He has already won over the hearts of countless fans with his ongoing portrayal as Jamie Fraser on the hit series Outlander. He is even already a bestselling author – yet actor and entrepreneur Sam Heughan continues to expand on his many passion projects today, including with his latest book and first memoir titled Waypoints: My Scottish Journey.
In Waypoints, Heughan, 42, shares in great detail his hiking adventures throughout his prideful homeland of Scotland. He also opens up about the early highs-and-lows of his hard-fought Hollywood career. When speaking with Heughan, I began our conversation by asking him what it is about this stage of his life and career that made him feel like this is the right time to share his thoughts and intimate memories with the world in the form of this new memoir.
“It’s a good question and it’s one I have asked myself,” Heughan continues. “‘Why now and why share it?’ It just felt like the timing was right. I’ve had a lot of experiences, but I kind of wanted to dig into more about my life and my family. When I was writing Clanlands, the last book I was doing with Graham [McTavish], and it was talking about heritage and family, I realized I didn’t really know much about mine. Something I’ve always lived with but never really dug into or addressed. You know, it does feel like a waypoint. I feel like I am on the edge of a really great moment in my career, where things are going well and really enjoying the journey on Outlander and who knows where it’s to go next.”
Throughout his new memoir, Heughan shares stories surrounding the relationships in his life, including the one he had with his late father and continues to have with his mother, who remembers Heughan as “an adventurous boy who could also be quite sensitive.” What followed would be years of building his craft in drama school and then his less-than-perfect process of moving to the U.S. to try to make a name for himself in Hollywood. I wondered if there were either parts of his new Waypoints book that were difficult for him to write or if he was hesitant about divulging any specific parts of his life with his loyal fanbase.
Heughan responds, “You know what’s really funny is that you write this in private, obviously, and it’s a very personal thing. It’s a personal journey. I don’t want to give away every gory detail, but I certainly do want to dig into a bit about the journey and the trials & tribulations of where I got to in my career – struggling, not many people talk about that. I tried for many years and I guess I wanted to share that perseverance and hard work, it pays off. I do feel very lucky, very fortunate for where I am right now. The personal stuff, you rarely get a chance to talk about that as an actor and to share that. It’s something that I’ve lived with, you know, my sort of family and my father, especially. It feels good. It feels like I’m putting something to rest maybe, but also hopefully [the book] will inspire other people or they will understand they are maybe going through the same thing.”
Since his drama series Outlander first premiered in 2014, Heughan’s life has gone from simply a working actor to a global television star. In Waypoints, he addresses his many interactions with passionately vocal Outlander fans, saying in the book, “It’s still a weird experience, because they don’t know me as Sam.” So, I was curious how and how long it might have taken Heughan to come to embrace that some of his fans might always see him in the real world as his on-screen Outlander character and not as his real-life self.
Heughan reveals, “Well I mean, it’s the blessing and I guess also a curse, isn’t it? You spend your whole life trying to get success as an actor and then when you do, I guess people find it hard to disengage that character with you. I mean, for instance, as an actor, I always wanted to play other roles and be able to be versatile and adapt and I certainly don’t want to play the same character all my life. However, I’m also very thankful for the one I’ve got. So, it’s great people equate me with Jamie Fraser, but also, it’d be nice at some point to be able to play those other roles and people to see a completely different character there or a different actor.”
While vividly documenting his happy excursions across West Highland Way and its 96-mile route through the lush Scotland landscape, I asked Heughan how his active fitness lifestyle has supported and even perhaps improved his own mental health and his overall outlook on life.
“Honestly for me and I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s everything. It’s the reason I created My Peak Challenge. My love of the outdoors and my love of a healthy lifestyle and how it can even change the worst mood. You can be the most tired or having the worst time and a short walk or hike or workout can really change your mood. It’s a way that we can all affect positive change in our own lives. You can feel like you’re stuck in a rut or you have no chance or no hopes, but it’s the one thing you really do have a control over and I really enjoy it. I hope to share it with other people.”
Now with six seasons of Outlander out now and a seventh season on its way at Starz, I wondered how initially getting cast as Jamie Fraser nearly a decade ago and getting that first call telling him “You’re Jamie Fraser” has been arguably the most defining turning point in both his life and career.
Heughan responds, “Yeah, I sort of mention it in the book that I had been a working actor most of my life with success and failures – progressively moving forward, but never really landed a role that really changed my life. Looking back, it has completely changed my life. It has taken over my life and it has been an amazing journey. I guess only in hindsight do you know how big that moment is – but yeah, I can still picture it now. I was in a grocery store [when I got the call]. I think I dropped my basket of groceries and went out and celebrated with my friends. It really was life-changing.”
Heughan goes on to tell me that his Outlander cast and crew have become “very, very close” over their seven seasons filming together on-location in Scotland. When speaking about the lasting bond he and his Outlander family have built, even when they find themselves apart, Heughan says, “Obviously [we] got our own lives, our own careers going on, but it is nice to always touch base with each other and we’ve shared so much. I hope that this book also kind of celebrates them, especially Caitriona [Balfe]. She started this journey with me and I know she has got a great story to tell, as well.”
Between his Outlander commitments, My Peak Challenge, his Sassenach Spirits company and more, I asked Heughan how he is able to make the time for all of his growing business opportunities today and still give himself a moment to breathe with a glass of his Sassenach whisky or tequila in-hand.
Heughan laughs, “I’m very ready for a glass right now but I’m saving myself for the [Waypoints] publication day. I am extremely busy right now and I’m feeling a little bit battered by it all because it has been a lot, but I feel very fortunate to be doing all of this. We have some really exciting news for the whisky coming up. We’ve got great things happening there and I love going to work every day.”
As I began to conclude my latest conversation with Heughan, I wondered what he hopes that his loyal fans and readers everywhere will take away most after diving into his candid, new memoir.
“I hope it’s relatable and I hope they maybe understand me a little more. I’m not the most outgoing. I certainly keep private to myself, so maybe [Waypoints] gives you a little glimpse into where I came from and my journey. Everyone else has their own journey and maybe it’ll inspire people to either go out and do that thing that they’ve always been meaning to do but have put it off, whether it’s a hike or an activity or write their own book. I really enjoyed the process and it really does feel like I’m entering a different phase in my life and it feels good to sort of document the journey here so far.”