Why Outlander's Sam Heughan Was Close To Quitting Acting Before Auditioning For Jamie Fraser

sam heughan as jamie fraser for outlander season 6
(Image credit: Starz)

Outlander is finally approaching its sixth season after the longest Droughtlander of the series to date, with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe reprising their roles yet again. By this point, it’s likely hard for fans to imagine any other actors tackling the lead roles, but according to Heughan, he was close to quitting acting before he got the chance to audition for the Starz series, and it’s all because he just wasn’t finding work.

It may be difficult to believe at this point now that Sam Heughan is established as an actor both in television and film (not to mention his successful ventures outside of scripted roles), but he spent years trying to land an acting job that paid the bills. Speaking with Lucifer’s Tom Ellis in an interview for Square Mile, he reflected on his time searching for acting jobs:

To be honest, I struggled the first quarter or half of my career: I worked occasionally, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Just before I got Outlander I’d been in America, I’d played Batman in this arena show that went all around the world. I earned some good money on that. I spent a lot of time in LA getting close on stuff, but came back to the UK and I didn’t have any money to show for it or any job.

Well, let it not be said that Sam Heughan doesn’t have range as an actor, if he could go from playing Batman for an arena show to 18th-century Scottish highlander Jamie Fraser for Outlander! The problem was simply that he wasn’t landing any big jobs in television or film that could sustain him as a career for a long time. That’s not to say that he didn’t get to audition for any big projects – the star previously shared that he auditioned for Game of Thrones no fewer than seven times.

It wasn’t until Outlander that he got his big break as a star of a TV show, in his 30s after many years of trying to work his way up in the entertainment industry, and he came to a time when he considered quitting the biz and starting over. Heughan went on to explain:

I remember I had to sign on again or look for another bar job – and I was 34. I just thought, ‘Can I keep doing this? Is this really sustainable?’ I did start to think, ‘OK, I’m going to have to put a time cap on this and then really rethink everything.’At that point I auditioned for Outlander and then my life changed.

It’s a good thing for Outlander fans that the star hung on long enough to audition for Jamie Fraser! Could any other actor replicate the same kind of chemistry that he has with Caitriona Balfe as the Claire to his Jamie? Interestingly, at 34, he was more than a few years older than Jamie was at the beginning of the series, with the character in his early 20s. Now, at 41, he’s about a decade younger than Jamie heading into Season 6.

And finally, Season 6 is just a couple of months away from premiering, nearly two full years after the traumatic Season 5 finale. The opening credits for the sixth season have already released to reveal a change, and a romantic scene from the premiere gives a preview of what to expect from Jamie and Claire when the show returns to Starz on Sunday, March 6 at 9 p.m. ET with an extended episode.

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, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.