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‘Outlander’ Star Sam Heughan’s Biggest Challenge Yet

Outlander star Sam Heughan shares why the show’s second season is even more dangerous and how he’s challenging others to help him fight back against cancer. 

Sam Heughan talks Outlander Season 2
Credit: 2014 Maarten de Boer

On April 9, season 2 of Sam Heughan’s hit TV show Outlander premieres on Starz.

The time-traveling historical epic, based on a collection of best-selling books by author Diana Gabaldon, follows Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married World War II nurse who finds herself thrown into the 18th century Scottish Highlands and the arms of a rugged Scot warrior, Jamie Frasier (Heughan).

Five million fans tuned into the first season, which garnered critical acclaim for its smart, decidedly feminist writing and its clever genre mixing. Heughan says fans are in for even more drama in season 2.

“It’s a completely different world and it’s a world that’s not comfortable for [Claire and Jamie],” Heughan tells Guideposts.org. “There are lots of new enemies and new dangers.” The couple trade kilts for corsets, stone keeps for luxurious apartments and Scottish clans for French court life as they attempt to stop a rebellion that might mean the end of Highland culture. Heughan earned praise for his performance during the latter half of season 1 when his character was imprisoned and forced to endure torture and rape at the hands of a brutal British commander. He says Jamie in particular struggles with adapting to the couple’s new way of life in season 2.

“He’s been through this traumatic experience and yet now he has a wife, they are expecting their first child and they are running away to France to try and stop history. He has a lot to deal with,” Heughan says. “He’s still struggling with the events, the psychology of what happened, but they are in France for a mission. He throws himself into that wholeheartedly, almost as a way to take his mind off of what happened.”

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Heughan also admits that the Jamie you see in season 2 is “a lot darker” than you might expect.

“There’s definitely a harder side to him,” the actor says. “His relationship with Claire is really tested and put into strife by a lot of different elements.”

Filming for season 2 just wrapped in Scotland, which gives him more time to devote to his charity work with organizations like Cahonas Scotland, a testicular cancer awareness group

“They are this wonderful, relatively new charity in Scotland and I was looking to do something closer to where I’m from.”

The organization injects a dose of humor into their messages that spread awareness about one of the most common, and treatable, forms of men’s cancer. Heughan thinks having a bit of a laugh while talking about such a serious topic helps erase the stigma associated with the disease.

“We’re getting men to talk about it and be open about it because it certainly is something guys don’t really like to address or even think about,” the actor admits. “We’re going to do some projects together and they will be quite tongue in cheek, quite naughty, quite funny but [something that] gets the message across.”

Heughan’s also committed to helping Bloodwise, the UK’s biggest blood cancer charity, find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and other blood disorders. This year, the actor’s created a 60-day training and nutrition program called the My Peak Challenge in order to help people meet their personal fitness goals. Fifty percent of contributions to the program – which was born from Heughan’s rekindled love of the outdoors while filming Outlander– go to supporting blood cancer research.

Heughan says he’s honored to lend his name to such a worthy cause.

“When I came back to Scotland, I really enjoyed getting outdoors climbing and walking and I wanted to share that with people. But I realized not everyone can do that so we devised this sort of charity event where people pick their own challenge, whether it’s physical or not,” Heughan explains. “It’s about a healthy lifestyle as opposed to working out. But it’s also about community and getting people talking and sharing. It’s become quite an international thing and I’m very proud of it.”

As part of the program, Heughan is encouraging fans to challenge themselves by taking up a new hobby or working out for a few minutes each day, and the actor isn’t letting himself off the hook.

“I’m climbing Mount Kilimanjaro later this year,” Heughan says, “so that is kind of my main challenge.”

Season 2 of Outlander premieres April 9th on Starz. 

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