THE star of US fantasy series Outlander believes fans will wrongly believe special effects have been used to make Scotland look so good on screen.
Sam Heughan, the Dumfriesshire actor set to shoot to fame when the time-travel drama airs next year, said he forgotten how beautiful his home country was after 10 years living in London before he started work on the series.
He said he had been amazed at the footage produced from the first few weeks of filming on the show, which is being made by Sony for the Starz cable network in the US, after the cast and crew were shown a special “secret trailer.”
The commissioning of the 16-part series is expected to generate at least £20 million for the economy, with the show already billed as Scotland’s answer to Game of Thrones.
The 33-year-old has already won a mini-army of fans after the winning the part in the adaptation of American author Diana Gabaldon’s novels, particularly since he was photographed on set as main character Jamie.
The production has been based at a vast warehouse complex in Cumbernauld with locations include Doune Castle, in Perthshire, which was closed for a month to accommodate filming. The show follows the adventures of married nurse Claire and her entanglements with Jamie after she is mysteriously propelled through time from the Second World War to the time of the Jacobite rebellion.
Heughan, who played Tennant’s Lager founder Hugh Tennant in a series of award-winning adverts, said: “It definitely feels like my life has changed with this. I’ve had to move back to Scotland for a start, but it kind of feels like I’ve come full circle as I went to drama school in Glasgow and also worked at the Citizens’ Theatre.
“Working on Outlander has been a delight, it really has. I had kind of forgotten what Scotland was like and I’d turned into a bit of a Londoner.
“We’ve already been all over Scotland doing location work, including at Doune Castle. Honestly, I think people will think we have used CGI (computer-generated imagery) it looks so incredible, especially with the landscape and the way the trees are looking at the moment, it is so autumnal.
“When you see the amazing costumes in relation to the landscape you just think: ‘This is really special.’
“There was a secret trailer made just for the cast and crew, which we got to see in the studio the other day and we were all delighted with it. It’s surprising, actually - it actually looks better than you can imagine.
“It’s all been pretty full-on filming Outlander so far. Anyone who has read the books will know Jamie suffers a lot of punishment, so I’ve already been beaten up a lot and also had prosthetic work done.
“Jamie has a lot of scarring on his back, as he’s been flogged a lot, and also has a dislocated shoulder when we first meet him, and with it being a big-budget production they’ve really gone to town, so it looks really gruesome.”
Heughan’s surprise appearance at the Scottish BAFTAs sparked huge excitement online, particularly as he was wearing the tartan he sports on set in Outlander.
More than 25 million of Gabaldon’s books have been sold around the world so far and the show is being masterminded by former Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica producer Ron Moore.
Heughan added: “I actually got an initial sense of how big Outlander was going to be on twitter. We’re all on there to help promote the show and also interact with the fans. There’s just this huge fanbase who are really into the books, they know everything about them and have these great discussions.
“Their enthusiasm has really helped and it’s been so exciting to be almost thinking about them when we’re filming, about how we can slip something in that they are going to notice and really like.
“Many of the producers working on the show are huge fans and we couldn’t really do anything with it that wouldn’t be appropriate.
“There are now eight of Diana’s books and although we’re only making one series at the moment, I’d love to follow them through. It’s just such a gift of a part - it’s every actor’s dream.”
Heughan laughed off questions about the reported raunchy nature of some of the scenes the will be filming with co-star Caitriona Balfe.
“It’s the 1700s, you know, they didn’t have television in those days. We have a good-looking cast, let me just say that. Caitriona is very sexy.”