Outlander crackles with tension in the latest episode of the hit show “Death Be Not Proud,” as Fraser’s Ridge and Jamie, Claire, and Ian are put to the test. Hugh Ross and Sarah Collier, who play Mr. and Mrs. Bug in the time-traveling historical drama, sat down with us over Zoom for an exclusive interview to discuss the episode and what the shocking events, including that big death from the scorcher of an episode, mean moving forward.
[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Outlander. Proceed at your own risk.]
What do the Bugs have to do with it?
Before we get to the interview, let’s back up for a moment. Mr. and Mrs. Bug, played by Ross and Collier, debuted in Outlander Season 5. Book readers quickly noticed when the characters were introduced by name in the second episode, “Between Two Fires.” And for those who know what happens in the books, it’s been fascinating to see their machinations in the background of everything else Outlander.
At the end of season 6 and so far in season 7, their characters in the show have become more important. Murdina Bug, despite some gossip, has seemingly been loyal to the Frasers and has kept secrets for them. She literally knows where the bodies are buried because she helped to bury them! (Sorry, but not sorry, Allan Christie.)
In Diana Gabaldon’s “An Echo in the Bone,” which season 7 reportedly deals with, Arch Bug plays an important role in the story as he quests revenge on Ian after the young Scott kills his Mrs. Bug. The death of his wife, Murdina, sets off a chain of events that have major consequences for the Frasers. While the show has diverged from the books in the past, the latest episode, “Death Be Not Proud,” feels like it’s setting up something similar to “An Echo in the Bone.”
The death of Murdina Bug in the Outlander series
Much like “An Echo in the Bone,” Murdina (played by Collier) meets her maker in “Death Be Not Proud.” Ian (John Bell) shoots her with an arrow as she’s digging underneath the charred wreckage of the big house on Fraser’s Ridge in search of the Jacobite gold her husband Arch (played by Ross) buried under the house.
Yep, that Jacobite gold. Recall the fleur-de-lys marked shiny bars from France intended to help ole’ Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite rebellion. It ended up in the colonies by way of Hector Cameron, and Arch Burg was quite miffed at this. So he stole it piece by piece from River Run and brought it to the Ridge.
In the episode, a distraught Young Ian offers his life to Mr. Bug to settle the blood debt, but Arch has something more Biblical in mind to avenge his beloved Murdina. Archie vows Old Testament-style revenge, and along the lines of an “eye for an eye,” he will wait until Ian has something – or someone – equally worth taking.
The Interview with Sarah Collier and Hugh Ross of Outlander
[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]
For our full audio interview listen below via Castos or most places where podcasts are available!
Ross and Collier’s first reaction to the scripts & the story
Ayla Ruby: “So obviously, the last episode was pretty important and super meaningful. Can you talk about what it was like when you got the scripts when you first read what happened? Or did you kind of know what was going to happen with your characters?”
Hugh Ross: “Well, we’d been given the indication that our story was going to come into focus suddenly, and you weren’t quite sure exactly how it was going to pan out. And my dear wife wasn’t quite sure when she was going to meet her maker. Knew it was coming along the road. But it was when we got the script, it was… It’s a nice, meaty script, actually, but not many characters in this episode, actually. So the stories are quite focused, aren’t they, Sarah?”
Sarah Collier: “Hmm. But of course, it’s interesting when you’re the person who gets killed, and then you’re the person who dies, and then the effect on all the other characters. So, no, that was really interesting. I’ve been killed before on screen; I’ve died, but not in such a way. So it’s really quite interesting because, of course, we’ve joined this family to work on the show, and although our presence has been quite relatively shadowy, at the same time, we felt absolutely part of the show and part of the storyline. So you find inevitably you’ve created an inner life that relates to the other characters and relates to the location and the house you’re in, all of that. It becomes a part of you, doesn’t it, Hugh?”
Hugh Ross: “Yeah. Yes.”
Sarah Collier: “So when you leave it, it’s really altogether more interesting, even although in acting terms, obviously, there’s not a lot… I get done, too, and then I’m gone. But actually, I feel altogether it’s the interesting thing of there is that mixture of being the performer and the storyline, everything coming together. So although there wasn’t much acting to do, I then feel part of the feeling that everyone has after I’ve gone. I haven’t explained that very well, but, no, I was really… Watching it, of course, I get the whole profound feeling that the Bugs were absolutely part of the show.”
