s snatch him up now.’” But the role of Claire proved much harder to fill.
7. Light Bulb Moment
As producer Ronald Moore said of the trials to find Claire: “A lot of actresses, a lot of tape, looking for really ineffable qualities. She had to be smart, she had to have a strength of character, and really, she had to be someone that you could watch think on camera.” When they landed on Caitriona Balfe’s audition tape, however, Moore says they had a “light-bulb moment.”
8. Do You Have Eyes, Lady?
Though producers cast Sam Heughan ahead of everyone else, it was far from smooth sailing. When Diana Gabaldon got the news, her response was alarming. After initially seeing photos of Heughan, she described him as “grotesque.” Thankfully, when she saw him in movement and on screen, she came to her goddarn senses.
9. The Longest Almost-Hour
It takes a whole 44 minutes into the pilot episode of Outlander for viewers to meet Jamie.
10. Suffer for Your Art
You might think Balfe, with all the elegant looks Claire wears, spends the most time in the makeup chair. Well, you’d be wrong. In order to play the part of the beat-up, scarred Jamie, Heughan says he has to endure 4 to 5 hours of getting his makeup done—often while standing. It’s a tough job, but we’re glad he’s the one doing it.
11. Half and Half
Although there are some stereotypes that women are the only ones who like historical romances, and there are some people who pigeon-hole Outlander as only historical romance, Outlander’s audience is actually around 50% male. As it should be! The show has so much for everyone: science fiction, historical accuracy, great action scenes, and yes, romance.
If you look closely during the fourth episode of season 1, “The Gathering,” you’ll spot a very clever Easter egg from the show. Diana Gabaldon herself makes a cameo in the episode as Iona MacTavish. Dressed up in period finery, the American author has two lines, and speaks them in what she says is a “very Scottish accent.”
13. Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Kilts
Although Claire is apparently subject to the whims of time travel and is unable to totally control where and when she is dropped in both the show and the books, Gabaldon says that she very much conceives the time travel as science fiction, and understands how it works within the fictional world even if her characters don’t.
14. Dear Frank
Everybody knows that bedroom scenes are actually pretty dang awkward to film, but they’re also a big part of Outlander. To help alleviate this awkwardness and build intimacy, Balfe and Tobias Menzies—who plays Claire’s modern-day husband Frank—came up with a touching plan. They wrote each other letters as Frank and Claire before their intimate scenes in the pilot.
15. Total Nerd
Heughan is a self-professed nerd, and clamored to get on the show because he was a fan of Moore’s previous work on shows like Star Trek. He’s a pretty big science fiction fan in general: He absolutely loves the Back to the Future trilogy, and Balfe says, “Sam tries to talk about it [Back to the Future] every day if he can.”
16. Laurel and Hardy
While the show largely stays true to the books, it does take some liberties. The show fleshed out the minor characters of Rupert and Angus—and Gabaldon loves how they’ve become a “version of Laurel and Hardy.”
17. Beauty and a Beast
Hollywood behind-the-scenes can get notoriously raunchy, and the set of Outlander after hours is no different. On one Outlander panel, a fan asked about the cast’s social time together after filming ends. They made a surprising revelation. Apparently, the statuesque Caitriona Balfe can drink them all under the table.
18. Fashion Baby
The costumes from the show are nothing short of marvelous, and have gone on exhibition tours just so we can all get a closer look.
Despite all the Scottish pride going around in Outlander, Tobias Menzies has said that he does not want to wear a kilt, and considers it “a singularly ridiculous piece of clothing.” Sam Heughan shot back with the perfect reply. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he has joked that Menzies is the “absolute definition of a Sassenach.”
Maybe Menzies is a little jealous, though: he says, unlike the other cast members, he doesn’t get fan mail. Um, can you blame us?
21. Coach Heughan
Balfe and Heughan used to binge-watch the TV show Friday Night Lights during filming. That’s not very period-accurate, guys!
22. Fix Me up, Doc
Claire is no-nonsense and knows her stuff. The medical remedies she concocts are accurate for the time and place of the Jacobite uprisings in Scotland, and generally do work, although in a much more limited way than her 1940s modern medicine might have. That’s another point for the show’s historical accuracy!
