Meet one of Scotland's bonniest exports: The 34-year-old actor is set to sweep U.S. audiences off their feet as dashing love interest Jamie Fraser on Starz's ''Outlander''

By Amy Wilkinson
August 01, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

Sam Heughan has been training for the role of heroic Highland warrior Jamie Fraser his entire life — he just didn’t know it. ”I was born and brought up in the countryside,” the Scot tells EW. ”I used to live in converted stables on the grounds of a castle, and I spent a lot of my childhood running around pretending to be Robert the Bruce.” Over the ensuing years, Heughan supplemented all that make-believe with a real résumé of bona fides: studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Shakespearean stage performances, a role on the BBC soap Doctors, and even a gig as the Caped Crusader in a 2011 DC/Warner Bros. touring production of Batman Live — which means he’s familiar with the pressures of portraying a beloved character. ”You can’t please everyone,” he admits, ”but ultimately, I think we’re all fans of the [Outlander] books. We’re as close to them as we can be while still telling a great story.”

For authenticity, Heughan spent two weeks in ”Outlander boot camp” practicing horseback riding and sword fighting, learning Gaelic, and perfecting Jamie’s brogue. ”The Highland accent is quite soft; it’s quite well-spoken, but it’s got a musicality to it, and I think that’s part of the character of Jamie. There’s music in him.” What the actor wasn’t able to glean from that edifying fortnight — or his near-daily conversations with author Diana Gabaldon — he could probably just fudge given his delightful similarities to the 18th-century clansman. To wit, when asked if he wears his kilt the ”traditional” Scottish way, Heughan’s answer is pure, mischievous Jamie: ”It’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it?”