Outlander is one of the biggest shows on television. The romantic story, the beautiful Scottish Highlands as the backdrop, with the 18th-century being the primary setting makes it one of the most breathtaking and intriguing shows on right now. There are all of the added action sequences and the passionate between the two protagonists that draws in both male and female viewers from all over the world.
But the truth of the matter is, the incredible popularity of the show would have never happened if they hadn’t made the right casting choices with the majority of their characters. Luckily for the team behind Outlander, they did a great job…for most of the characters. Sometimes, though, there were either mistakes made in casting or it was simply just too hard for the fans to picture certain actors in the roles of certain characters.
Either way, it has become abundantly clear that proper casting in any television show – especially one that was bound to become a cultural phenomenon – can make or break it. With that in mind, we have broken down the members of the Outlander cast who hurt the show more than helped it, as well as the ones who made it into the sensation it has become.
Here are the 7 Casting Decisions That Hurt Outlander (And 13 That Saved It).
20 Saved It: Duncan Lacroix As Murtagh
A true surprise was seeing the television adaptation of Murtagh’s character, mostly because in the books, he was not nearly as adored as his TV counterpart. Not to mention, that he met his fate at the Battle of Culloden, while our Murtagh onscreen lived through the infamous battle.
Lacroix’s performance gave much more depth and complexities to his character, making him a near immediate fan favorite. The evolution of his character thanks to the actor’s dedication to the role and true talent in bringing a whole new side to Murtagh is probably a big reason why he survived the battle on the show, which made fans everywhere rejoice.
19 Hurt It: Sophie Skelton As Bree
In the books, Brianna Randall, who is Jamie and Claire’s daughter, was described a bit differently than the actress who now plays Bree onscreen.
She is described as looking much like her father, with her red hair and sharp features, which to be fair, Skelton does have both of those descriptors. But she is not roughly six-feet tall, like was described in the book and is missing other features that were mentioned that fans immediately noticed.
Luckily, though fans of the series were reluctant to initially accept Sophie Skelton as Bree, she has won audiences over with her performance. It just took some time.
18 Saved It: Sam Heughan As Jamie Fraser
When Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander books, first heard they were considering Scottish actor, Sam Heughan, for the role of Jamie Fraser, she was unsure if he was the right fit. Mostly because he was nearly too pretty.
But once she saw his audition, she knew he was it and agreed with the producers. And boy, were they all right. He has become so much more than the Scottish hunk who loves Claire with everything he has. He gives each and every performance his all and makes you feel every emotion Jamie is pouring out through his very pores.
17 Hurt It: Alison Pargeter As Margaret
This likely has more to do with the character itself, rather than the actress, but watching Alison Pargeter’s performance as Margaret Campbell was in a word, upsetting.
Sure, that was partially the point. But seeing a woman with clearly dealing issues from her mental illness be treated so negatively by her own brother, as well as other “important” people, and used as a psychic of sorts was disheartening. It was a tough character to portray, and she obviously did a fine job with the material, but it was not one of the best portrayals of mental illness on a series.
16 Saved It: Lotte Verbeek As Geillis Duncan
Geillis Duncan was Claire’s friend – eventually turned foe – throughout the first three seasons of Outlander. She, too, was a time-traveler, Claire came to find out. And though Geillis had some issues, she was a friend to Claire for a time.
Lotte Verbeek was the actress to bring Geillis to life on the Starz series, and she did so effortlessly. Each of her creative choices for the character meshed well with who the character was to her core. Once Geillis went full-villain mode in season 3, Verbeek went full throttle and brought out every trick in the book. It was a stunning performance.
15 Saved It: Andrew Gower As Bonnie Prince Charlie
Prince Charles led the Jacobite Rebellion in 18th-century Scotland and inevitably failed in his mission to take the crown. Outlander needed to find the perfect actor to play the Bonnie Prince, and they found him in none other than Andrew Gower.
Gower showed off his acting chops as the Prince and emulated his privilege, wealth, and flamboyancy in every movement and every word. It was, quite honestly, a damn shame when his role was over by the beginning of season 3 because he was just so fun to watch. But much like the real Prince Charlie, the character’s time in Scotland was over, and it was time for everyone else to move on, too.