Ayla Ruby: “Oh, yeah.”
Sarah Collier: “Yes. I know what it is. It’s seeing yourself the way others see you. That’s the point I’m making. Yeah. That was good. Interesting.”
Murdina’s death and the setup for the rest of the season
Ayla Ruby: “Now, obviously, this sets up a lot of really dramatic things going forward in the rest of season seven. Hugh, can you talk a little bit about what Ian’s confession means and what this will mean for Arch and the rest of the Frasers going forward?”
Hugh Ross: “I’m not sure that I’m allowed to tell you except that he is hell-bent on revenge and isn’t going to take the death of Murdina without doing something about it. Yeah. So unfortunately, I think you’re going to have to wait and see.”
Ross on if Archie Bug is justified
Ayla Ruby: “Do you think he’s justified?”
Hugh Ross: “I think, I mean, the most important thing in his life has been he’s been robbed of it, of the woman he you know [he loves], and that’s why his vengeance is to make Ian suffer the same kind of loss. So the pain of going on without your right hand is more acute than actually dying. Actually, having to go on on your own is more painful.”
On Outlander fan speculation and passion
Ayla Ruby: “Now, Sarah, I know there was a lot of speculation about, I guess, your character when the season seven trailer came out. There was that shot of the coffin, and fans were talking about it. Was it hard keeping the secret? Were there any close calls where you almost let something slip? How was that for you?”
Sarah Collier: “Well, I knew as a performer, I knew what was happening to my character, ultimately, and then I knew when it was happening. Yes. And what I didn’t know, because the scripts don’t absolutely follow the books, what I didn’t know really was what fans were expecting. And then, because I live my life not hugely on social media, in fact, virtually not on social media at all-“
Ayla Ruby: “That’s good.”
Sarah Collier: “… so yes, I don’t know what people were thinking.”
Hugh Ross: “They were speculating about whose funeral it was. They didn’t know whose funeral, who’d actually died.”
Sarah Collier: “Ah, right.”
Hugh Ross: “There was a lot of discussion about, “Could it be Murdina Bug? Could it be…” I can’t remember the other people.”
Sarah Collier: “Oh, I see.”
Hugh Ross: “Blank out.”
Sarah Collier: “I see. Well, you see, I was blissfully unaware of all of this.”
Hugh Ross: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. So there was a lot of speculation.”
Sarah Collier: “Yeah.”
Ayla Ruby: “Oh, that’s good. That’s better-“
Sarah Collier: “So that wasn’t difficult for me. I just carried on with my life.”
Hugh Ross: “It is interesting, though, the way the fans forensically examine things to try and find a clue as to what this is or where it’s going and all that kind of thing. Passion. The passion of the fans is just breathtaking.”
Ayla Ruby: “I know a lot of the fans were obviously analyzing An Echo in the Bone because that also happens in the book. And they were trying to figure out when is this gold storyline going happen? When is the Bug storyline going to happen?”
Hugh Ross: “Yeah.”
On loyalty, oaths, and that scene with Sam Heughan
Ayla Ruby: “So Hugh, for your character, he talks a lot about oaths, I think. In that scene with Sam Heughan’s character or, yeah, Jamie, he talks about his oath to King George. Are we going to see any of that come into play? Can you share that? Or is that-“
Hugh Ross: “Not more specifically, but I mean, I think we’ve been talking a bit about this already today, but the fact that his loyalty to the cause, to Scotland, is the most important, has been the most important thing. And because that’s not worked out and the money has been purloined by other people, notably Jocasta [Maria Doyle Kennedy] and Co, but he feels perfectly entitled to have some of the money for himself. If it’s not going to go to the cause, then why shouldn’t he have some of it himself?”
On filming Murdina’s final scene
Ayla Ruby: “Sarah, can you talk about filming your final scene? Your character is dressed up in Arch’s clothes, obviously, and there’s a case of mistaken identity. What was that like? Was it a night shoot? What? How’s-“
Sarah Collier: “In my memory, it was pretty dark at the time, and I did have a stunt double for the fall. Yeah, because obviously it’s better to have a younger person falling. And then I took over. And it’s technical, dying. In fact, you don’t want to do a lot of takes. Where blood’s involved, you really don’t want to do a lot of takes. So you rehearse without the blood. In fact, when the actual blood was there, that was, I think, just the one take.”
