By Lynette Rice
April 12, 2020 at 09:00 PM EDT
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Aimee Spinks/Starz

In his most challenging episode yet, Richard Rankin conveys the deepest levels of despair on Outlander after his beloved character, Roger MacKenzie, survives a hanging at the hands of the British. Book readers knew that Roger would live to tell the tale but TV fans experienced a moment of fear that Brianna's husband would never come home to Fraser's Ridge.

Lucky for us, Roger remains alive and well ... sort of. Rankin is here to tell us all about it.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY First off, how is isolation? What are you doing? How are you spending your hours?

RICHARD RANKIN Well, I'm in my den right now, I'm folding towels, Lynette. That's what I'm doing, I'm folding towels. That's what I've been doing for a week, it feels like. I'm staying active both mentally and physically, at least trying to. I have never had such an organized household. Drawers for everything. Staying fit, I try to get the exercise in on a daily basis. So I'm staying positive.

Let's go back to the beginning of the season. Were there conversations with EP Matt Roberts about having Roger sing a lot this season because he was going to ultimately lose his voice?

That wasn't the talk with me. I don't know if that was the talk amongst the upper echelons. There was a lot of singing, so it had crossed my mind that we were cramming in as much music as we could because they were going to crush my vocal cords. So I had thought of it that.

Those songs that you sang, was that a collaborative process? 

I believe that was the writers. I didn't have any sort of influence on the music this season. But "Clementine" was my own arrangement on the guitar.

Episode 507 was so exciting yet obviously so traumatic. What were those final days like with Duncan Lacroix?

As you know our schedule tends to not be set chronologically with the episodes, so Duncan was kind of in and out, and in and out, and in and out. We had to re-shoot several scenes, so I think we said good-bye about half a dozen times over the course of season five. Maybe just as many times over season four and season three. Duncan's been leaving Outlander for a long time. He's a great actor. I just love the cat, a very humble, very giving, very honest actor. He really will be missed.

The whole scene with Graham McTavish was scary as hell.

We wanted that threat. Obviously we're very aware of the fact that we have different fans. We have the book readers, who kind of know where that's going and it's all the more threatening and scary for them because they know what that is building toward. I think there's a sort of dread about it. But then we also have the fans who just watch the TV show who try to stay away from the spoilers. We want something they're not expecting to see. So it's interesting to see what their reaction is to all of this was. The fact that it was Graham, an actor we all kind of love from season one and two, who is playing one of Roger's ancestors, was a lot of fun. It was sort of an Easter egg for our viewers.

In the book Roger actually kisses Morag.

Choices are made for adaptive reasons. With everything's so compressed in television, that would give Roger less time to be forgiven for things that have been said, things that have been done wrong in the eyes of the fans. It's all very well in the books where you have much more time, you have much more description. But in a TV show where you only get one episode of seeing Roger kiss another women? That's not going to go down well with anyone, really. That's just going to look like an absolute betrayal of Brianna. So there's no way to tell that in the show without really being quite detrimental to Roger's character. We want people to feel for Roger. We want people to feel that kind of sympathy for him and kind of be rooting for him. That's going to have much less impact if you've just seen him snog the face off of another woman. You know what I mean?

Can you talk about Roger's sadness? What really is going on there? Is it shame? Abject despair?

Well it's depression, mostly. The post-traumatic stress. There are many things going on. He's also been at a real breaking point. There's a lot for him to overcome. He's trying to find the man that he once was, and I think one of his conclusions, one of the things he has to arrive at is the fact that that guy is gone. He has to come to terms with the fact that for better or worse, he is a changed man. [The hanging] was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back. This whole 18th century journey has just been weighing on him so much. This is it. There was so much going on in Episode 508, trying to get that right, trying to tell that story without seeming mopey. The scenes could have played out in quite a negative way for Roger. We want to get a sense that deep down he wants to get through this, he wants to overcome these obstacles. But every time he tries something, it sort of smacks him in the face. So it's difficult. But we want everyone in the audience to feel that as much as he does -- the fact that he's been stripped of everything that he is, everything he was. His voice was such a big thing for Roger because he was an auditor, a singer, a musician. One of his strongest characteristics is communication. Words are such an important thing to him, and he can't even speak or sing to his son. I think he just feels like he's been stripped of everything that he was. So it goes to a really, really dark place.

There's a whole bunch of different things going on that is going to carry with him throughout the rest of his journey through Outlander, certainly throughout the rest of season five. It's complex, but trying to keep that contained in a way that we can deliver that to the audience.

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