‘Outlander’: Sam Heughan’s Drama Teacher Once Told Him ‘You Can’t Act’

Thanks to Outlander, Sam Heughan never has to worry about work again. Even after the show ends, he’ll keep getting movie offers, or keep doing his docuseries Men in Kilts. But, when Heughan was a student at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the teachers weren’t so fond of his work. 

'Outlander': Sam Heughan stands in front of the camera crew in costume
Sam Heughan | Starz

Heughan was a guest on the Happy Sad Confused podcast on March 4 to promote Outlander Season 6. Looking back on his drama school days, Heughan shared the story of his disapproving teacher. Outlander airs Sundays on Starz.

‘Outlander’ proved Sam Heughan’s drama teacher wrong

To be fair, this RCS teacher only witnessed a young, untrained Heughan. By the time he played Jamie Fraser in Outlander, Heughan very much could act.

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“My first year at drama school, my acting coach took me to one side after my first term and said, ‘You can’t act,’” Heughan said on Happy Sad Confused. “And I thought, ‘I’ll just continue then.’ It was a classical drama school. The whole part of this process is breaking you down. But I think that was always also kind of true. It was about confidence. At drama school, that’s what it’s for. It’s to fail as well. It was actually my first play I did out of drama school. The theater director there taught me a lot.”

Sam Heughan came a long way from drama school to ‘Outlander’

It wasn’t lost on Heughan how far he’d come. He graduated RCS in 2003 and Outlander didn’t begin until 2014.

Because we’ve been doing Outlander for a long time and even before that I saw some friends in London at the premiere and invited them along. We were talking about things we’ve done in the past. I was like I can’t even remember these, it’s so long ago. Yeah, we’ve been doing the show for so long now you can’t help but look back at where we’ve come from. Even going to work every day on Outlander, when we started we were very green. It was literally an abandoned warehouse where we filmed. There were rats and dust and it was just rubbish. Now, we’ve got this amazing facility. Yeah, it’s great to be able to look back and see how far we’ve come. 

Sam Heughan, Happy Sad Confused, 3/4/22

He’s giving back to drama school

Heughan doesn’t blame the teacher for being hard on him. In fact, Heughan is still giving back to RCS. This year he started the Write Start contest to give students a chance to create. 

My former drama school, I decided to create a scholarship for two students to pay their fees throughout their years at drama school. But also I created the Write Start Competition just to encourage all the students there to maybe think a little outside the box. I just noticed in my career it’s not just acting. There are all these other opportunities or creating your own work. Especially during COVID but also when you are an unemployed actor and you’re sitting waiting for the phone to ring, which was a long time for me, you have to start making your own work and also collaborating with other people. The competition winners on the inaugural year this year is a really interesting story by some filmmakers who want to do a play, but it’s all set in a nuclear submarine. 

Sam Heughan, Happy Sad Confused, 3/4/22

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