With fighting, romance, and time travel paired with the breathtaking backdrop that is the Scottish highlands, Outlander, which returns April 4 at 9 p.m. on Starz, has something for everyone.
Outlander is based on a series of hugely popular novels by Diana Gabaldon. It stars Scottish actor Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser and Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall in the lead roles, with Tobias Menzes, Gary Lewis and Bill Paterson part of the strong supporting cast. Claire is a nurse who has been reunited with her husband just after World War 2. The two head to Scotland for a second honeymoon and Claire gets transported back in time to 1743 where she meets a Scottish warrior (Heughan), and all sorts of adventures ensue.
Men's Fitness caught up with Heughan to get his take on what fans can expect in the coming months."The whole second part of the season gets a lot darker. The relationship between Claire and Jamie and the other members of the clan get tested a lot. The momentum of the show gets darker and darker, and honestly I think stronger. It climaxes at the end of the season with some challenging viewing, so I think there is a lot to look forward to," says Heughan.
While the 6’3” Heughan was no weakling, he did have to hit the gym to get into Highland warrior shape. "Before I got the job I was probably around 82-84 kg (180-185 pounds). I was doing a lot of running; I ran for a charity team and did a lot of marathon running, but I had to look a bit bigger and I needed to look like someone who could take care of himself. He (Jamie) is an outdoors man and a warrior, so I had six weeks in London with a trainer at a CrossFit gym and we started learning the necessary deadlifts and Olympic lifts and then did a lot of conditioning work. Throughout the year I built up my way to 92-94 kgs (202-207 pounds) and really saw my lifts get a lot stronger." (Heughan’s personal best deadlift is 180kg [396.8 pounds] and he is aiming for 200kg [440.9 pounds] by June.)
While Heughan was in boot camp-mode and training two or three times a day, he was "eating everything," but he tried to keep his diet as clean as possible with sweet potatoes, chicken, and peanut butter as staples to fuel his muscle growth. Once he got on set, he had to adapt accordingly. "During shooting my weight did vary a little, because it is quite difficult when you are on location, and good nutrition can be hard to find. I started taking supplements, and I started eating protein bars as they were easy to carry around. In the last few months I went Paleo, as my character Jamie gets captured and he is in prison for a short while. I wanted to lean out a bit more, and I did find that that did help, though it was quite difficult at first to get into that regime.”
According to Adweek, 59 percent of the show's audience is female. The success of the books and the strong female lead are important contributing factors, but Heughan is rather diplomatic when discussing his popularity among that particular demographic. "It's been terrific, the show has gone really well and there has been a great response to it. When anyone recognizes you on the street, they are always very nice and genuine and excited to meet you. I have to say there are a lot of men that come up and they might not be as vocal, but they will side up alongside you and say 'good job mate' and well done. They enjoy the show as well, as there is a lot in it for everyone. There is a lot of action and adventure, and it's certainly not just for women.”
Though Heughan got fond of lifting heavy things up and putting them down to brawn up for the role, he had to shed that mass to play a role of a writer in the independent move When the Starlight Ends, which he shot in Los Angeles over the past few months. During that shoot, the 34-year-old decided to get back to running. A veteran of several half and full marathons (he ran a 1:24 personal best in the London half marathon and a 3:20 PB in the Paris marathon - he also trained to run a three-hour marathon in the 2012 New York marathon, but that race was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy) he trained for six weeks before competing in the Los Angeles marathon, clocking in at 3:36. When it comes to running, he has some very simple advice: "I was doing it more for the enjoyment of the experience, and I think that is the advice I would have. When you are running it, enjoy the whole experience and you will find that you will probably run faster."
With the second series of the show set to shoot in Scotland in May, Heughan will soon hit the gym with a vengeance to pack on the 15-20 pounds of muscle to get back into Jamie Fraser shape. He's looking forward to going home to work again, and judging by the success of the show so far, he better not skip leg day, as he will be wearing a kilt for some time to come.
Spoiler alert for newbies: For those up to speed, check out what's coming up in the second half of the season:
Follow @Outlander_Starz to keep tabs on all show updates.