23. Familiar Face
Ah, the always necessary Game of Thrones connection. If Menzies’ Black Jack and Frank Randall look familiar, that’s because Menzies also played everyone’s favorite uncle, Edmure Tully, in the hit HBO show. We can now never look at Edmure the same way again.
24. Trying His Hand
If Heughan had his way, we might also have another Game of Thrones connection. He auditioned for the HBO show a staggering seven times, for parts as different as Renly Baratheon, Loras Tyrell, and a member of the Night’s Watch. He was ultimately never cast, which is really their loss. He looks great with a sword!
25. Blonde Ambition
If you can believe it, Heughan is actually naturally blond. Though he wears the ginger well, he has to dye his hair every two episodes to keep his locks looking fresh.
26. Getting Hungry?
Outlander goes to great lengths to make its costumes, period details, and even food accurate—all the meals on the show are real food, which isn’t always the case on a TV set.
27. Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s the Space-Time Continuum
Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed something strange about Claire as the show has gone on. When she goes back in the past, it’s almost like she hasn’t aged. This isn’t an oversight in the makeup department; it’s actually on purpose. As Balfe said, “I feel like [Claire’s] an ageless person when she’s with [Jamie]… Together, they are not old.”
28. Put Me in, Coach
The show hired a language coach to teach the cast the ancient Gaelic dialect of Outlander, which is actually quite difficult to master.
29. Say Could That Lass Be Me?
Even the theme song maintains some historical accuracy! The song, “The Skye Boat Song,” is about Bonnie Prince Charlie and his escape from Scotland after the Battle of Culloden.
30. The Outlander Bakers
Outlander has a devoted fan base, and lovers of the show will go all the way up into the Highlands to find where the set is shooting and give the crew home-made pastries and cakes! They’ve even done gluten-free options, and have customized their baking in the past to accommodate Heughan’s love of peanut butter.
In season 2, when Claire goes to Paris, costume designer Terry Dresbach tried to design her chic French costumes by way of 1940s fashions. As Dresbach puts it, “We want to imagine that Claire goes into a dress salon in Paris in the 18th century and says, ‘Take this off! Move this! Why don’t we put the flowers down here like this?’ She is a modern woman.”
32. 10,000 Dresses
Dresbach’s team concocted 10,000 pieces of clothing as costuming just for season 2 of Outlander.
33. Yes, Minister
The show Outlander is produced by Sony Pictures, and after the Sony hack, then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron was able to get wind of the release date for the Outlander pilot. Once he did, the alarmed Prime Minister actually officially requested that Sony Pictures move back the pilot in the UK—for one single reason.
The original release date coincided closely with the Scottish Referendum, which determined if the country stayed in the UK. Cameron didn’t think a series about ravishing Scottish rebels with nothing under their kilts premiering just before the vote was very good PR. For him, that is. Sony obliged and pushed back the show.
34. That’s Her
Moore remembers very specifically what it was about Balfe that made her stand out. She was testing with the moment in the first episode where Jamie is injured while Claire is riding with him, and she shouts out, “Help, stop, he’s going over” when he starts to slip and succumb to his injuries. This was the exact moment they knew she was perfect.
Moore admits that “We heard that line so many times we wanted to cut it from the show, but when Cat did it, we all just suddenly were engaged in the scene again, and we all just went, ‘oh my god, there she is, that’s Claire.”
35. All in the Family
Dresbach is actually married to executive producer Moore, and she actually suggested the Outlander books to Moore as a potential project.
36. Staying True
One of Gabaldon’s favorite episodes is episode 4 of season 3, “Of Lost Things,” in part because it stays very true to the original plot.
37. Way Back
Gabaldon and A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin are friends. Talk about a literary power friendship, right? Also, like A Song of Ice and Fire, Gabaldon’s books were first published all the way back in the 90s. She apparently also does God’s work and needles Martin about the speed of his writing—c’mon George!
38. See the Sites
If you’ve got some change in your pocket, you’re welcome to tour the show’s locations throughout Scotland. Doune Castle just outside Stirling is the show’s Castle Leoch, while Blackness Castle is the real-life Fort William. Unfortunately for all of us, Craigh na Dun, Claire’s time-traveling stone circle, doesn’t actually exist. Dangit!
