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Performers Of The Month - July Winner: Outstanding Actor - Sam Heughan


Sam Heughan is tasked with playing an immensely complicated, fiercely protective, big-hearted warrior who, every episode, presents Heughan with physical and emotional challenges. Despite all the challenges Jamie presents to Heughan, he always delivers such strong performances that it was no surprise in April when he won and it is definitely no surprise that his fans fought to bestow this title on him again. Everything I said about Heughan back in April still stands, and as the season went along, he more than proved every point I made about him in that article. This is a performer who can do, and always does do, whatever is asked of him and somehow he keeps improving, which is impressive because practically all of his performances can be described as nothing short of perfect. Every time I’ve seen him on screen, I wonder how he can possibly top that performance. Then he comes back on the screen and immediately tops his own prior best. He is blessed with being on a show with smart writers who know how to write to his strengths and who constantly challenge him to keep growing his already impressive range. The writers are immensely lucky as well because in Heughan they have a performer with an immense emotional range and the physicality to support all the facets of this character. He really is the complete package and I can’t think of a single performer who could play Jamie Fraser the way Sam Heughan does. This July win was for the season finale (entitled Dragonfly in Amber) and it is no surprise that he won because the work he did in that episode was mind blowing.

The season finale was as intense as an episode can get. With the odds stacked against the clans, Jamie had to make the ultimate sacrifice and send Claire back to her time through the stones. That gave Heughan a chance to cover the gambit of emotions running through Jamie as the Battle of Culloden loomed over them. He was fighting not just for the lives of his kinsmen but for the lives of his wife and unborn child. There is no greater or nobler sacrifice than for one person to be willing to give up their life for those they love. That’s what Jamie was willing to do and Heughan infused so much heart and pure emotion into that goodbye that Jamie’s struggle was made tangible. Through Heughan, the audience was able to feel the emotion behind every one of Jamie’s gut-wrenching decisions throughout the episode.

No moment in this episode was more poignant for Heughan than the moment Jamie had to send Claire away. But a very close second was the heart-wrenching scene where Jamie took Dougal’s life during their fight. This was a man that shared Jamie’s blood and a man that, despite all their differences, Jamie loved, but in the end Jamie had to put his country and his wife first. That didn’t make taking the life of Dougal any easier, because it shattered Jamie’s world. As a fan of the book, I knew this scene was coming, but that didn’t make this any easier to watch. That is in part because of Heughan’s raw performance, and his incredible ability to draw the audience into the room with his character. It felt like I was right there watching the moment unfold and completely powerless to change the outcome. I imagine that fans of the book are a lot like Claire in that aspect. We know what is coming but have no power to change the ultimate fate of these characters. Even knowing this moment was coming couldn’t have prepared even the most dedicated Outlander fans from feeling their hearts shatter as Heughan’s eyes filled with shock and horror as Dougal sucked in his final breaths. It was hard to watch but so beautifully executed that it was impossible to not watch the screen in sickened awe. The way Heughan’s lips trembled and his jaw flexed showed that Jamie was in a complete state of horrific shock. Then he spoke his goodbye to his uncle and the tremble in Heughan’s voice made the moment feel all the more viscerally real. He had no idea how to truly react to this moment nor the part he played in it. Heughan’s acting choices in this scene gave great gravity to the dark mood of the scene.

Jamie’s journey through Hell was only at its start when he had to end Dougal’s life. Things got no easier for the hardened warrior and while he was desperate to find a way to protect Lallybroch and to find a way to allow his Lallybroch men to be spared, his first priority always remained Claire. Jamie has been through just about every horrific traumatizing incident a man from his time could experience, and Heughan used expert skill to ensure that the audience was always able to see the weight of events bearing on him. From signing Lallybroch over to sending Claire away every moment had great weight. Even when Jamie was trying to be strong and stoic around others, through Heughan’s incredibly expressive eyes the weight of the situation was always evident.

This entire episode was a tour de force for Heughan and every second he was on screen is worthy of note. He never squanders his screen time and even if he’s just standing there he still makes an impression, as was made clear when he briefly appeared to Claire when she was at her present day Lallybroch. Jamie was simply a vision manifested through Claire’s deep love for him but, vision or not, Heughan made sure Jamie’s spirit was tangible in that moment. Heughan stood strong and straight back as he silently portrayed Jamie’s great strength and heart - qualities Claire passionately loved about him. Not a single word was spoken and the camera never closed in on him, but Heughan made sure every person watching felt Jamie in that scene as strongly as Claire felt the love of her life watching over her. They were separated by time and space, but Heughan and Caitriona Balfe (July’s POTM Actress) still beautifully expressed the power of the love between the pair.

