Exclusive interview with Tobias Menzies

June 15, 2015 | Tobias Menzies portrays Frank Randall as well as Jonathan 'Black Jack' Randall on "Outlander" and Edmure Tully on the HBO drama "Game of Thrones". In our interview he talks about his characters, his work on the set of "Outlander" and also about his social media experiences.

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We are all very excited about "Outlander" airing in Germany right now. I have been a huge fan of the books for ten years and I am absolutely stunned what you've done with the tv series. It's one of my favourite shows right now.

Ah good,that´s great to hear. Thank you!

So it's a pleasure talking to you. Tobias, from the top of your head what are the best qualities of the show?

Best quality of the show...I think the production values, I think it looks fantastic. Scotland obviously being almost an extra character at times and I think it's a real hit for that country... I think we have a great cast, a great rapport between us, it's been great working with them all. It's actually very comradely. These shoots are very long and difficult at times so we really bonded and done some really excellent work together. Ron Moore, who has done a great job molding this material, being a great, very confident storyteller. The costuming is second to none. I think there is such a classicalness about it, which I think is really handsome and has paid up for a very beautiful and hopefully a very rewarding watch I think.

Have you read "the book" or do you prefer to stick with the scripts?

I did read the book. I read the first book during the filming of the first season.

Ok and did you intentionally just only read the first book or…?

Well, I will now go back. I still have to read 200 pages of the second book, but yeah I need to gear up for the second season.

Why did you audition for the roles of Frank and Black Jack? Which aspects of these characters where most appealing to you or what do you admire about them?

Yes, I mean the first thing that interested me was the fact that I was being asked to play two different characters which is quite an unusual proposition on a tv show. They both seemed so well written and I liked the difference of the two characters. They seemed strong and interesting and so complicated and also I've worked with Ron Moore, I've seen "Battlestar Galactica" and been an admirer of that show. These are the ingredients that came together.

In the books the story is mainly told through Claire; the first book shows only her point of view. The tv show takes another approach, especially regarding your character Frank who is more or less absent in the books after Claire travels through the stones but he is very present in the show. How did you develop the character in contrast to the very explicitly described Black Jack?

I think one of the quite successful things of the first half of the show is drawing Frank out and drawing him in more and more detail then maybe in the book. We added some material and then we could see what would be happening to him when we go back to him. I think what's good about that is the show makes it much more complicated and an emotionally complicated decision when Claire decides to stay with Jamie. You know the relationship behind the real competition. I think the writers and myself and Caitriona where working, especially at the beginning of the show, to establish an interesting and complicated and sort of no less attractive relationship between those two so there was something to lose. And I mean they are very different propositions but also the show plays with moments where they are similar as well as when they are different and that is kind of the enjoyableness of playing with the fact that the same actor is playing the two different parts. I think that is exciting to see.

I think everyone who has read the books is both dreading and anticipating a certain scene between Jamie and Black Jack towards the end of the first season. Can you tell us something about shooting the scene without giving too much away?

What can I tell you [laughs]… I just think it will be uncomfortable viewing. We didn't pull our punches. I mean it was a curious thing to film and not without its challenges. I think we were keen to make it as much a twisted love story as well, one man investigating another person’s psyche makes it psychological rather than just purely sadistic. I mean I've yet to see those episodes. I felt we were filming some really good stuff. But I think this show does need those very dark underpinnings and Jack certainly provides that. She has written a really great villian, Diana, and I hope we do it justice.

A lot of scenes of "Outlander" are shot on location in Scotland. Are there a lot of fans trying to watch the filming?

No. Thankfully we were somewhat left to our own devices up in Scotland which is nice. It would make it quite complicated if there was a whole lot of people trying to watch. Basically we are shooting somewhere so wild and remote it would take a lot for them to a) find us and b) to get there.

Besides the filming of "Outlander" what was your favourite encounter with a fan?

We were able to get a very vivid time of it when we went to ComicCon last summer. That was the first time I had sort of come in contact with the fans on mass and that was both exciting and terrifying and to be honest, over here because the show has not been playing in the UK I've not really had a lot of fan interaction while wandering to the shop to get my milk. So that may well change when, as the show is about to come out here in March. But at the moment it is a blessing because I can go to the shop and mind my business.

You've also been on "Game of Thrones" so after being part of two huge and very successful tv adaptations of popular book series do you think it's more an advantage or a burden to have a fandom that has been extremely passionate about these stories and characters for over a decade?

I think it's both. It means there is a lot of energy, a lot of excitement and obviously there’s a viewership there ready to go. With that comes a certain amount of responsibility but no, I mean it's all good. It´s a fun and exciting conversation to have with a group of people that care very much about it and I think they keep you on your toes and you go "Yeah I must concentrate on this and do this justice".

Can you tell us some more things about the set of "Outlander"? How is the atmosphere like? Who likes goofing around the most or are there any anecdotes you would like to share?

[Laughs] You know, these are always the questions I fear the most, because I should remember this but when it comes to it I have forgotten it. It's been a very happy experience filming it, you know, getting to know Sam and the rest of the gang as well. They are a really, really lovely group of people, who work hard. There's a lot of good humor and when sometimes it´s cold and wet and you know it's getting late, it's still great. In terms of goofing around... I haven't been there since October so it seems like ancient history again but the main thing is that I feel very lucky working with that gang and I'm looking forward to seeing them all again and working on a second season.

You are very active on Twitter. I remember all the praise you received after episode #1.06 The Garrison Commander. Is Twitter kind of blurring the line between acting on stage and acting on camera since it gives you a direct audience feedback on your performance?

Well, that's a good question. Yes it is... I'm newish to it, I've only been on it for about six months. I enjoy it, I suppose part of me is wary, you know someone said if you take the compliments you will have to take the blandishments, the criticisms as well. I enjoy it but I am also aware that one has to take it with a pinch of salt I think. If that's present in your head when you are working it´s not that helpful. But thus far I have been lucky there was a lot of positivity about episode 6.

Since myFanbase is an online magazine about tv shows, what are your favourite shows?

Well we just had a show on the BBC here called "Wolf Hall" which is an adaptation of a Hilary Mantel novel with a brilliant British actor called Mark Rylands and that's been playing here and I've been watching that. What else... I actually started the very beginning of the "Sopranos" which is an old school for HBO show. I never really watched it at the time, but I'm starting again with that. Yeah those are probably the two that I watch at the moment.

Thank you very much, Tobias, it was a pleasure talking to you and we wish you all the best!

Pleasure talking to you, too, thank you!

Lena Stadelmann - myFanbase