Outlander star opens up about that literal blood bath
Forget the Red Wedding. Have you ever seen anything more frightening than the Red Bath?
In Sunday’s episode of Outlander, the time-tripping Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) returned to the plot in a very grisly manner — by stepping out of a literal blood bath. (Props to director Charlotte Brändström for the Mrs. Robinson-like way she filmed Verbeek’s leg emerging out of the pool with Young Ian sitting wide-eyed in the background.) I asked the Dutch actress, who was last seen returning through the stones at the end of season 2, to explain how she executed her crimson comeback.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was that literal blood bath like?
LOTTE VERBEEK: They warmed it up to body temperature. After a couple of takes my skin was getting really red and my face as well, because it really warms you up. It was also really slippery, which made it tricky to get out of the tub without falling flat on my face and then walk toward Young Ian in this predatorily foreboding way.I would just try and not fall and slip. But I just had an amazing time because it was a really interesting concept, this combination of eerie and beauty. And I’ve never seen somebody completely covered in blood. It was interesting to look at the patterns on my skin and how it progressed as I walked out of it.
What was it made of?
It was something harmless, apparently. It was supposed to be something like a natural color rinse with glucose, or like some sort of sweet, syrupy-like substance. Because not only does it have be the right color, but it also has to have the right thickness. It had to look realistic. They did an amazing job, but I was just thinking of the order: “Let’s order like 500 gallons of fake blood and warm it up.”
Let’s recap: So when you went back through the stones at the end of season 2, your goal was to save Scotland, right?
Yes. That was always the idea. But now that we have found Geillis as Mrs. Abernathy in Jamaica and it’s obviously so many years later, that didn’t work out. So now she’s just kind of settling for wanting to know when the new Scottish king will rise. At this point, it might not happen in her lifetime. So there’s also a sadness in this big dream. She wanted to change the course of history. That didn’t happen.
Is Geillis truly evil?
Yeah, totally. That was a big change for me. I don’t believe so much in good and evil. I feel like we all have opposing forces within ourselves, and Geillis is exactly that. We know that she’s killed her husband, but we never really see her do the act of killing. So I think in a way, that helped the audience to relate to her, or to at least believe her. But in this season, all of a sudden she’s killing these young boys. And she’s bathing in the blood that she says is goat’s blood. But maybe it’s from the young boys. And so, all of a sudden it’s a bigger challenge to get people to [relate to] me. This sequence, she’s just gone nuts, like time has played a toll and now she’s actually kind of losing her s— a little bit.
Does she really like Claire?
Oh, I think she does. There are not a lot of options of female friends. And, you know, she is ultimately alone even in the scenes in at the ball. She kind of stands out. You kinda can tell that she’s not hanging out with friends. She just taking care of business and then she leaves. For me it’s always been clear that with Claire, it’s companionship.
Geillis needs the precious stones to go through the time portal, right?
Yeah. She believes that she needs them and needs to bring in the blood sacrifice as well. That’s how she does it.
Will there be more discussion about why she and Claire are the only ones who can can time-travel?
No. That’s officially never really talked about, I don’t think. It just is. They’re characters on Outlander. But they should really talk about it. I think it’s because some women have superpowers. That’s where I’m going leave it at.
Was the Scottish accent easy for you to master?
I wouldn’t say it was super easy. I was quite self‑conscious about it. I don’t think I even knew what it sounded like when I was auditioning for the part. Even for British people who are typically very good at accents, it’s quite a hard accent to master. I thought, what am I going do as a Dutch‑speaking person? But we had an amazing accent coach and she has been on the show all the way through the three seasons. So, every time I came back to the show, she was always there. What would help in Scotland is that I would be picked up by a driver with a really broad accent. I would sit in a car for 45 minutes talking to somebody I could barely understand. Slowly over the course of the days I would kind of get into it.
You’ve joined the cast of Counterpart, the new thriller on Starz. What is your role, and are you a series regular?
No. I have an arc on the first season. I make a mysterious appearance and then turn out to have a bit of an evil plan. I must say I haven’t seen any of it yet, and it was a while ago.
Tell me about The Book of Vision, the movie you just worked on in Europe.
It’s sort of like going back to where I started. I played a double role — a present-time woman and an 18th-century lady. It’s a partially historical, partially mystery film about this woman who has a challenge in her life. She finds herself pregnant and has leukemia. In order to make a decision of how she’s going proceed in her life, she starts exploring this book that was written in the 18th century by this doctor at the time that medical science changed a lot. And by reading the stories of those people in that time, she makes her decision. I play a woman in the present time and I play the woman in the 18th century, who is stuck in an unhappy marriage and who lives in this giant castle. It’s directed by Carlo Hintermann and produced by Terrence Malick.
Did your character Katarina Rostova get killed off on The Blacklist?
I don’t think we ever see me die, do we?
So, there’s a chance we may see you back?
Yeah, well, so far. So far all my episodes on The Blacklist have been flashbacks. So, you could argue that she’s never been alive in present time. So, who knows? I really enjoyed working on that show.
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 Monday, Dec. 4, on EW Radio, Sirius XM 105.