Now normally when a date is 30 minutes late I get pissed. But when Outlander star Sam Heughan finally showed up to meet me for a round of Woodfords at The Wayfarer, a Mad Men-esque midtown watering hole, he was so apologetic—not to mention complimentary of my new dress!—that it was hard not to let him off the hook. (Has anyone ever stayed mad at a blue-eyed Scottish man drinking Scotch on a leather love seat while wearing a leather jacket? I rest my case.) Plus, there's something romantic about sneaking away for midday cocktails with a man whose tasteful-yet-titillating sex scene all but changed the way female sensuality is framed on TV. (For those who have yet to see "The Wedding," here's a quick recap: After nearly an entire season of mounting sexual tension, time traveling nurse Claire [Caitriona Balfe] and the man she's forced to wed [Heughan] consummate their budding love in a candelabra-lit cave.) It's, in a word, everything. So, naturally, two days before the second half of the first season premiered on Starz, we grilled the 34-year-old actor, whose tush may or may not have trended on Twitter, on everything from his flowing locks to those pesky dating rumors to that time he made a citizen's arrest in a UK DVD shop. Wait, what?
So, what was going through your head as you were filming that pivotal, virginal, hugely anticipated sex scene?
We're very aware that there was some anticipation about that scene, of course. Caitriona [Balfe] and I hadn't done many of those scenes before. I'd done a little on-stage and in other productions, but it was very much about making our own discovery together. It's about two people discovering each other; it wasn't about playing a virgin or playing someone who doesn't know what he's doing. [My character] Jamie is also invested in it and he's kind of fallen for her already, or at least, is at the precipice of falling. It's about him really feeling every moment and it being very sensual. We wanted it to be very sensual. We didn't want it to be gratuitous or soft porn. I think, if you watch it, we don't really show an awful lot more than any other show does—in fact we probably show less.
Yeah, you can't even pull an especially scandalous screen cap from the scene!
Right. I was very aware, myself, of what I wanted to show and not show. And in my mind it was very much about using imagination. Obviously you can't show too much, but it's a Starz show so there were some people in production who wanted us to do that and go that far. I thought it was a really bad idea. I think it's tremendously important that it's not treated as just a bit of flesh.
You guys have some pretty fervent fans. What's the craziest thing a fan has ever said to you?
One that made me giggle a lit bit, but also sit up, was a woman said something like, 'Ooof. That just did something to my ovaries...if I still had any.' And I was like, 'Woah! We succeeded then. Good.'
But that just speaks to the wide breadth of women who really take something from your show.
There's the core readership of the books, who started reading the series 20 years ago. But, also, something like 50% of our audience in the U.S. are men. And that's interesting. And the show wasn't made specifically for women, you know. It just happens to have a female lead character. I think there's something in there [starts laughing] for every guy. There's a lot more graphic scenes, but not just intimate scenes. There's violence. There's male rape. There's torture.
Just a little something for everyone!
[Laughs] But seriously, we're dealing with a lot of quite-tough subjects and I think the audience doesn't expect that. And that's the joy of the show: It's never quite what you think it is.
So while I was Googling you, I discovered that you made a citizen's arrest while appearing in a live action production of Batman in London? Is this true?
I know. It's so crazy, but yes. It's true.
How do you citizen's arrest someone?
I have no idea. I just sat on the guy. [Laughs] I was literally at HMV looking at DVDs in the discount bucket like, 'Oh! What can I find? Are any of my movies in here?' and then this guy just ran for the door. The security guys tried to stop him and there were DVDs flying everywhere.
So he was basically Warren from Empire Records.
Yes! Just like that. I was like, 'Where is he hiding this stuff?' They sort of trapped him, and he was panting and looking around and terrified, and for some reason, I do not know what possessed him, he just charged at me like, 'Aaahhhhhhhh.' My instincts sort of kicked in and I threw him on the floor and then fell on the floor on top of him. I was holding him down and the security guys came up and I was like, 'Take him. Take him.' And they were all, 'No way. You hold him.' I was like, 'WHAT?'
So, pretty much you're a hero.
Like Batman, yes. No, it was really weird. I think I posted it on Facebook and some journalist had access to my Facebook? I don't know. You guys are sneaky.
The sneakiest. Have you had to learn to be more careful about what you put up on social media now that you're supes famous?
How much has changed since you posted your very-first-ever tweet? [Editor's note: I then produced a printout of Heughan's inaugural tweet from my purse, which yeah, was kind of sneaky.]
And now you have 130K followers!
I wonder how many I had then...It was probably about 100. So in four years things have changed a lot, yeah. But also not. I'm working in my home country and see people I went to drama school with, but yeah, as far as social media is concerned I've definitely become a little bit more aware of how people can find stuff. And the fans really do find stuff.
Yeah it's nuts how you type an actors name in and the Google prompts will be like, "Sam Heughan shirtless" or "Sam Heughan dating"...
Oh! Who's he dating??
Allegedly his Outlander costar?
Oh, really? Hmmm. Huh. Interesting. Good. [Takes a sip]
Cool. Keep your fans in suspense. Weird though, I just talked to Caitriona and she said you two definitely are not dating...
She said that??
No, not really. I was just messing with you.
[Laughs] See! Sneaky.
I notice that you have long hair, which is something a lot of women love.
Yeah! It seems to be all the rage at the moment. The man buns in this bar are unbelievable. But the hair does seem to be a big part of [uses Batman voice] Jamie.