Outlander's Sam Heughan Was Rejected From Game Of Thrones So Many Times Before Landing Starz Gig

stars outlander season 4 sam heughan jamie fraser
(Image credit: Starz)
(Image credit: Starz)

Sam Heughan is currently the male lead of a popular premium cable TV show in the form of Outlander on Starz, but it was definitely not the first high-profile premium cable series he went after. Back before he landed the role of Jamie Fraser, Heughan auditioned for Game of Thrones on several separate occasions, meaning that he could have wound up in Westeros rather than 18th century Scotland.

The actor shared the story of how many times he auditioned for what would quickly become the biggest show on television, prior to the launch of Outlander. Here's how Sam Heughan somewhat hilariously put it:

I auditioned for Game of Thrones seven times! Loads of times. I auditioned for Renly, Loras, some of the members of the Night’s Watch. And I’d always get so close! I’d be like, 'Guys, just give me a sword!' [Laughs.] Everyone was going in for those parts.

Well, that couldn't have felt good! Auditioning seven times for the same series -- especially a series like Game of Thrones with so much cast turnover due to character deaths -- and not landing a part had to be discouraging. Personally, I can understand Sam Heughan not being the right fit for Renly Baratheon, since the Baratheons were all supposed to have dark hair.

Still, Sam Heughan could have been a fit for Loras, and the Night's Watch was comprised of man from all walks of life. I wonder if it stung that Outlander co-star Tobias Menzies was in fact a Game of Thrones alum, and his character even survived through the series finale. At least Heughan gets to wield a sword on Outlander!

As much as it may have been discouraging to miss out on Game of Thrones roles over and over again, Outlander fans lucked out. If Sam Heughan had landed a Game of Thrones role prior to Outlander's launch in 2014 and wasn't killed off, Jamie Fraser would be played by somebody else to this day, and would Outlander really be the same without the chemistry between Heughan and Caitriona Balfe?

Sam Heughan went on in the chat with Vulture to explain that all his failed auditions for Game of Thrones actually helped him when the time came to go for Jamie on Outlander:

But you know, it’s funny about those things. You’re up for so many things, and coming from those auditions, and testing on other shows, I had more experience, more experience with the process. And maybe I was more confident. And I don’t know, something about this one just felt right. This part felt different. I knew this character. I felt a connection with him. I knew where he had come from. And I was excited to work with Ron [D. Moore]. And I love having a book or something to research to fall back on, so occasionally I can go double check. But the material was already there.

There's certainly no shortage of source material when it comes to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander saga! By the time Outlander went into development as a future TV show in 2012, seven novels in the series were already published, with Jamie Fraser as one of the two main characters. Even if Sam Heughan had landed a role on Game of Thrones, which were based on George R.R. Martin's novel saga before the show outpaced the books, he wouldn't have had nearly as much source material as he does for Jamie.

So, even if he didn't join Game of Thrones as Renly, Loras, a member of the Night's Watch, or anybody else, Sam Heughan won a major part on another premium cable show that would become a hit for its network, and Outlander fans will get to see more of him when the Droughtlander ends and Season 5 kicks off in 2020.

For now, you can catch the first two seasons of Outlander streaming on Netflix, and check out the books yourself if you need a fix of Jamie Fraser ahead of Season 5. Otherwise, our 2019 fall TV premiere schedule can reveal some non-Outlander options you can catch on the small screen sooner rather than later.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).