Outlander began on Amazon. Are you excited it’s finally on a terrestrial channel so more people can see it?
It’s fantastic. It’s very much a Scottish show and Scotland is very much a character in it — it’s so integral to our story.
Do you have to apply a sense of humour to get through all the sex scenes?
The first series was my first time doing anything of that kind on TV and I think naivety helped. But it was important for the story and I like that it’s told as much from the female perspective as possible. It’s interesting to have a woman of that time be sexually liberated. But the actual doing is always awkward and there are too many people in the room who you have to try to look in the eye afterwards. But you giggle your way through it.
Have a lot of your friends and family seen it?
I think for some members of my family it’s better they don’t! My mum has seen it. We just don’t talk about those parts [the sex scenes]. There are certain episodes I tell my dad he can watch. I don’t think he wants to see the others — and I definitely don’t want him to.
Were you prepared for how huge it was in the US?
I had no idea. I didn’t know about the book series. I had never done TV so I had zero expectations. I was just so delighted I’d got the job and that it was going to shoot in the UK so I’d be back on this side of the world.
It has a feverish fan base. Do you get chased down the street?
No, luckily Sam [Heughan, her co-star] gets all the chasing!
Sam didn’t have any big acting roles before this either, so you’re doing it together…
So much so. We have each other’s backs and it’s great that you have somebody to confide in and share an experience like this with who knows exactly what you’re going through.
Do you miss Sam when you’re not filming?
A healthy break from each other is sometimes good! We’re great mates and we check in every now and then but he goes off to his life and I go off to mine.
There’s so much speculation you’re a real-life couple. How do you handle that?
There’s nothing to handle. We aren’t and we’ve always said that we’re not together. It’s nice that fans believe in the story but that’s not the reality. If it’s harmless speculation, that’s fine, but sometimes people take it a little further and can get abusive to the people who are in our lives — that’s when it crosses the line. But it’s rare and in this industry you need a thick skin.
You play a World War II nurse in the show. Are you OK with blood in real life?
When I know it’s fake or prosthetics I’m fine. I find all that stuff so interesting. For research we were given the British Army World War II booklets that were given to nurses, and I learnt about the different bandaging and splintering in the field. For series three we did a liver operation and I had an adviser surgeon and surgical nurses telling me how to handle the instruments. It’s fascinating.
Which of your co-stars were you most star-struck by?
So many — Simon Callow, Bill Paterson, Frances de la Tour, Dominique Pinon — we get amazing guest stars. Very quickly you get down to work but there’s always that moment of ‘oh my God!’ Simon is an incredible raconteur.
Is there a natural progression from modelling to acting with Cara Delevingne doing it too?
I suppose all of it is performance in one way or another. A few have done it really successfully, like Charlize Theron and Andie MacDowell. But acting was what I always wanted to do, I just segued into fashion by accident and stayed longer than anticipated. I enjoyed my years as a model — I got to travel the world and made incredible friends. But I feel very fortunate I got to come back to acting.
What now after Outlander?
I hope the show continues for as long as possible. I was fortunate enough to do a great film last year [Money Monster] and I hope I can just have an interesting career. I’m writing a script I’d eventually love to direct and I’d love to do something with Sharon Horgan — she’s a genius.
Outlander season one is on More4, Thursdays at 9pm. Season three begins on Amazon Prime on September 11