Disclaimer: The following post reflects the opinions of this contributor only and does not reflect the opinions of the That’s Normal staff at large.It’s no secret that the casting of Sophie Skelton as Brianna Randall has been a disappointment to many Outlander fans. Book readers know that season 4, based on Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn, should heavily feature the character of Brianna. Y’all need to buckle up for lots of Sophie, but I am here to help. To that end, let’s look at what I like about Sophie and my hypotheses concerning why others have issues with her.
What She Does Well
Sophie has great facial expressions. As a community theater actor, I struggle in this area. I am impressed by those that can accurately impart feelings through facial expressions. Let’s check out Sophie’s “face acting”.
Smug and Flirty:
Sophie has been cast in a wide variety of roles. Take a moment to view the range of her work.
Sophie has a loyal fan group active on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. They are called Sophie’s Sophisticats. I have been lurking around the Facebook group this week to see what others like about Sophie. The current chatter has been excitement over her roll in Day of the Dead: Bloodline and her upcoming visit to Kansas City, MO in April. The Sophisticats also support her charity of choice, Crohn’s and Colitis UK.
When we first saw Brianna she was acting like a bratty teenager, which is obviously a turn off. But guess what, she was a bratty teenager. Her father had just died, she finds out the father she loved was not her biological father, she feels betrayed by her mother and she is questioning her future career choice as a historian. Brianna is feeling lost, confused and defensive, which may translate to unlikable on screen.
What’s interesting is that Brianna was something of an enigma to Diana Gabaldon when she began writing her. Diana addresses this in The Outlandish Companion, the tome dedicated to all things Outlander for the first four books. Diana explains how many characters pop into a book fully formed and others develop slowly through backstory, physical description or cultural point of view. The issue with Brianna was that she was developed as a plot point (to send Claire back to the future) and Diana was unsure of who Bri was as an individual. It was well into book four when Diana was able to get a grasp on Bri’s personality by viewing her through Roger’s eyes. So up to now we have only seen a Brianna who is in turmoil and not even fully formed in the imagination of her creator.
I do not like Sophie’s voice. It’s childish at best, and kind of annoying. I think the audience responds to this. As with other actors, their performance can be colored by the tone and pitch of their voice, and may affect the roles in which they are cast. Examples:
Shelley Duvall, Jennifer Tilly, and Fran Drescher all have distinct and admittedly grating voices, but all have had successful acting careers. I think Sophie sounds best with her own British accent. Playing an American seems to emphasize the negative characteristics of her vocal quality. If you don’t believe me, watch her with the sound off and see if that changes your view of her acting ability.
Maybe I can’t change your mind about Sophie Skelton but I hope that she can. The casting director(s) for Outlander have done a fantastic job overall and I trust them. Someone obviously saw something in Sophie that maybe we haven’t seen yet. So I ask you to approach season 4 with an open mind. If you are a book reader you know what’s in store, let’s wait and see how she handles it. If all else fails, just hit mute and use closed captioning.