How the Cast of Outlander Are Bringing the American Revolutionary War to Life in Season 7

We talked to the showrunner and cast of Outlander about what fans can expect from season 7, the war ahead, and the show's lingering mysteries.

Richard Rankin as Roger Mackenzie and Sophie Skelton as Brianna Mackenzie in Outlander Season 7
Photo: Starz

This article contains thematic spoilers of Outlander season 7 episodes 1 through 4 and teasers from episodes 5-8

The Droughtlander is over! Outlander has returned to Starz, and the Fraser family is reckoning with the reality that they cannot hide from the Revolutionary War. Everyone will have to make the choice to join the fight or stay out of it.  

Den Of Geek spoke to showrunner Maril Davis and returning actors Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin, David Berry, and John Bell, plus new to this season actors Charles Vandervaart, Joey Phillips, and Izzy Meikle-Small, to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how Outlander is bringing a character-focused perspective to history that viewers are already familiar with. 

Although Outlander Season 7 is split into two halves, all 16 episodes were filmed together, which Davis admits she initially found daunting. “I thought it would be worse than it was,” she  says. “I thought season one was a challenge. I don’t think any of us had been on a show that took a year to film before. After that, we shortened our seasons quite a bit and did 12 episodes. I think the prospect of doing 16 was a little daunting, but honestly, it was an amazing season.”

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“Portraying the Revolutionary War was actually a really exciting thing to do,” Davis explains. “We have several battles this season, we filmed each of the battles from character perspectives, and by doing so, it personalized it, it made it more manageable to wrap our heads around. And also just to me, grounded each of the battles. It wasn’t just a battle for a battle’s sake. It actually meant something to our characters, and I think that provides a really interesting perspective and an updated history lesson in some ways. We all know about these battles. We’ve heard about a lot of them. But to put them in the context of the show in a creative way, it makes this season more grounded, realistic, and more timely.”

Season 7’s visual landscape is more than the grass of the battlefields. Scotland also returns as a key location and character in the plot. ‘It’s always nice to go back to Scotland because we’re actually filming there,” Davis says. “The challenge is always filming North Carolina or anywhere else, and we had to go to a few other places this year. Liverpool was one of the places we went to pull off Wilmington as we lost our original Wilmington location fairly early on in the season. Our production department and our visual effects team find different ways, creative ways to pull this off, and I’m constantly amazed.”

The first two episodes of Season 7 are fully aware that there is some unfinished business from the previous season. Claire is still in jail in Wilmington waiting for her day in court to prove that she did not kill Malva. Davis decided for ease of production reasons that the reveal of who killed Malva, plus the reveal of key pieces of both Tom and Alan Christies’ backstories, would not entirely reflect the books but retain key themes while adding visuals for events off page. 

“We tried to stay as close to the book as possible. We kept all the parts, I think for me as a fan, are the essential Tom Christie moments.  I love, love, love the Tom Christie and Claire scenes. God, I could watch [Caitriona Balfe and Mark Lewis Jones] all day,” Davis says “In the books, Alan talks about his relationship with Malva but you don’t actually see it described. We wanted to show it on screen because that storyline originally was supposed to be completed in Season 6. We wanted to remind the audience what had happened because we’ve been away from that story for quite a bit. I don’t know if we would’ve done that had we filmed Alan and Malva in Season Six and left it there.”

Jamie and Claire are not the only ones faced with hard times. Roger and Brianna have a difficult choice to make to keep their family safe and healthy. “It’s very much something that happens to them as a couple and as a family that is the catalyst for this entire season,” Rankin says. “It’s the reason all the storylines branch off and it really sets the season off with a bang.” 

Fans will definitely see the Mackenzies’ story this season as the natural result of building upon the past. “Roger and Brianna had a slow introduction to the show, in that the audience didn’t really get to love the characters before you were able to hate them,” Skelton says. “Now, you just actually get to see these really cool humans that they’ve become and what a great team they are. I think people will be a lot more invested in the characters this season.”

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The result of a major decision this season places Roger and Brianna in a new and unfamiliar situation. “It feels like a different show, a whole new world, a whole new Roger and Brianna,” Rankin said. “They are different people now, as a couple they’re stronger than ever. They’re building this wonderful family and it all gets completely torn apart, but it’s how they handle it together.”

