Richard Rankin Interview: ‘Outlander’
“A fish out of water is exactly how I would describe Roger in Season 5, he’s very much out of his depth,” declares Richard Rankin about playing the loveable Roger MacKenzie (aka Roger Wakefield), a thoroughly modern man stuck in the wild 18th Century in Starz’s “Outlander.”
“He doesn’t know how to hunt, he doesn’t know how to shoot, he doesn’t know how to do a lot of the things that are taken for granted of a male of his age in that time period,” he explains. “But he’s really intelligent, he’s very much a diplomat, he’s a man who is very good with language, with words, he’s an orator, he’s good at problem-solving [and] that was a lot of fun to play.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Rankin above.
Over the course of the fifth season of epic fantasy drama based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon, Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) forge a new life in colonial North Carolina with daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and husband Roger (Rankin) raising their infant son Jemmy under the looming specter of the villainous Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers).
Rankin was given a lot to do this season, as the scholarly Scot finally begins to find his place in the violent and untamed 18th Century under the watchful eye of father-in-law Jamie. His world comes crashing down around him though after a brutal near-death experience when Roger is wrongfully hanged at the Battle of Alamance. Despite him barely escaping alive after Claire saves his life, a heartbroken and traumatized Roger is devastated when his endearing singing voice is lost forever.
“It’s a really heartbreaking moment when he can’t sing, but especially when he can’t sing to Jemmy, because that’s something he always did,” Rankin says. “What starts to spiral into his depression is that he starts to question himself with ‘well, what good am I? What do I do if I don’t have my voice and I can’t sing?'”
In the aftermath of the brutal hanging, the show’s writers employed a novel way in which to portray Roger’s trauma, by replaying his experience of the hanging over and over as a grainy black and white silent film. It is an unexpected departure for the series, that further emphasizes his character’s profound sense of loss and longing.
“That episode in particular I was extremely anxious about, because when I read the script, it’s such a powerful episode. Off the page, a lot of it tells itself really, as a lot of it is in the stage directions, the feelings, the emotions, what’s happening are all described in words, but no words are actually spoken,” Rankin explains. “But I thought how the hell am I going to translate this on a screen without saying basically saying a word for most of it. I immediately appreciated the challenge of it… I had to be very, very specific about how I wanted to tell the story of his trauma, the PTSD and the depression.”