39. Lights, Camera, Action
Balfe and Heughan are actors of many talents, and their strengths don’t just lie in their tartan-wearing abilities. Believe it or not, the pair are actually serving as producers on the upcoming fifth season of Outlander. No pressure at all, right? As Balfe joked, “If it is good, we will take full credit. If there are any complaints, don’t call us.”
40. In the Ring
Long-time fans of the show know that it’s not afraid to lean into fisticuffs, but there was one conflict that took the most out of the actors. In season 4, we see Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna having love troubles with Roger, played by Richard Rankin. Accordingly, Jamie gets into a fair few physical spats with Roger that were quite difficult to film. As Rankin said, “It was very tiring for both of us, I think more so than we thought it was going to be.”
41. The Emerald Isle
Though Caitriona Balfe plays an English woman gallivanting around Scotland, in real life the actress is Irish.
42. The British Are Coming
In season five, Jamie will be fighting in the American revolution—but there’s a surprising twist. The Sassenach-hater will actually be on the British side. Can’t wait to see how that one plays out.
43. Book to Screen
So far, the seasons have roughly followed the plot of the successive books. So, season 1 was based on Outlander, season 2 was based on the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, and so on. But the fifth season presented a particular difficulty. The fifth Outlander book, The Fiery Cross, is a massive tome, while the new season is a trim 12 episodes.
44. Like Father, Like Daughter
In season 4, Outlander fans got a real treat: a hotly-anticipated meeting between Jamie and his long-lost daughter Brianna. The scene was incredibly touching—but in real life, it was absolutely freezing when Heughan and Sophie Skelton, who plays Brianna, actually shot it. That’s some very good acting on their parts!
45. Whisk Me Away
Sam Heughan has more than capitalized on his Outlander fame: He’s even started his own whiskey brand. The name? Sassenach, naturally.
46. Creative Controller
Diana Gabaldon has an immense amount of creative control over the Outlander TV show, which is probably a good thing considering she’s still writing the novels. She sees every script and gets dailies from the producers.
47. The Personal Touch
In season 5, Gabaldon even found the time to write her own episode, something she hasn’t done since all the way back in season 2.
48. Practice Makes Perfect
Outlander is such a cultural phenomenon today that’s it’s hard to conceive of a time where it wasn’t a smash hit. But it actually had an incredibly rocky start. When Gabaldon first started writing the series, she wasn’t even intending to publish it. As she said, “I knew I was supposed to be a novelist, but I didn’t know how; and I decided the way to learn was to actually write a novel. So, Outlander was my practice book.”
God, we wish our “practice books” turned out like hers.
49. Keeping It Real
Outlander uses very little green screen; most of the show is shot on location in Scotland (or elsewhere) and makes use of the country’s vast natural beauty.
50. Travel Scotland
Thanks to this showcasing of Scotland’s breathtaking landscapes, tourism to Scotland actually grew 500% after the series premiered.
51. Foreign Lands
Although Scotland is the obvious setting of choice for a show set in, uh, Scotland, the production actually considered locations in Eastern Europe and New Zealand as primary locations as well. Indeed, season 2’s Paris is actually Prague.
52. 27 Kilts
Outlander was initially tapped as a full-length film, not a recurring series. If the production had actually gone through like the producers planned, it would have been a totally different project. First off, who did the developers want to play Claire? None other than 27 Dresses star Katherine Heigl. But that’s not the only big difference.
53. Fraser, Jamie Fraser
Playing hot and heavy romantic lead Jamie Fraser is a plum role, and many actors vied for the part of the steamy Scotsman. Before Outlander became a TV show and was still being developed as a film, author Diana Gabaldon herself had her eye on veteran heartthrobs Liam Neeson or Sean Connery to play the dreamy clansman.
54. Bumps and Bruises
Outlander star Caitriona Balfe confessed that one of Claire’s intimate scenes with Jamie actually caused her to get injured. It was supposed to be a passionate, if a little awkward, love scene, but it went way too far. As Balfe recalled “I think he probably hit me at one point.” Um, ouch. Be careful out there, you two!
55. I Wish I’d Never Met You
In a recent interview, Sam Heughan made a disturbing revelation. He doesn’t think Jamie should have ever gotten involved with Claire. Um, excuse me? As Heughan said, if he could go back in both time and into fiction, he’d meet Jamie and warn him, “Don’t go near her. Your life is going to be a mess.” Dreams crushed.