The war between the British and the Americans also places Young Ian in an especially difficult position as the Mohawk and other native tribes are fighting on both sides of the conflict, but he is in a better position to advocate for himself in the world. “Ian’s been busy making some friends that he can call on at any time,” Bell says. “Ian’s story up to this point, it’s this wrestling with who he is and which world he truly belongs in. Now he’s found balance and a balanced Ian is a ferocious Ian, and he is single-minded when it comes to doing what needs to be done. Ian gets his warpaint back on again and comes up with some killer moves.”

Lord John Grey in past seasons has been the center of the action but now his challenge is to sit in the backseat. His son William Ransom, last seen in the series as a young boy, is now 18 years old and ready to join the British Army.It’s terrifying, any parent that’s about to let their child go free and take on the world is going to feel those feelings of fear, trepidation, all those kinds of things,” Berry said. “William wants to rush headfirst into war, so there is a temptation for Lord John to want to reign him in and look out for his safety. And as this season progresses, I think we’ll see situations where William will get himself into strife and will have to look towards other people to help him out.” 

Charles Vandervaart plays adult William Ransom, who is now setting off on his own. Although William is not a new character, the audience is seeing him for the first time as an adult man. 

“Lord John has been the voice of reason for William thus far in his life, and now he’s set free on his own,” Vandervaart said. “William wants to fight for king and country, and he’s a bit naive because he doesn’t realize what that entails, the kind of violence that could bring into his life. He’s going to do a lot of growing very quickly when he starts to realize the realities of the world that he lives in.”

During William’s first military assignment, he meets a Quaker doctor and his sister who are setting off to help the American war effort. Fans should not be scared by the Hunters being siblings. “Last season had a quite horrible, to put it plainly, brother and sister duo before, and we’re a palate cleanser,” says Joey Phillips, who  plays Dr. Denziell Hunter. “We add a new perspective to the season. I think it’s really nice to be amongst all this violence, and the epic battle scenes, to see the purity of Denziell and Rachel, their relationship, and the love that they have for each other and for other characters. They both go on quite big journeys and they change from beginning to end.”

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Rachel, played by Izzy Meikle-Small, sticks by her brother because the rest of their community believes he is abandoning the Quaker’s dedication to pacifism. “She has grown up in this very closed-off community, and we really see her coming into her own and becoming a woman,” says Meikle-Small. “She’s very loyal and very kind, and she’s also feisty and fiery which comes out over the course of the season. I think it’s fun to see a little Quaker woman being a bit flirty.” 

Fans can look forward to the Hunter siblings crossing paths with Claire in future episodes. “I think we see the struggle that he goes through, the guilt that he carries, but we also see a really lovely relationship form between him and Claire,” Phillips says. “They are very much allies and become a team. Denziell immediately respects her when they meet, and I think he wants to soak up all of her knowledge and lean on her in hard times. For Claire, it’s so nice that she’s finally got a man in the medical field that doesn’t dismiss her. Denziell sees Claire as the incredible power that she is, and wants to work with her rather than against her.” 

Denziell and Rachel’s work assisting injured soldiers means that danger is too close for comfort.  “We have a couple of scenes where there’s violence and struggle that Rachel is involved in,”  Meikle-Small says. “It was really difficult to predict how she would’ve behaved in that situation because she’s a Quaker, so she wouldn’t fight back, but she’s also not a damsel in distress, she’s not weak. Rachel is very strong-willed and she’s very brave.” 

“The first medical one that we had to do was quite graphic and Izzy was gagging off-screen but I loved it,” Phillips says. “We opened a few people up and we’re delving inside their organs. It’s so realistic, the blood is pumping, and the organs are moving. You really feel like you’re elbow deep in someone’s abdomen.”

There are a lot of specific scenes in Season 7 fans will definitely fall in love with. “I do love the Jamie-Claire moment where he talks about seeing the future. I also love the Jamie-Brianna firefly conversation from Episode 2. I think it’s so lovely and touching,” Davis says.

Outlander Season 7 is now streaming on Starz

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