Ayla Ruby: “Oh, okay.”
Sarah Collier: “Because technically, it wasn’t, at that stage, quite as difficult as more movement is always. And the blood worked very well because I was actually choking on the blood. So that worked well for the moment.”
Ayla Ruby: “Oh, wow.”
Sarah Collier: “So my gurgling was real. It was me keeping that blood from going down my windpipe. So that was quite interesting. But I wasn’t worried about it. I was just aware it was happening. I thought, “Oh, this is good. This is good. This is real.” Yeah. So yes, as I said, dying is technical for everyone. Although, obviously, the characters around me, they then have the emotional acting to do.”
On whether or not Arch knew about Murdina Bug’s plan
Ayla Ruby: “Do you think that Arch knew about Mrs. Bug’s plan to dress up in his clothing and dig for the gold?”
Hugh Ross: “I don’t think he did. I don’t think he did.”
Sarah Collier: “We thought that he didn’t. We thought that she was probably going freelance there and that he might have said, “This is too risky.” No, we thought that really this is a desperate attempt by Murdina to make something happen because, clearly, her blood is up. And after all the drama, there is that sense of every man for himself and, I think, a certain panic and a certain desperation.”
Hugh Ross: “I think she’s always had to give Arch a bit of a push.”
Sarah Collier: “Yes. No, absolutely. I think Arch, if she’d run it by him, he would’ve said, ‘I don’t think so, darling’.”
Hugh Ross: “Yeah. Not quite like that. Dinna fash.”
Sarah Collier: “No way.”
On joining and auditioning for Outlander
Ayla Ruby: “Can you talk about what it was like auditioning for your roles, what it was like coming on board? Because you’ve talked about the family aspect, it’s obviously such a strong cast family, crew family. What was that like?”
Hugh Ross: “I’d always rather hoped to be in it because I worked with Sam [Heughan] when he was starting his career. I think, actually, in about season two, I sent him a message somewhere on social media and said, “Hey Sam, can I be in Outlander? Please, will you do something about it?” But nothing happened. But he sent me a nice message back. But it finally, of course, then comes the “Hugh, you’ve got a meeting with Suzanne Smith about being in Outlander, blah, blah, blah. Look at this scene.” You learn the scene, you go and do it, and they send it away. And then you wait and wait and wait. Then either you’ve got it, or you haven’t. And this time, we were lucky, weren’t we, Sarah?”
Sarah Collier: “Hmm. Yeah. Yes. I was in Egypt at the time that I was asked to do a self-tape. So self-tapes are wonderful. You can actually go on holiday. And classically, when we go on holiday, if we go abroad, either myself or my husband, usually my husband, will have to go back to Britain to do something. But actually, with self-taping, it’s wonderful because I was able to self-tape in Egypt and then ultimately got the job. So no, it was great. And actually, I loved the audition piece I was given because I had lots of material to use there.”
On favorite scenes filmed in Outlander so far
Ayla Ruby: “Are there any favorite moments that you’ve filmed so far or that you’ve filmed over the course of being on the show, anything that really sticks out to you?”
Hugh Ross: “Sarah was saying earlier, I enjoyed the little scene in the horse and cart with Josiah [Paul Gorman], one of the Beardsleys, and telling him I hope he wasn’t going to be the chatty one. That was a good fun scene. Lots of little glimpses of humor that was in the script sometimes, a kind of dryness of about Arch that I like.”
Sarah Collier: “Absolutely. It’s very hard to pick out scenes because, obviously, there are moments where quite a bit of acting’s required in a scene, and obviously, you love that because you get to act. And then there are all sorts of moments where they’re just little moments, but actually in themselves, as Hugh says, they can be a little bit comedic, or a little bit this, a little bit… So, in the end, you just love it all because it all makes you feel as though you are a full person, you’re a character with different sides. So it’s enjoyable being a small part of a bigger scene in its way as having the main acting to do in the scene. It’s just a different aspect, wouldn’t you say, Hugh?”
Hugh Ross: “Absolutely. Yes, absolutely.”
What do you this of Outlander this season?
New Episodes of Outlander are available on STARZ every Friday. Are you excited about season 7 of Outlander? What did you think of the third episode? Join the conversation with us on Twitter or our Discord.