Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of Outlander.
Just when Claire needs him most, Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser turns up to help her search for Jamie in Saturday night’s episode of Outlander. And as it turns out, Murtagh’s always been there for her, even if she didn’t realize it or appreciate it. Of all the Highland Scots, he’s been the biggest supporter of the couple’s love affair. “He spots their chemistry before even they do,” actor Duncan Lacroix, who plays Murtagh, explained. This is in no small part because of his unrequited love for Jamie’s mother, which he tells Claire about on their road trip. Lacroix chatted with Vulture about his character’s romantic side, eyebrow acting, and why a dose of heavy metal would be good for the Scots of 1743.
So, as it turns out, Murtagh was in love with Jamie’s mom …
Big time. I think it’s an interesting character point for him that he’s stayed in love with the idea of this woman. He didn’t even have her in the first place. But the oath he took to protect Jamie has become the driving force of his life, really. I think he recognizes in Claire and Jamie, what they have together is what he was never able to have.
He’s the one who defended Claire in the very beginning, when she first stumbled through time and Black Jack Randall tried to rape her, the first time. And he told everyone, “No, she’s not a whore.”
He’s kind of responsible for the whole chain of events. I remember when we were doing that episode, we were asking, “Why do we even say that? After saving her, why does he bring her back with him?” I think it’s because he’s got a strong moral compass, an inherent decency, even though he does knock her out on the way. [Laughs.] And once he’s done that, I think he feels an immediate responsibility for her, especially when some of the Highlanders start talking about rape. He leaps to her defense there as well. When it comes to matters of the heart and ideas of everlasting love and friendship and loyalty, he’s got a strong compass. But he’s someone who hides it well. He very much internalizes that and gives off this outwardly brusque, surly demeanor.
Because Murtagh’s usually pretty taciturn, you’ve had to do your fair share of eyebrow acting.
[Laughs.] Ira Behr, one of the producers, told me I pretty much got the role in the first two seconds because of my eyebrows! I’ve got to be thankful for my caveman genetics.
Is it all your own hair? No wigs, no fake eyebrows?
It’s all my bushy own. I already had a beard because I did a small part on Vikings, and I just let it go. Who knew I was able to grow a big, majestic, bushy beard? There are a lot of hairy Scots on the show, but I think I might have been the only one who was initially au naturel, apart from Graham McTavish. At this stage, I’ve forgotten what my face looks like without it. I was able to shave it off between seasons, but once you have a beard this length, your face looks like the size of a peanut, so I immediately grew it back.
One of the things you do this episode is dance, and poorly at that. Are you normally a good dancer?
Yes, absolutely. We did a month of rehearsing, until I was actually quite good at it. But then we got to the set, and the reaction of the crowd was so bad, I thought I better turn down accordingly. You gotta know it, to be bad about it, to win the comic elements, the missteps, the frustration, the glaring of the audience. Murtagh is incredibly bad at dancing, and yet he doesn’t think he is, so he’s funny despite himself. In the book, he’s supposed to have a voice like a nightingale, and unfortunately, that’s not the case in real life. [Laughs.]
Singing, though, you guys introduce jazz to the folks of 1743.
Yeah, the whole boogie-woogie beat. It kind of fits. Poor Caitriona [Balfe] had to do it so many times, and I couldn’t get it out of my head for a week afterwards.
It’s kind of your Back to the Future moment, when Michael J. Fox plays them a little Chuck Berry …
And then he goes full-on Jimi Hendrix. [Laughs.]
What kind of music would you want to go back in time to introduce?
Heavy metal! Bring that back to 18th-century Scotland, to all the hairy men with beards. Lay some AC/DC on them. I think AC/DC had songs with bagpipes in it. You might have to change the lyrics to include haggis or something. I can see it now. Cannons going off. The whole shebang.