14 Hurt It: César Domboy As (Older) Fergus
Fergus was a beloved character from season 2 of Outlander. He, at the time, was the little boy Jamie and Claire took under their wing while living in France, and eventually brought back with them to Scotland.
Everyone loved young Fergus, so it stands to reason that it would be hard for a lot of fans to accept an older version of the character played by anyone else other than the original actor. That is what César Domboy was faced with when accepting the role, and it definitely took a while for fans to be on board with the older version of the character.
Now, though, fans seem to have warmed to him, since he still gives a great performance. But it definitely wasn’t overnight.
13 Saved It: Tobias Menzies As Frank Randall/Blackjack Randall
Tobias Menzies took on a tall order when he was cast as both Frank Randall and his ancestor, Blackjack Randall, in the hit Starz series.
Playing two vastly different roles on the same show had to have been a mind-warp for Menzies. But he was able to play both the innocent bystander of Frank Randall, Claire’s first husband, and the notoriously evil Blackjack Randall, Claire and Jamie’s sworn enemy with poise and unrivaled intensity.
The sheer talent it must take to take on either character is astonishing, and Menzies surely gave it his all with blood, sweat, and tears in every episode. Literally.
12 Hurt It: Ed Speleers As Stephen Bonnet
Ed Speleers had a lot going up against him when he took on the role of Stephen Bonnet. Bonnet is, of course, the pirate who terrorized both Jamie and Claire when he robbed them – after they had saved him for a terrible fate. But he also terrorized their daughter, Bree, when he assaulted her.
Everyone was bound to hate him just because his character was so vile, but the other problem was he was following a grand villainous performance by Tobias Menzies as Blackjack Randall. No matter how much everyone hated Randall, we couldn’t help but be enthralled whenever he was on our screens.
11 Saved It: Stephen Walters As Angus
Angus in the books is a far cry from the Angus we see on the show. For one, he is not nearly as large or covered in hair as described in the books. And he’s also not a gruff man who carries out brutal punishments in the Great Hall.
On the show, he is one of Dougal’s men who makes hilarious quips and likes to drink. When his role expanded on the series, many fans adored Walters’ interpretation of the character and he became a fan-favorite. Which is why when he met his end in season 2, it was truly heartbreaking.
10 Saved It: David Berry As Lord John Grey
Lord John Grey has been described as one of the “most complex and interesting characters” that Diana Gabaldon has created in her Outlander universe. So it must have been a daunting task trying to cast such an incredible character.
But when they cast David Berry as the closeted gay British soldier in the 18th-century – who also happens to be in love with Jamie – they found the perfect man to play this intriguing character.
Berry has made the character even more adored by the fanbase than he already was in the books, which is probably why there are many hoping he gets his own spinoff one day.
9 Hurt It: Lionel Lingelser As King Louis
When we first saw King Louis on Outlander, he was on a toilet, being watched by his people, as he struggled to use the facilities. It was a comical scene, to be sure, but left us with a strange view of the King of France.
The actor who portrayed him came across as a cartoonish version of the real-life monarch. That may have been the goal of the writers, but it was hard to ever take him seriously as a King. This point was driven home when he let Jamie free from prison once Claire was intimate with him. It was done so in, yet again, a comical way and only made us see King Louis as a caricature of a powerful King.
8 Saved It: Grant O’Rourke As Rupert
Rupert MacKenzie was another of Dougal’s loyal men who fought alongside him in everything. He also was best friends with Angus, played by Stephen Walters. O’Rourke took on the role of Rupert and played off of Walters’ Angus seamlessly.
The two made you feel their friendship was absolutely genuine. O’Rourke made Rupert such a lovable and funny character that when there were serious moments, you didn’t know what to expect. But he delivered those scenes just as perfectly. That’s why the moment he realizes Angus has passed goes down in Outlander history as one of the most tragic scenes to witness.
