In every sense, Sam Heughan is the stuff of fantasy. No fan base in the world rides harder for the pinup of their choice than the Heughligans—who in turn have cast him as the star of their fantasies, in large part, as a result of his role in Starz's steamy time-travel soap Outlander, which returned for its second season in April (the #droutlander is over!!).
On the show, the 36-year-old Heughan plays the dreamy but star-crossed lover Jamie, a Highlander in 18th-century Scotland. In real life, Heughan grew up in the shadows of a 17th-century castle in Southwest Scotland, and his career has been no less fabulous. While still attending classes at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2003, he was nominated for an Olivier Award. Ten years and several TV roles later, he landed Outlander and the part that launched a zillion 'shippers.
And still, the fantasia does not end there for Heughan, as we discovered when we spoke to him last year. Turns out, there was a little (very little; hobbit-sized, in fact) something of the mystical traveler in him from the get-go.
"Are you really named after Samwise Gamgee?" we asked.
"Well, yes," he said. "On my birth certificate, it's just Sam, but my brother does have a name from The Lord of the Rings. It's Cirdan—he was the shipwright at the end of Lord of the Rings that takes them across to wherever it is they all go when the elves leave the earth. My family were pretty big hippies."
"Did you identify with Samwise when you read the books as a child?"
"It always was like, ‘I don't want to be that one!' because he's so nice and honorable and good. And I wanted to be Bilbo; I wanted to be more dangerous, less dependable. It's funny, though—as a child, you're already thinking, ‘Who do I want to be and how do I see myself portrayed?' "
Which made us curious. Over e-mail recently, we wondered, "Are you much of an escapist or fantasist?"
"I guess I'm quite practical," Heughan wrote. "Or at least like to think I am. I do tend to lose myself in whatever job I'm doing or hobby I'm into. (Currently, I love fitness activities—I have run many marathons, triathlons; I spent Christmas and New Year's in Thailand training at a Muay Thai gym.)"
"So, are you a fan of sci-fi?"
"I love sci-fi. Growing up, I was a big fan of the Alien series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, etcetera. Plus, anything apocalyptic—I Am Legend, 1984, Battlestar Galactica ... I find end-of-the-world stuff enthralling—to imagine how life will be in the future on Earth and in space!"
While on a press trip to the fantastical city of the future, Tokyo—or, perhaps, on a mission to discard a ring of pure power in some distant land—Heughan got on the phone with another sci-fi stud, William Shatner himself, to talk about real love, real haggis, and really bad gas.
WILLIAM SHATNER: Say, it's the middle of the night there, isn't it?
SAM HEUGHAN: It's a half past seven in the morning. Happy birthday.
SHATNER: Thank you so much for the bottle. I'll treasure it and drink it really slowly, thinking good thoughts about you in Australia. Tell me what you're doing.
HEUGHAN: I'm currently in Tokyo and it's pretty mental. We went out yesterday and had a look around, but I got pretty ill. We were supposed to go to this amazing sushi bar and ... I don't know what I ate on the flight, but it wasn't good. So my first day in Tokyo was a bit of a letdown.
SHATNER: And those bathrooms are so small.
HEUGHAN: I think I'm falling into some sort of relationship with this toilet.
SHATNER: You get a porcelain fixation and you sort of hug the bowl.
HEUGHAN: You can hug the bowl, but also, this one washes you, it can give you a massage.
SHATNER: It's actually better than a girlfriend.
HEUGHAN: I think we might be falling in love.
SHATNER: [laughs] Are you shooting in Japan?
HEUGHAN: No, we're here for press and we've got some fan events. There were some fans that waited for me to get off the airplane last night at 4 a.m. And they brought me lots of gifts, including some Japanese whiskey, which I didn't send you.
HEUGHAN: This one is Hibiki.
SHATNER: Their beers are really good. I was in Tokyo and Osaka, and that's really a beautiful place if you can get there—on a bullet train it's a couple of hours. Do you like Japanese food?
HEUGHAN: Yeah. I'm extremely excited to just eat sushi and obviously have some good beer. I'm a big fan of Kirin and Asahi and all that.
SHATNER: I had an event here yesterday, about 20 people. There was somebody lecturing, and in the middle of her talking, somebody farted. Everyone looked at everybody else because it was outside, and there was no directional sound. But I knew it was the lady speaking because I was close-up. [laughs] Have you ever been in one of those situations?
HEUGHAN: I just had one in Australia.
SHATNER: Tell me about it.
HEUGHAN: We were doing an interview on live television, and there were like five of us on the sofa, five interviewees chatting. And they brought out some haggis for the presenters to try. And haggis, as you know, is a delicious Scottish dish that should be eaten on occasion but—
SHATNER: Delicious only to the Scots, Sam.
HEUGHAN: Well, I think the ...
