Saturday, November 18, 2017

Vindictive Vixen or Misunderstood Maiden - The Tale of Laoghaire MacKenzie! An interview with Nell Hudson by your Aussie Blogging Lass

Outlander Homepage originals by Susie Brown 

Every story has to have its good guys and bad guys. It is the conflict between the two that makes a story exciting, an excitement that keeps the reader turning the pages, or the viewer tuning in each week. In the world of Outlander, the ultimate villain is, of course, Black Jack Randall. But arguably, the next character in line would be Laoghaire MacKenzie. From ill wishes that she put under beds, to trying to ensure Claire’s death on a pyre, to ultimately shooting Jamie, Laoghaire does everything she can to thwart the true love of our hero and heroine. As a result, both book and tv fans are very vocal about their dislike of Laoghaire, often giving her the less than flattering name of “Leghair” on forums! So what was it like to portray this character? Was she truly manipulative and vindictive, or was she simply misunderstood? Luckily for us here at Outlander Homepage, Nell Hudson agreed to chat to us and give us her opinion.

Interestingly, Nell described her decision to become an actor as a process of elimination. 

“I was choosing what to study at A-Level,” she explained, “and I asked myself, ‘What do I like doing? Theatre. Which part of that excites me the most? Acting.’ So I got into The Oxford School of Drama straight out of high school - when I was 18 - and went through quite an intense, classical training. I graduated, did a couple of small tv things and then Outlander came along. It was my first ‘big’ job.”

Since Laoghaire is such a controversial character, we wondered how Nell would choose to describe her tv persona.

“Controversial is a nice way of putting it!” Nell laughed.  “I would describe her as ‘the antagonist’ or ‘the spanner in the works’. If I’m defending her, I’d say that she’s incredibly headstrong, loyal, and brave, and will do anything for love. But I also openly admit she’s a villain.”

So does Nell feel protective of Laoghaire?

“I do feel a little protective of her, I suppose,” she agreed, “yet any actor will tell you they relish playing a character everyone loves to hate. So I don’t mind too much when people can’t stand her, because it means I’ve done a good job.”

By the time Laoghaire is seen in season 3, she is a middle aged woman. Given that she herself is still young, we wondered how Nell approached playing a character who had aged 20 years between appearances.

“I think it was all in the voice,” Nell replied. “Not only has a lot of time passed, but she has also raised two spirited, intelligent daughters, which I imagine would have involved a lot of yelling! Fortuitously, I also had a cold during some of the time we were filming Series 3, which added a nice bit of husk you just can’t fake! The make up team did a great job on me, too, as I look pretty rough!”

Laoghaire was given very few lighthearted moments on screen, so we asked whether she actually got to have fun on set! 

“I had so much fun working with James Parris, who played Young Simon in season 2,” she replied. “In the scene where Laoghaire is trying to ‘charm’ him, we just kept improvising more and more obvious euphemisms into the scene. By the end I was telling him I liked his ‘sword’, and he replied by saying it was a shame it ‘had no sheath’. We were basically just trying to ruin each other’s takes. 

“I’ll also never forget my first kissing scene with Sam - no, not just because I got to kiss Sam - but because it was my first ever on-screen kiss, and I was so nervous. But Sam was very kind and made the whole thing less embarrassing.”

So did Nell get to keep a memento of your time on set?

“The best memento is the friends I made,” Nell answered. “Lauren Lyle, who plays my daughter, Marsali, lives just up the street from me and we hang out a lot. James Parris runs a really fun club night that I always go to - you have to come as a bride and he plays cheesy wedding music.” 

It is probably fortunate for Claire that Laoghaire wasn’t able to time travel, but we wondered where Nell would go if she could go through the stones.

“I love this question!” Nell enthused. “I reckon I’d go to the 70s. The music was so good, I love the fashion, and the whole “Peace and Love” phenomenon seems gorgeous.” 

Given that Laoghaire was last seen running away from Lallybroch and Claire and Jamie have left Scotland behind, it is probably safe to assume that Nell’s involvement with the story is over for now. So we wondered - what’s next?

“I’m currently shooting a series for the BBC/Amazon called The Informer”, she said. “It’s a bit like Scorcese’s The Departed but set in working class East London. (And there are no corsets - yay!) After that it’s back for Season 3 of Victoria. I also have a couple of passion projects in the pipes, so watch this space...”

We’d like to thank Nell for being so generous with her time and can’t wait to see what she’s involved in next!

This interview was conducted by Susie Brown, a teacher-librarian and writer who lives in Australia. She was never a fan of Laoghaire, but thinks that Nell did a wonderful job portraying her! 

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