Outlander‘s Sophie Skelton on Brianna’s Risky Decision

Culture

The fourth season of Outlander is a pivotal one for Brianna Fraser, who’s been forced to grow up alarmingly fast after losing Frank, the man she thought was her father; realizing that her biological father is an 18th century Scotsman, then being effectively orphaned when her mother Claire travels back in time to reunite with him. This week’s episode, “Savages,” sees Brianna make the decision to travel through the stones herself with a very specific goal in mind: to save her parents from a fire that, according to records, killed them both in 1776.

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“I feel like this is the season where Brianna really becomes Brianna,” Skelton told ELLE.com ahead of the season four premiere. “She goes through a lot, she matures a lot, and I think what she goes through really softens her as a character.” One of the main reasons Skelton was interested in taking the role, she said, was because of Brianna’s arc in Drums of Autumn, the Outlander book on which this season is based. “It was a lot more responsibility, in that Bree holds up a lot of the second half of the season, and that’s been really fun. We’ve played a teenage, harsher, brattier version of Bree, but there are so many more elements of her this season, and it’s been nice to show the woman she becomes.”

Below, Skelton speaks to ELLE.com about Bree and Roger’s fight in episode 3, Bree’s decision to go through the stones, and her imminent reunion with Jamie.

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Richard Rankin (Roger), Caitriona Balfe (Claire), and Brianna (Sophie Skelton) in season 3

Starz

On why Bree turned down Roger’s proposal in episode three

I think for Bree, one of the reasons that the argument gets to the place it does is just because she’s put herself in such a vulnerable position [of trying to initiate sex]. I know the ’60s was a time of sexual revolution, and women were starting to be more confident in terms of initiating anything sexual, but even for women these days, putting yourself out there is a very vulnerable thing. I think for Brianna in that moment, she really has taken a leap and feels extremely rejected, and I think Roger feels the same. He then takes it one step further, and he proposes, and then he feels rejected, so the argument blows up far more than it would have done had it been in a different setting. Whether you’re male or female, I think if you take off your clothes and then somebody starts dressing you, you feel a little bit bruised!

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I think Bree feels Roger’s being slightly hypocritical, in saying he won’t sleep with her unless they’re married. It’s fair enough to have those morals if you believe in no sex before marriage, but I think Brianna feels hard done by, in that he’s picking and choosing who he has those morals with.

Outlander Season 4 Roger and Brianna

STARZ

On Brianna’s attitude to marriage

Brianna is a very modern woman for her time—she’s studying and wants to concentrate on her studies and her career, just like Claire did with being a surgeon. And maybe she’s worried she’s going to go down the same path as her mother, in terms of marrying somebody potentially too quickly, and then meeting somebody later who really knocks your socks off. Bree has a calculated side, even though she’s a hot-headed Fraser, and I think she’s trying to protect Roger in the long run. She doesn’t want to break his heart. You see it all the time when people’s parents haven’t had the best relationship, it filters down into their children, and Bree lived in a house that she thought was happy for 20 years, and all of a sudden she realized it wasn’t. I think she’s afraid of following in her mother’s footsteps in that way.

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Starz

On Brianna’s upcoming reunion with Jamie after going through the stones

Bree’s not going through the stones out of curiosity—she’s going because she has a job to do. There’s a lot at stake—she’s trying to save her parents’ lives—but of course there is that curiosity about meeting Jamie. This man’s been put on a pedestal by history, and by Claire, for a long time, and although Brianna’s always been so close to Frank, I think she also knew that a part of her was missing. I think that’s a big part of why she changed from history to engineering for her degree, moving away from trying to connect to Frank through history.

But in the moment of coming up to the stones, I think there’s an element of feeling a slight betrayal of Frank. That’s something we lay on quite thickly later in the season, in showing how close Brianna and Frank really were, because that’s important to understand where Bree’s head’s at. She’s never just going to run straight into Jamie’s arms, because she’s a woman now and this man’s a stranger, and she had a father. I don’t think the blood element matters as much to her.

“She’s never just going to run straight into Jamie’s arms”

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On how Brianna’s experience of time travel will compare to Claire’s

Obviously, Claire’s a very intelligent woman, but Brianna has twenty years more knowledge, coming from the early 1970s, whereas Claire went back in the ’40s. Also as a history student, Bree would know a lot about the time, and while Claire went back by accident, Brianna knows she’s going back. So she’ll have done her research in terms of the decorum of the time, and what not to do as a woman. I think Bree’s a little bit more prepared in that way, and may not be as surprised by how people are treated—having heard all these stories from Claire, I think her eyes are already more open to it when she goes back.

But there are still times where Brianna struggles with conforming to the times. There are things she sees that she wants to change, but runs into the same problem that Claire has, where if you try to change too much, you’ll be flagged as a witch or as otherwise troublesome. That’s one thing that’s always interesting about the show—this modern perspective on a period, along with the frustration that you can’t change anything.

Outlander screens on STARZ Sundays at 8 P.M.


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