How Outlander Changed Sam Heughan's Life After So Many Failed Auditions

outlander jamie fraser sam heughan starz season 5

It's no secret that the working lives of most actors are far from easy, especially when they first start out. Usually, there can be a lot of trying to prove yourself (which you'd have in basically any field) combined with needing to find a job or the right combination of jobs which also helps your profile grow and keeps you employed long enough to actually pay your bills. One dream gig can totally alter the trajectory of your life, and Outlander's Sam Heughan has just revealed how the hit show changed his life after so many failed auditions.

Outlander, which is based on the long-running (and extremely popular) novel series of the same name by author Diana Gabaldon, debuted on Starz in August 2014, and became an immediate critical and audience favorite. The time-traveling historical romance has helped to catapult its stars into the spotlight, but Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser alongside Caitriona Balfe's Claire Fraser, recently appeared on the Outcasts podcast to talk about just how much the show changed his life.

When hosts (and fellow Outlander stars) David Berry (Lord John) and Tim Downie (Governor Tryon) asked Sam Heughan how he got the part on the drama, he responded with a tale about just how much he'd been struggling with his career shortly before, saying:

I'd just come back from America, another pilot season there, and got close on a lot of stuff...Came back to the U.K. and realized that, yet again, I'd spent all my savings...and was back at square one after 12 years of auditioning, and had to sign on to the dole office, which is basically [for] unemployed people...At that point I really was not considering giving up straight away. But, I was thinking, 'God, I'm 34, is this sustainable? Can I keep doing this?' And then, the rest is history, I guess. It was a really quick process, I think within two weeks I'd been offered [Outlander], so it was pretty remarkable.

Man, talk about something arriving in your life in the nick of time, right? Heughan noted that he'd auditioned for several things during pilot season (including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and even gotten close enough a few times to have signed a "test deal," where he'd signed a contract to appear on a show for several seasons (generally around seven). Unfortunately, this is basically just one of the last audition stages, and still no guarantee of nabbing the job, which Heughan hadn't.

So, Sam Heughan made his way back to the U.K., and while probably disappointed, he wasn't initially planning to give acting up altogether. He began to have doubts, though, when he tried to sign up for unemployment, which they wouldn't give him, forcing him to get a gig at a bar, among other jobs. Luckily for all involved, his doubts about sticking with his chosen career were silenced once he found himself on the path to becoming Jamie on Outlander.

As you might imagine, Heughan is incredibly grateful to the show for everything it's given him over the years. He continued:

Seven years in, and it's been such a great journey...I think it's still got life in it and we love it, we love going to work. I have the best co-stars. We all talk about how tense it is and what hard work it is, and it is, but it's also extremely rewarding and it's changed my life.

Working on Outlander does certainly seem to be a tough job. There are a lot of fight scenes, and heavy, emotional stuff to deal with in pretty much every episode, but when you enjoy what you do and the people you do it with, that always makes it easier. Heughan is also correct that there's sure to be much life left in the show, particularly because the ninth book in the novel series is currently being written and a tenth is planned, meaning that the source material won't be running out any time soon, and fans are still obsessed with the show.

If you'd love to revisit the early days of Outlander while we wait through this extra long Droughtlander, all five seasons can be streamed through the Starz app, but you can also watch Season 1-3 on Netflix. For more on what to watch, though, be sure to check out our fall premiere guide!

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.