Starz’s ‘Males in Kilts’: ‘Outlander’ buddies speak U.Ok. politics

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It seems it’s not solely “Outlander’s” famously passionate fan base that has generated curiosity in Scotland, the important thing setting of each Diana Gabaldon’s beloved novels and their Starz TV collection adaptation. In actual fact, forged members and Scotsmen Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish turned so obsessed by their homeland’s historical past, panorama and tradition that the pair co-created and produced a brand new collection for the community that takes them across the nation in a camper van.

Heughan, who stars alongside Caitriona Balfe as 18th-century heartthrob Jamie Fraser on “Outlander,” initially conceived “Males in Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham,” which premieres Sunday on Starz, as a podcast. (McTavish says he pretended to know what that was.) Nevertheless it shortly turned clear that the challenge wanted a visible element.

“I used to be seeking to develop one thing round Scottish highlanders and the clans and tartans,” says Heughan, who began discussions with McTavish, his costar in “Outlander” Seasons 1, 2 and 5, in early 2019, whereas each have been in Los Angeles. “Clearly from engaged on ‘Outlander’ I noticed that folks have been considering Scotland and the historical past of Scotland. And I like that a part of ‘Outlander’ as properly. As quickly as I bought again to Scotland I noticed, ‘I work with a number of the finest crew in Scotland and I do know one of the best places. What’s stopping us?’ I threw a crew collectively and financed it and flew Graham over on a airplane and we simply went for it.”

The preliminary shoots befell in September 2019, with the actors and their small crew engaged on weekends round Heughan’s “Outlander” schedule. They used that video to create a pilot, which they pitched to a number of networks, together with Starz, which related McTavish, Heughan and their producing associate Alex Norouzi with Boardwalk Footage.

“We have been very conscious that we didn’t wish to be only a spin-off of ‘Outlander.’ It clearly has to offer context — it’s the explanation me and Graham know one another and it’s the explanation I’m right here,” Heughan says. “However we did got down to make our personal present.”

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser, with Caitriona Balfe, in a scene from "Outlander."

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser, with Caitriona Balfe, in a scene from “Outlander.”

(Aimee Spinks)

The majority of the collection’ eight themed episodes have been filmed in August over three weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The manufacturing managed to hit a candy spot following the U.Ok.’s first lockdown the place home journey was permitted, and “Males in Kilts” was one of many first productions to stand up and working beneath the brand new COVID-19 filming protocols. It helped that the collection is structured as a highway journey, with the 2 actors journeying round Scotland in a cool camper van that Heughan truly did drive for many of the shoot. Whereas the places and the company have been organized forward of time, many of the motion is off-the-cuff.

“We knew the place we have been going, we knew who we have been going to satisfy, we knew what we have been going to see and why that was of curiosity to us,” explains Kevin Johnston, who directed the episodes. “However there’s a documentary-esque tone to it and I didn’t wish to produce the blokes up an excessive amount of. They’re actually charming, they’re actually good, and I feel if we have been telling them what to do an excessive amount of it simply wouldn’t be as attention-grabbing. Different individuals have gone to Scotland, different individuals have carried out journey exhibits, however nobody has these two and their chemistry.”

“Males in Kilts” acts as a companion to McTavish and Heughan’s 2020 e-book “Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Journey Like No Different,” which matches into extra depth on the historical past and tradition introduced within the present. Each goal to showcase a nuanced model of Scotland, highlighting what makes the nation and its individuals distinctive.

“I wished to considerably demystify the romance of Scotland,” McTavish explains. “Trendy Scotland may be very forward-looking. I feel historical past is nice and I’m significantly considering it, however after I have a look at Scotland now I see a extremely vibrant, European nation. A nation that’s related to the world.”

Though “Males in Kilts” will not be expressly political, point out of Scotland’s European-ness highlights the collection’ underlying connection to points like Brexit, the U.Ok.’s departure from the European Union, which got here to go Jan. 1, and Scottish independence. Each actors have been vocal campaigners for the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, they usually’re keen for his or her dwelling nation to have its personal voice and id within the trendy world.

Sam Heughan on a motorbike and Graham McTavish in a sidecar.

Sam Heughan, left, and Graham McTavish on bike at Balquhidder in Scotland.

(Peter Sandground)

“I feel, hopefully, the tales that we inform and the love letter that we give to Scotland with the present speaks to our personal views on independence with out banging a drum about it,” McTavish says. “Scotland is a spot to be celebrated should you’re Scottish or should you’re not Scottish, and someplace to be very pleased with. I’m not nationalistic within the sense that I feel we’re higher than another person. I simply assume it’s about having a pleasure in your individual nation and the place you come from, and having a sense of connection to that. That was actually what Sam and I wished to get throughout, was our personal private emotions of pleasure and desirous to share the story of Scotland and what it has to supply.”

“I’m not a politician,” Heughan provides. “I’m cautious of actors being requested of their politics or their stance — but additionally, why not? Particularly after we’re doing a present about Scotland and Scottish heritage and tradition. It’s one thing to be pleased with… Nationalism, I feel, will not be an excellent factor and we’ve seen the rise of it in America. However truly Scottish nationalism is barely totally different. It’s not about closing borders, it’s about being open to the remainder of the world and never being insular.”

McTavish sees current requires a second referendum on independence as Scotland being “given the prospect to form one’s personal future as a nation.” Heughan was more direct on Twitter in December, responding to the information that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would once more push for independence by writing, “Time to flee being dictated to by buffoons.” Regardless of very actual political disagreements in Scotland, although — the proportion of Scottish voters who opposed Brexit was 62%, in contrast with 48% within the U.Ok. as an entire, and polling exhibits help for independence regular round 54% — “Males in Kilts” is lighthearted, vicarious enjoyable. Though some unscripted journey exhibits really feel like parachute journalism, this one is like two guys bringing you dwelling with them for some laughs.

“Lots of people can’t journey proper now and in a technique I’m like, ‘Ought to we be displaying individuals a journey present once they can’t journey? It’s simply making it worse,’” Heughan admits. “However the essence of it’s that it’s concerning the journey and what’s proper out in your doorstep. Reasonably than having to go to a far-off place you may actually discover a journey companion and go on a highway journey and have a look at the historical past round you.”

“It was an infinite snort,” provides McTavish, who confirms there have already been discussions a couple of second season. “That’s one of many issues we each wished — that feeling of two individuals genuinely occurring a visit collectively as a result of they wish to have an excellent time. It simply so occurred that we introduced a movie crew with us. We might have carried out it anyway, to be trustworthy.”

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