Jamie and Claire Fraser may have travelled to North Carolina, but Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe stayed firmly in Scotland for the filming of Outlander season four.
Having washed ashore in colonial America, our time-travelling heroine and her 18th century Highlander husband have made the huge decision to settle in the New World, making a home for themselves in North Carolina.
But despite the change in location, the majority of filming for season four actually took place in Scotland.
Despite the new setting in the USA, Scotland was still the home of production for Outlander season four.
“I was initially surprised and a little like: it’s a shame we weren’t there, because I thought, ‘that’s going to bring something new to it’,” Sam Heughan said on the set of Outlander near Glasgow during filming for season four. “But actually having said that now, I think Scotland is just ideal for it.”
The actor explained why: “I went to North Carolina, I visited there, I spent a few days going around various locations, and it just looks the same!
“In a way we have this freedom [in Scotland]: we have this base, we can adapt a lot more because we have the studios here already, we have a crew that knows us and we know each other. So in a way it feels like we can build on the momentum of past seasons; if we were to go somewhere else it would be like starting again.”
Outlander is filmed in Scotland, primarily at the Wardpark Studios at Cumbernaud near Glasgow. Over the past four years the show has built an impressive base, with huge sets and a vast warehouse for costumes and props.
Executive producer Matthew B Roberts said, “We have our crew, our big studio here, so it was better to base here and remain here. And believe it or not, Scotland plays for North Carolina quite well.”
He added: “This [the studio] is a rare thing to have because it’s ours. This is all ours. Every stage is ours, we have prop building, we have plasters, we have everything we need that we can create this world.”
How was the landscape of North Carolina filmed for Outlander?
The production team makes good use of the Scottish landscape, which stands in for North Carolina as the story moves to colonial America. However, we’ll also see stock footage from the USA and scenery shots from Eastern Europe to give the show the right ‘look’.
“Earlier this year I flew to North Carolina, rented a car and drove across the countryside,” Roberts said. “I wanted to see the Blue Ridge for myself,” referring to the Blue Ridge Mountains, location for the fictional Fraser’s Ridge.
He added: “The big high and wides that you see, the scope of it: sometimes you use stock footage for that, sometimes the countryside actually just plays for it. But we’ve also found that when you get into the trees, you can’t really tell.
“I have taken a few pictures in North Carolina and I’ve taken pictures here, and I play a little game on Instagram where I’ll say, where am I? And many of our North Carolina fans will say you’re absolutely in North Carolina, and I’ll be somewhere in the Trossachs.”
It was important for the landscape to look right, not least because so much of Outlander takes place in the great outdoors.
“We’re a roadshow, we get outside, we travel, so there’s plenty of that in this season, from Wilmington up into the Ridge. That’s the challenge of our show,” Roberts explained. “We have a beautiful studio but, unfortunately, where the source material takes us we always have to be outside. And we try to open up the show as much a possible like we do with Scotland.”
What about the Native Americans?
First Nation Canadians on the set of Outlander Season 4 (Aimee Spinks/Sony)
A vital part of Outlander season four is Jamie and Claire’s encounters with the Native Americans, particularly the Cherokee and Mohawk Nations. With filming taking place in Scotland, that posed a question: who would play these roles?
The production team opted to answer that question by casting First Nation and Native American people and flying them over from North America.
Roberts explained on set in March 2018: “What we’ll do is, we’re casting out of North America so First Nation – which is Canadian and American Indians from America – and we’ll be casting solely from there, transferring everybody over here to do the scenes.
“The line in the sand is, every speaking part will be of First Nation and/or American Indian culture.”
Outlander airs on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and Starz in the US