7 Saved It: Stanley Weber As The Comte St. Germain
While in France, Jamie and Claire had many dramatic situations they found themselves in. And also had quite a few enemies for only being there a short time. The first enemy they made, though, was the Comte St. Germain. Claire publicly states the Comte’s ship is infested with smallpox almost immediately upon getting to Paris after a chance encounter.
This makes him despise Claire and Jamie and he makes it his mission to make their lives hell. Played by French actor, Stanley Weber, he gives a sinister and haunting performance of the Comte St. Germain. That was why we didn’t know how to feel when Claire had him meet his end when he was accused of sorcery. We weren’t quite ready to let go of this enigmatic yet evil character.
6 Saved It: John Bell As Young Ian
John Bell is one of the more recent actors added to Outlander’s roster of talent. He plays Young Ian Murray, son of Jenny and Ian, and nephew of Jamie and Claire. Jamie takes him under his wing quite a bit and wants him to feel he has independence, much to Jenny’s dismay.
He eventually ends up following his Aunt and Uncle to North Carolina in season 4, where we see his character develop even further. John Bell plays Ian’s innocent nature mixed with his want for independence in such a wonderful and unique way. And when he recounted his attack from Geillis in season 3, it was so heartbreaking and emotional, that you saw the true talent exude from Bell at that moment.
5 Hurt It: Nell Hudson As Laoghaire
To be fair, no matter who the producers of Outlander cast as Laoghaire, the fans were bound to not like her. So it makes perfect sense that Nell Hudson was not well-received by the fanbase when she signed on to play Laoghaire, Jamie’s former flame and Claire’s nemesis.
Laoghaire is a thorn in the couples’ side throughout the series and does some pretty insane things in the name of what she thinks is love. Even though her character is so hated, it doesn’t mean that Hudson should receive the amount of hate – and even threats – that she does. But we can’t say we didn’t see that coming.
4 Hurt It: Will Strongheart as Tawodi
In season 4 of Outlander, there were many storylines revolving around the Native Americans whose land the Frasers were building their home on and how that affected not only them but how America became a country in the first place.
It was great to see them cast actual Native American actors in the roles, but one of their casting choices was ill-advised. Will Strongheart played an English-speaking Native American named Tawodi, but it turns out he had domestic charges against him in the past that he was convicted for. Fans were not too pleased to learn of this after the airing of his first episode.
3 Saved It: Graham McTavish as Dougal MacKenzie
The moment Graham McTavish stepped into the role of Dougal MacKenzie, we knew we had the larger than life Scottish war chief before our very eyes. Sure, Dougal had plenty of flaws and ended up being more villainous than an ally to the Frasers, but he played the part perfectly.
His theatre background shined through in some of the more dramatic moments for Dougal, which made him so captivating to watch. That is precisely why watching the life drain from Dougal’s eyes in the season 2 finale was so bittersweet. Of course, we wouldn’t have wanted him to succeed in harming Claire and Jamie, but it was sad to see his character go for good.
2 Saved It: Richard Rankin As Roger Wakefield
Roger Wakefield is the adopted son of Reverend Wakefield, who Claire met during her time in Inverness on her honeymoon before she went back through the stones. Once grown up, he meets Claire, again, and her daughter, Brianna Fraser, who he ends up falling for.
Richard Rankin is the actor who brought this pivotal character to life in the Outlander series. His portrayal of Roger, with his boyish charm and love for Bree, endears him to all and instantly made him a fan-favorite. His fanbase is just as dedicated, if not more so, as Heughan’s, and it’s easy to see why.
1 Saved It: Caitriona Balfe As Claire
Understandably, Claire Randall/Fraser was the most important and difficult character to cast on Outlander. She is, after all, our lead and our heroine of the entire story. It was imperative that she be the absolute perfect embodiment of the time-traveling WWII nurse who falls for a Highlander in the 18th-century.
That is exactly what Caitriona Balfe turned out to be when she was cast a mere three weeks before filming began. Her ethereal beauty is only part of what makes her so perfect as Claire. Her charm, and depth, and emotional capabilities make her the undeniable match to Sam Heughan’s Jamie. Their chemistry is off the charts. But Balfe’s pure talent and dedication to the role is what makes her, in our eyes, the best Claire Fraser there ever could be.