Last week, Outlander’s resident witch and Scottish revolutionary Geillis Duncan returned to the show in a literal blood bath. In Sunday’s season finale, she went out in one. After threatening to murder Claire and Jamie’s daughter to fulfill a prophecy that would restore a Scottish king, Claire swung a cane axe at Geillis’s throat, almost taking her head clear off. Geillis suffered a bloody end, but she died how she lived: fighting for a revolution in Scotland. But is this really the end of our favorite time-traveling Scottish cougar? Could she return to the show through flashbacks or other magic? “I think everything is possible,” Verbeek told Vulture ahead of the big finale. Below, the rest of our chat.
What were your thoughts when you first read that cave scene? What was your reaction?
I really liked the idea of being murdered by Claire, my frenemy. I thought it was really good. I didn’t know where we were going to be shooting and it turned out that we built the whole cave structure in the studio. So we were there for a day. The scene has so many elements with the water and the fight between Hercules and Jamie. I think we did a good job — I hope.
How did you prepare? How did you slip into playing Geillis again?
Well, we shot the previous episode before that final cave scene. I was already in Cape Town for a month or so, getting back into her skin. Obviously she’s now in her 50s and 60s, and so she’s a little different. She was overweight and now she’s skinny. We made changes through her hair and some prosthetics. I like the thought of her having been in the Caribbean for so long by herself, holding onto that hope, not knowing when the new Scottish king will rise, but also a little bit defeated. Not completely, of course, because she hasn’t given up, but also she’s growing weary. And so, I used that in the character. It was really cool to see where she went, what had become of her.
Can you talk about filming that battle scene between Geillis and Claire? What kind of notes were you and Caitriona giving each other? What was that choreography like?
Things can get really technical, but there wasn’t too much choreography apart from that they wanted the torch I held to keep flashing through the screen. I remember looking at that scene and saying, “I hope you’re not actually going to be dead after this with all this fire.” [Laughs.] It was a small space, and meanwhile Young Ian is on the ground, tied up, laying there. But yeah, that went well, and it was very technical. It’s a standoff and it has to feel like there are really high stakes. The way it ends, I don’t think Claire would have ever planned that out. She’s reacting to what happened and it’s just how somebody gets murdered.
How many takes did you guys do of Claire swinging that axe?
Oh gosh, honestly, I don’t really remember. It doesn’t feel like a long time with that. Obviously we used a dummy for the dead body, with the blood gushing out.
That last scene with the blood dripping down her neck, how was that done? That was a dummy?
Yes, so they took a full face cast of me back in February — luckily nothing really changed during that time, so they put that onto a body. They took all of my measurements and made a second me. So it was interesting, when I walked into the makeup room, to see myself laying there in my outfit. Apparently it’s hard to get the eyes right, because when they make a face cast your eyes are closed. When they have to open your eyes, you look quite dead, which, you know, isn’t all that wrong in that moment because she’s supposed to be dead. So yeah, that’s how that was done. I wasn’t there when that was shot, so it was interesting to see that — the out-of-body experience. Of course, it was an important moment, not just for Geillis, but also for Claire to realize that she just killed somebody.
How would you say Geillis in the cave is different from Geillis in season one? What fundamental things about her have changed?
She’s changed from picking older men with big houses to young boys. [Laughs.] She’s become a little tired, a little wary. She’s quite cold and fearful. She has to walk that fine line where you’re standing out in the crowd, but still she needs to be part of the world she has traveled to, from the ’60s to the Scottish countryside. That’s not without a danger — they actually did burn people for being witches at that time. Later, when she’s on the island, she is changed. When you first see her, she thinks she can change the course of history. She obviously didn’t change the course of history and she doesn’t know when the next Scottish king will rise. So she has to readjust to reality, as life does.
Do you think Geillis is a witch?
No, no! I never understand why people even say that. I mean, she’s batshit crazy, but she’s not a witch. No. What is a witch even, really?
Women like Claire and Geillis, who are smart and capable, are considered untrustworthy and get labeled witches. Do you think that’s still true today? That those kind of judgments still exist?
Oh yeah, we would have had a different president if we weren’t afraid of powerful women. I’ll just leave it at that.
Do you think we’ll ever see flashbacks to Geillis’s life in the ’60s?
We might. I know they have been flirting with that idea. They were asking me, “Would you? Or who knows? Or lets see!” So it’s all very ambiguous. I mean, I haven’t read the books. I know that throughout the books, there’s more to her. There could be ways of bringing her back. Yeah, I think everything is possible.
What do you think a Geillis spinoff would look like?
Oh my God, that would be wicked. Maybe they’re traveling to the future as well? I quite like that.