‘Out­lander’ heart­throb des­tined for star­dom

Hum­ble ‘Out­lander’ headliner hip to hit as Hol­ly­wood hero

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Cara Kelly @CaraRe­ports USA TO­DAY

There are two im­por­tant things to know about Sam Heughan: He’s as nice as his so­cial me­dia per­sona and work on Out­lander sug­gest. And he is that at­trac­tive in real life.

Even af­ter a week of non­stop ap­pear­ances pro­mot­ing the third sea­son of the hit Starz fan­tasy drama, (Sun­days, 8 ET/ PT), he’s all winks and Scot­tish charm, jok­ing about get­ting bad take­out salad stuck in his teeth and fan­boy­ing over Whoopi.

“We’re go­ing on The View, and I’d say 75% of peo­ple there were Out­lander fans and they were just so en­thu­si­as­tic, and I’m like, ‘There’s Whoopi Gold­berg!’ ” Heughan, 37, laughs.

He seems gen­uinely shocked by how many fans the show has amassed — and there are many — but he’s quick to praise them.

“They were just re­ally happy to see us. I felt very lucky,” he says.

That might sound in­sin­cere if Heughan didn’t have that rare com­bi­na­tion of charisma and hu­mil­ity.

It’s as if he was plucked from a Scot­tish hill­top and dropped into Hol­ly­wood. And fans, as well as cast­ing di­rec­tors are eat­ing it up.

His lack of pre­tense may stem from the fact that his 2013 cast­ing in Out­lander, the his­tor­i­cal fan­tasy se­ries based on the best-sell­ing books by Diana Ga­bal­don, came as Heughan was ques­tion­ing his ca­reer choice.

“I was a lit­tle, like, not dis­il­lu­sioned, but cer­tainly look­ing at my life. I was 30, maybe 33. I had toured a lot, did bit parts in TV and the­ater, was just com­ing back from Amer­ica where I tested on a lot of big TV shows and films but still not sort of bro­ken that bar­rier yet,” he says. “I think I was just look­ing at life go­ing, ‘Is this what I’m go­ing to be do­ing for the next 10 to 20 years?’ ”

Turns out, he was on the precipice of change. He got a call from his agent with a script for the part of Jamie Fraser, the 18th-cen­tury High­lander who falls in love with Claire, a nurse from the 1940s who has trav­eled back in time af­ter touch­ing stand­ing stones while on va­ca­tion out­side In­ver­ness.

“I read it, and I just knew that I knew that char­ac­ter.”

He was quickly brought on­board, and helped with the cast­ing of his co-star, Caitri­ona Balfe. The pair’s chem­istry has helped the show be­come a rat­ings boon for the pre­mium-ca­ble net­work and a so­cial me­dia phe­nom­e­non.

It also got him the at­ten­tion of di­rec­tor Su­sanna Fo­gel, who hired him, along­side Mila Ku­nis and Kate McKin­non, for fea­ture film The Spy Who Dumped Me, due next sum­mer, af­ter an au­di­tion via iPad as he was shoot­ing Out­lander’s new sea­son in South Africa. It was enough to con­vince pro­duc­ers he was ready to break out from the his­tor­i­cal fan­tasy genre for a high-bud­get com­edy thriller.

Heughan plays a fed­eral agent in the film, which fol­lows best friends Au­drey (Ku­nis) and Morgan (McKin­non), who un­wit­tingly be­come en­tan­gled in an in­ter­na­tional con­spir­acy when Au­drey’s ex-boyfriend shows up at their apart­ment with a team of as­sas­sins on his trail.

“Sam is that rare ac­tor with such a breadth of tal­ent that he can ef­fort­lessly move be­tween gen­res. In our film, we asked him to do it all, and he did,” Fo­gel said via email from Bu­dapest, where film­ing is nearly com­plete. “He’s a bona fide ac­tion star one minute, a grounded dra­matic ac­tor the next, and a comedic foil for Kate McKin­non and Mila Ku­nis through­out.”

The film may be the next break he was wait­ing for, hurtling him to a per­ma­nent place on the silver screen and giv­ing fans a full­blown movie star to fawn over.

“It was ex­cit­ing to give him an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore a dif­fer­ent tone and dy­namic in his work and watch him mas­ter it like he did, and I can’t wait to see what he does next,” Fo­gel says.

The Heugh­lians couldn’t agree more.



Sam Heughan stars in the com­edy thriller The Spy Who Dumped Me, due next sum­mer.

AIMEE SPINKS, STARZ EN­TER­TAIN­MENT, LLC Fans of Heughan’s Out­lander Jamie Fraser are le­gion.

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