It is the unparalleled love between Jamie and Claire that drove every action their characters took in this episode and throughout the season. Their love story is one that will live on long after Diana Gabaldon writes the final page of the last book and long after the final scene in Outlander fades to black. Gabaldon created a series that will live on indefinitely because of these extraordinarily true to life characters that have entranced themselves into the lives of the fans of her hit book series. While words can make the imagination dream up bigger than life images, I highly doubt even the most imaginative could have pictured the chemistry between the performers who would become the visual representations of the characters they adore. Heughan and Balfe bring this epic love story to life and they will forever be the faces fans see when they think of these beloved characters. The performer picked to play Jamie had to be able to embody the stoic nature of the larger than life Scotsman, but still show the love he always carried with him for his wife. When Heughan is in character, he always has this little sparkle in his eyes when he looks at Balfe. That little extra touch allows the audience to see Jamie’s love for Claire even when the characters may be in disagreement over something. The way Heughan and Balfe are able to non-verbally connect their characters on a deep emotional level really helps to sell this epic love story. They are connected in a way that few acting pairs can master.

That was never more evident than during the heartbreaking final goodbye between Jamie and Claire at the stones. Of all the goodbyes that have ever transpired on television, that was probably the most powerful one with its vivid portrayal of supreme love. Only Heughan could have tears in his eyes yet still manage to portray a love this strong. Jamie’s heart was ready to explode with love and pride. He knew that in Claire’s womb was his unborn child whom he had resigned to never meet, yet he still felt so much pride for that unborn life. His pride didn’t stop with just the baby but carried over to his beautiful wife who was dealing with being pregnant while in the middle of a war. No matter what, Jamie knew that he couldn’t have entrusted his unborn child to anyone more loving or strong-willed than Claire. Most of these feelings were clearly spelled out in the writing, but a fair amount of it played out through loving glances and tender touches. Heughan delivered an incredibly intense performance that was honest and true to Jamie’s character. Even during the lovemaking moment of this scene, as frantic and rushed as it was, Heughan handled Balfe in a way that showed Jamie’s love and protectiveness. Jamie said his goodbyes and in turn Heughan crushed the hearts of every person watching. It’s a talent Heughan has, to reach through screens and crush the hearts of the most jaded of television watchers. He bares his soul every single moment he’s on screen and that allows the audience to connect with Jamie in an intimate way that many performers are unable to accomplish. A performer can be masterful at their craft but never be able to transcend the barrier the screen presents. It is something that Heughan does effortlessly.

Sam Heughan is a prime example that number of awards doesn’t determine the caliber of a performer. For whatever reason, beyond my comprehension, awards shows tend to forget about him when it comes time for nominations and winners. That’s a travesty because he has mastered a level of the craft of acting that many performers who have won those awards can only dream of. For him to be left out time and time again by the academies is a prime example of why they so desperately need to be overhauled. Performers who deserve to be recognized are being forgotten and that’s not okay. It’s especially evident when a performer like Sam Heughan is one of the ones being left out. That is why fans of his, and the fans of many other underappreciated performers, fight so hard to have performers like Heughan recognized for online awards. This is a way for the fans to tell these performers how much they are appreciated and how much their work means to the masses. Hopefully, one day, Heughan will get the Academy recognition he is so deserving of, but until then, his fans will help ensure that he always knows how appreciated he is.

Every second Heughan was on screen in the season finale, he was delivering a stunning performance worthy of the title of the most Outstanding Actor of July. But to highlight every scene would have made this article the size of a Diana Gabaldon novella, so please use the comments section to cover all the brilliant moments I was unable to cover in this article.

This is Sam Heughan’s second win of the year so that makes him ineligible for any future nominations in 2016. With the Outlander season over, that shouldn’t present a problem, but be sure to keep a look out for the Performer of the Year polls coming in mid-January 2017 for your next chance to honor this extraordinary performer.

Sam Heughan was your fan pick as the most Outstanding Actor of July 2016. Hit the comments below to tell others why you think he earned this title and what you most enjoyed about his July performances.

PLEASE READ: This is an article to recognize Sam's work and to honor his performance in July on Outlander. Shipper-related bashing will not be tolerated in the comments, even from Sam's fans. Honor the performer and his performance. Have fun and be kind to one another.

Note: This is a generic warning to avoid any issues in the comments section and to help keep this a fun and safe place to gush about the winners.


Special thanks to Bradley Adams for helping to edit this article!

About the Author - Aimee Hicks
Aimee works for a newspaper in North Carolina and has a BA in Broadcasting and Cinema. She has been a TV lover since before she really understood what TV was. She has a long list of shows that she loves to watch and can be found on twitter (@ahicks83) live tweeting about each new episode whenever she can. If the show is sci-fi, fantasy, comic book based, drama, or action the odds are good she watches it or has at least watched a few episodes of it. She also has a love for comedies 2 Broke Girls and Mom. She was the original creator and co-founder of LOST Video Island (lostvideo.net) which is still operating under the management of the very capable and skilled group she turned it over to.
You can email her at aimee@spoilertv.com.
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