It was the slap heard ’round the world — or among Outlander fan groups, at least!
During the season 4 episode of the Starz drama dubbed “The Deep Heart’s Core,” an extremely angry Brianna (Sophie Skelton) whacked her father Jamie (Sam Heughan) across the face after learning he mistakenly beat up Roger (Richard Rankin) instead of the man who actually raped her (Stephen Bonnet, played by Ed Speleers). Bree couldn’t contain her rage — a surprise turn of events, since the assault on daddy didn’t actually play out that way in Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn, on which season 4 is based. (In the book, Brianna only moves to hit Jamie but doesn’t connect. This blog post from Outlander Homepage does a good job of comparing screen versus book scenes.)
During a recent visit to Outlander‘s Scotland set, I asked Skelton and executive producer Matthew B. Roberts to reflect on the moment and why it was so important to show Bree literally busting her dad’s chops.
SOPHIE SKELTON: We were trying to show that Brianna is Jamie’s daughter. Not that he goes around hitting people, but Claire slapped Jamie before. The absolute gravity of the comment he’d made about calling her a whore when she had just said that she’d been raped. It’s not totally Jamie’s fault, and in those days that would be the attitude, unfortunately. But I also think, when we’re talking about modern women, I think it relates back to today whereby people say they’ve been sexually abused and people don’t always believe them and try to find fault. With the Brianna story line, I delved into research about victims of rape and how their responses differ. In that moment, I think anyone’s response is going to be different. You’re in defense mode. I think if somebody questioned you or told you it was your fault or that you lied about it, you would lash out in a way that you might not be able to comprehend, had you not been through that experience.
MATTHEW B. ROBERTS: The audience is from the 21st century. I think they view it through that lens and I think the actors bring that to the table, as well. “How would I react?” We sometimes have to reel that back and ask, “How would Brianna react?” There was a strong feeling of her being more modern, that she would react in a more modern way.
SKELTON: With Brianna [during the rape scene], I played something called “tonic immobility,” whereby your body completely cops out on you and you essentially go numb. Victims who experience that don’t feel the trauma at the time, and that actually means that 50% of them have worse PTSD because they experience the trauma later. So I think something grave needed to happen in that moment, to really land on how vile Jamie’s statement was. Obviously she goes on to punish her cousin Ian, too. She goes on a bit of a tirade. She’d been verbally slapped, so she just kind of reacts.
ROBERTS: I know we have the purists and I know we have the people who read the books that are a little more flexible, and then we have people who’ve never read the books. That’s always the challenge of Outlander. One of the big things we talk about on a daily basis is, “Yeah, but will someone who’s never read the books going to understand that?” Because we get it, we’ve read the books. The people who know and love the books fill in the gaps. Then you get someone who’s never read the books who reads it and goes, “What? I don’t get how Jamie did this or Claire did that.” You’ve got to make that person understand, too. So it’s a really delicate balance of not insulting the fans who know everything, but then not ignoring the fans who don’t.
I’ll have lots more from the set in the coming months, including fresh scoop about the new season. Keep checking back to EW.com for all of your Outlander needs!
- Why Claire and Jamie weren’t there for their grandson’s birth
- How David Berry found closure with Sophie Skelton at the end of season 4
- Season 4 blooper shows Rollo at his delightful worst
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