‘Outlander’ Author Diana Gabaldon Reveals Who She Really Wanted to Play Jamie Fraser — and It Wasn’t Sam Heughan!


  • Diana Gabaldon created Outlander after watching an episode of Doctor Who.
  • The books were originally optioned for a feature film — and Gabaldon had some big names in mind for Jamie Fraser.
  • Gabaldon calls Outlander the TV series star Sam Heughan “everything.”
Outlander Sam Heughan and Diana Gabaldon speak onstage during a panel as part of the Starz portion of This is Cable 2016 Television Critics Association Winter Tour at Langham Hotel on January 8, 2016, in Pasadena.
Sam Heughan and Diana Gabaldon | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Outlander author Diana Gabaldon has just released book nine in the series, Go Tell the Bees That I’m Gone. During the novel’s official launch, the 69-year-old spilled some Outlander secrets while speaking with the press. Including the fact that Sam Heughan wasn’t her first choice to play Jamie Fraser. Instead, she had two big-name actors in mind.

Diana Gabaldon created ‘Outlander’ after watching an episode of ‘Doctor Who’

Gabaldon published her first Outlander novel in 1991, which was the first book she had ever written. She says she came up with the idea of the Jamie Fraser character while she was watching an old episode of Doctor Who.

“I’m a massive fan of the Doctor and was inspired… after watching an episode back when Patrick Troughton played the time traveler,” Gabaldon said during the launch of Go Tell The Bees That I’m Gone, per The Daily Record.

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“There was a minor character, a young Scotsman from 1745, who appeared in his kilt and I thought, ‘Perfect, a kilted hero in 18th-century Scotland and Outlander was born.’”

Diana Gabaldon wasn’t part of the casting process for the Starz drama

When Outlander series creator Ronald D. Moore and executive producer Maril Davis were casting the show back in 2013, Gabaldon wasn’t part of the process. She says she left it up to the producers and casting directors, and she couldn’t be happier with who they chose.

“I could not be happier with Catriona (Balfe) and Sam (Heughan) as my hero and heroine. They are just wonderful,” Gabaldon noted.

The ‘Outlander’ author had two big names in mind for the role of Jamie Fraser

Gabaldon revealed that before her Outlander novels were turned into a TV series, they were optioned for a feature film. She admitted that she had two actors she had in mind for the role of Jamie Fraser, and neither one was Heughan.

Liam Neeson and Sir Sean Connery were the first contenders for Jamie. Now, this was years ago when my early books were optioned for a feature film. People kept asking me who I would cast and they were the first two who sprang to mind,” Gabaldon said.

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“I was just thinking in general terms of large Celtic-looking men who could pull it off and both Liam and Sean were built that way and looked great in a kilt.”

Diana Gabaldon wasn’t disappointed with Sam Heughan

Gabaldon admits that she had her heart set on either Neeson or Connery playing the role of the dashing Highlander. When the feature film didn’t happen, she admitted that her top choices were too old for the role by the time the Starz series was in development.

“The feature film didn’t happen and when the Starz series began both Neeson and Connery were too old and I left it up to the casting directors to find the perfect Jamie and I wasn’t disappointed,” Gabaldon said.

The ‘Outlander’ author says Sam Heughan is ‘everything’

Gabaldon continued to gush about Heughan, saying the 41-year-old Scottish actor is “just everything.”

“He is a lovely guy who has become a good friend. We have a connection as he has brought the character to life and I have provided him with a job,” Gabaldon explained.

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Jamie and Claire have become more than family, they are part of me. They have been my constant companions since I wrote my first book about them 30 years ago. Finding the perfect actors to play them and my other characters is no mean feat, but the show has managed to do so and I could not be happier. It’s fascinating watching the story come to life on screen.”

Season 6 of Outlander will premiere on Starz on Sunday, March 6, 2022.