Outlander: John Grey actor talks about the love triangle with Claire and Jamie
Face it, Claire: You aren’t the only one who’s in love with the King of Men.
In Sunday’s episode of Outlander, Claire (Caitriona Bale) comes face-to-face with Lord John Grey (David Berry), a character who opened his heart to Jamie (Sam Heughan) earlier this season. After filming the scenes for “The Bakra,” I caught up with Berry to chat about his character’s journey and what it was like to shoot the pivotal moment when he reunites with the [secret!] object of his affection in Jamaica.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we talk about your work this season, did you ever have a chance to read Voyager prior to filming?
DAVID BERRY: I did not. I would have had to be the world’s quickest speed-reader because, as I recall, I did the audition and then the next thing I was on a plane. The only thing I could do was cram my lines. I wasn’t completely familiar with all the words I was saying. I was saying stuff about Helwater and stuff and not really knowing the import of that.
Let’s talk about doing those scenes with Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan at the ball in Sunday’s episode.
We were interested in trying to go at the love triangle — at least, I was trying to inject a bit of that tension. On set, we kind of mocked it or at least tried to in a very playful way, this sort of cattiness that these two might have had [over Jamie]. It was quite funny. There are definitely tensions running high, and when Lord John Grey first sees Claire, it’s a moment of absolute shock. But in Lord John fashion, he has to protect himself from being seen. There is sort of an awkward moment between all three of them.
Did you fly down to South Africa to shoot those moments?
No, I do not go to South Africa. Most of my scenes were filmed in this wonderful library in Edinburgh. Edinburgh played for the Caribbean. That was the ballroom of the governor’s mansion.
Let’s go back to earlier in the season and chat about that scene at Ardsmuir Prison where John Grey reveals himself emotionally to Jamie. What was that like to shoot? Did you have to do it over and over?
Yeah, I did. I must have done that take probably in the vicinity of 10 times. Each time I was like crying. At the end of the scene I had to get the tissues out and redo it again. It was exhausting because it’s such an emotional roller coaster, these two guys remembering their lost loves.
How was it doing the scene where Jamie offers himself up to John Grey outside of Helwater?
That was a tricky scene for both of us, for a couple reasons. It was tweaked by the writers up until the last minute. So, it was just difficult thing. And I think for Sam — I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but it came as a bit of a surprise to him that his character does this. So I think it came as a surprise to the audience. We discussed the kind of reaction to have there. It’s just such a fine line to tread. You don’t want to undermine or humiliate Jamie at that point. But it’s also something that Lord John is. It’s his most deepest desire. So it’s an awkward situation, and that awkwardness kind of helped.
Do you think John Grey was okay with getting married to a woman?
I think he’s quite self‑assured. I think when he said that he’s getting married, he was like, “I really like this.” I think that’s the way these people lived in that period. Lord John is happy to live in conflict with himself, or that at least he’s comfortable with that. The world he lives in is complex.
Have you acquired a new fan base because of the series?
Yeah, absolutely. The fan base really drives the show, and meeting them has been truly life-changing because they’re so passionate and engaged in the show. Always, in the back of your mind when performing these things, you think, “Are the fans going to like this?” It’s an important part of the whole thing.
I read your your mother-in-law is a huge fan. Did she really encourage you to take the role in Outlander?
Yeah. Yeah. She was a massive fan of the book series before I had been cast. She was over the moon when I got it. So whenever I go meet her, she wants all the behind-the-scenes gossip. It gets a little bit awkward because I can’t say anything. I remember when [my son] Alexander was born. I started calling him Little Lord Berry. He wears that name a little bit now.
Want to talk more about the penultimate episode of Outlander? Join me and Amy Wilkinson for a chat with executive producer Toni Graphia on Outlander Live! The hour-long show airs at noon ET on Monday, Dec. 4, on EW Radio, Sirius XM 105.