Being a fan of the Outlander television show on Starz, I was very intrigued to read the autobiography by Sam Heughan, who portrays Jamie Fraser on the show. I didn’t think there could be much to this book, since it seemed like he was “discovered” when he was cast in that role. Boy was I wrong. There was a lot more involved in his life that appeared to be “an overnight success.”
Heughan narrates the story of his life as he’s on a break in filming and decided to hike the West Highland Way. It’s a popular hiking trail in Scotland, although the time of year he chooses to do it is not exactly the time of year most novice hikers choose to make the trek. Still, he’s in very good shape so he thinks he will make it, no problem.
His detailed observations of his adventures and missteps along the hike make for a pleasant break from the story of his life. The time jumps can be a bit hard to follow, particularly when he jumps around the same general time period. While he’s zipping back and forth between his decision to make the trek, the book also goes to some point near the time of the writing when he and his brother went to visit their dying father.
Sam and his brother were abandoned by his father when they were young. As a single mother, his mother struggled to raise them. However, they were also very happy. Sam didn’t realize how poor they were, but he enjoyed living in a commune of sorts. Later on, they moved to the city while his mother returned to school and Sam found his affinity for acting. He was 34 by the time he was cast in Outlander, and there were many years of being a struggling actor and trying to get a big break. He enjoyed the stage acting he was doing, but always wanted more. He would travel to Hollywood for pilot season and never break through. There were a number of recognizable roles he was up for, but never was chosen.
Maybe that’s because the role he was perfect for hadn’t been written just yet. Even he admits that the role of Jamie Fraser was perfect for him. But along the way there were many years of couch-surfing and taking jobs outside of the industry. He watched his compatriots drift off into other jobs and settle down with families. The thought seems to occur to him from time to time, but acting is all he has ever wanted to do.
Heughan writes well. His descriptions of traveling the West Highland Way made me feel like I was right there with him. I groaned when he first talked of the trip, having experienced novice hikers rescued on a regular basis where I live. However, he adjusted his methods when he found himself miserable. A comfortable room at an inn sure beat camping in a wet tent.
There were no huge revelations about filming Outlander. He’s candid about his own struggles with some of the scenes, particularly the rape scenes at the end of the first season. Learning to deal with the fans has been a challenge. He tries to be as friendly as possible when people recognize him, but there are many times he just would like to not be recognized. He also talks about how some fans blur the lines between the character and the actor. I’ve seen that over and over at Star Trek conventions and it didn’t surprise me, some of the encounters he’s had.
I found Waypoints to be a good read. Heughan has certainly paid his dues in this life, and is trying to diversify so he can spend the rest of his life doing what he wants, rather than still knocking himself out trying to get a role to pay the bills. That’s the reason he seems to be in so many things right now – between his show with Graham McTavish all about Scotland to creating his own line of award-winning whiskey, he’s planning for the future when Outlander is no longer on the air. Sometimes a good person does get a break, and that seems to be the case for Heughan.
Categories: Book Reviews