SHATNER: Only to the Scots, Sam.
HEUGHAN: Well, it's a delicious ...
SHATNER: Only to the Scots.
HEUGHAN: That's why we send it to you guys so you can try it as well.
SHATNER: No, no you send it to us so we realize how fierce the Scots really are.
HEUGHAN: How fierce our stomachs are.
SHATNER: Right. So everybody ate it, and then what happened?
HEUGHAN: Well, as it came out on a platter, I thought it looked uncooked. There was this terrible stench and it smelled like someone had, I don't know, lost control of their bowels.
SHATNER: That's really what haggis is, you know.
HEUGHAN: Well, exactly. But I think everyone else thought someone had farted, and we're all sitting there talking on this couch, and I was convinced it was one of the other presenters. And they probably all thought, "Who is this very smelly Scotsman?" But they all proceeded to try the haggis, and I think they're probably going to be very, very ill.
SHATNER: [laughs] The person was never found out? Well, once it's in gas form, it's difficult to determine its origin.
HEUGHAN: [laughs] That's true. We need to develop a system. They probably had one on Star Trek, didn't they? So that you could track somebody by their—
SHATNER: Well, no. But do you have dogs? We have dogs, and you can tell which dog is passing air by the smell.
HEUGHAN: Uh, great.
SHATNER: Have you ever been able to identify somebody by the smell of their methane gas?
HEUGHAN: I don't think I have. What do yours smell like?
SHATNER: Well, roses and daffodils really.
HEUGHAN: Daffodils, wow.
SHATNER: Have you ever been in bed with someone who passed air? Do you mention it or ignore it? What's your custom?
HEUGHAN: I think it's probably more gentlemanly to ignore it. Is it not? Unless it's someone you know very well. How many people do you get in bed with that pass gas?
SHATNER: It depends whether I've offered them haggis or not.
HEUGHAN: Or a half a bottle of whiskey.
SHATNER: Yes, Suntory particularly. [laughs] There was a commercial here about eliminating gas from your system, and at the end of the commercial, there are two people in bed and the lady lifts up a blanket and wiggles the blanket, airing it out a little bit. It's a subtle note that somebody with a fun sense of humor used on a commercial. But it really is a matter of how well you know somebody, isn't it?
HEUGHAN: I think it is, and maybe when you can do that, you know that you've gotten really close to someone.
SHATNER: Now, that's interesting. So is that the moment of love, when they pass gas in your presence and nobody's self-conscious about it?
HEUGHAN: I think you might be on to something here.
SHATNER: The criteria of love is if you can accuse them of doing it. It's evil, but necessary. A true test. If they accept the guilt when you know it's yours, you know they love you. That's brings them down to the street level, and do you want to put your lady on a pedestal, or do you want her on the porcelain toilet?
HEUGHAN: Probably a Japanese toilet.
SHATNER: It's so complex.
HEUGHAN: It's just so good. I think I'd rather just have a Japanese toilet. I understand that you have these contraptions for women called a Shewee, which means women can stand up to go to the bathroom, and that's good. That makes men and women more equal. They have them in the military.
SHATNER: I never thought of that. But, if the troops are mixed, do the ladies go in the same place the guys go?
HEUGHAN: I guess so, yeah. I guess if you're in the military, you've got to be quick and, therefore, you can go anywhere I suppose.
SHATNER: It can be lethal. I wonder if you can smell a soldier coming by the MREs they're eating.
HEUGHAN: What are MREs?
SHATNER: Meals, Ready-to-Eat. I guess they're precooked and all you have to do is heat them up.
HEUGHAN: Oh, Christ. I bet they were bad then.
SHATNER: They must have been bad, but not as bad as Spam or something like that.
HEUGHAN: Or haggis, yeah.
SHATNER: Well, the Scots used haggis while they were on marches, didn't they? Wasn't that the whole reason? It didn't rot too easily?
HEUGHAN: I'm not sure if that's quite true, but they would make porridge and get a bit of blood from an animal. You'd bleed an animal a little bit and put it in the porridge. You'd basically have bloody oatmeal, which is very nutritious I think.
SHATNER: Well, depending on whose blood you took.
HEUGHAN: Yeah, you don't want to bleed out your horse too much, otherwise, you're not going to go anywhere. Are you having a good birthday, though?
SHATNER: I think I've exhausted that subject completely. Where do you go from Japan?
HEUGHAN: I'm coming to see you. I'm expecting to see you in Los Angeles next week.
SHATNER: You come here and I'll take you to the best sushi. I've been to Tokyo and other places in Japan, and I've never found sushi as good as the place right near us in Los Angeles.
HEUGHAN: That's a deal.
WILLIAM SHATNER IS AN ACTOR, AUTHOR, AND FILMMAKER. HE HAS WON TWO EMMYS AND A GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD.