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Outlander star John Bell teases Ian's fears, relationships and his part in the American Revolution

John Bell as Young Ian for Outlander season 7

No one is spared from trauma on Outlander, and it is the least that can be said about Ian Murray, Jamie Fraser’s nephew and most loyal acolyte. Young Ian has been kidnapped, sexually assaulted, widowed, and is now being threatened by a new foe. 

In the latest Outlander season 7 episodes, “Death Be Not Proud” and “A Most Uncomfortable Woman,” Ian has to grapple with the consequences of his actions while making decisions about his role in the revolution that is shaking America.

Scottish actor John Bell has played the role of Young Ian since season 3 of Outlander and quickly became a fan favorite. He took time to answer some of our questions about the changes his character is going through this season and the part he will play in the upcoming episodes of the Starz/Lionsgate Plus series.

Episode 3 and episode 4 of this new season of Outlander were big for Ian. Let's first talk about what happened with the death of Murdina Bug… 

"I love how you say 'death', let’s call it what it is: murder." 

It is… I mean he was trying to protect Jamie but that backfired. Maybe someone should take his bow away from him? 

"I think so but then he probably would just resort to his tomahawk. Take all weapons out of Young Ian’s hand, he is a liability (laughs)." 

True. So he murdered Murdina, then he offered his life to Arch Bug who refused but threatened to take away someone he loves. So how is Ian coping with that trauma that’s piling up on top of him? 

"First of all, he is awfully dramatic, isn’t he? He is offering his own life and his uncle and auntie are there, just a couple of feet away. I’m like 'Are you going to step in, guys? No? Okay, kill me' (laughs). He is very loyal, bless Ian. I think this is really a huge catalyst for Ian’s story going ahead. The ripples of this murder are going to be felt throughout the whole season and I think you’re going to see a break in Ian’s usual stone-cold 'when things need to be done it gets done' way he presents himself. You’re going to start to see this little worm wiggle its way in and break him down a little bit, which is really fun to play." 

We start seeing that in the scene in the woods in Episode 4, where he is paranoid that Arch is following him around. 

"Yes, for somebody very capable of killing, an elderly man is putting the fear of God into him. People have asked me why I think that is, what’s different about Arch Bug, and I would say that there is nothing scarier than someone who has nothing to lose. So here he is, going against someone who’s directly threatened not just his dog but the people he loves the most, and also has nothing. Arch has no home, no wife, he is completely wild, he’s gone feral (laughs). That’s a tough adversary for Ian. 

"You’ll be feeling the pressure of that, and I joke about Ian being a murderer but he does have a conscience. He is broken by Murdina’s death, someone he respected and loved on the Ridge too. All of those things, that guilt, the anxiety, the paranoia, that’s all going to sort of start to unravel Ian and bit and we’re going to see him fight tooth and nail to keep his resolve and remain a rock."

By now, Ian has still lived in Scotland longer than he has lived in America, but he has gone through so many life experiences in America that it’s a bit unclear whether Scotland is still home for him. Where do you think he belongs? 

"Ian belongs in a nice, quiet little cottage, with someone he loves and his dog by his side, just farming and chilling out. That’s where Ian deserves to live. But this is Outlander (laughs). 

"It’s a big question for Ian, isn’t it? Where is home to him? What is home? Who is home? It’s something he’s struggled with throughout the seasons, about finding not just his identity but where he feels safe and comfortable. Family is so important to Ian but I think home will never be too far away from his uncle. That’s the big thing for him. 

"Lallybroch, as you say he was a boy, 16 years-old when he was kidnapped and taken away to America and decided to stay over there. It’s not how much you’ve lived, it’s how much you’ve done with your life and Ian has done so much in his time in America that the version of himself in Scotland feels like a stranger now. So to be thinking of going home and not knowing what to expect when he gets there, that shakes Ian, more than having to kill somebody."

Speaking of America, why does Ian want to fight in the revolution? 

"Two reasons I think. One, he has fallen in love with America. He is America’s number one fanboy, he has fallen in love not just with his place on the Ridge in North Carolina but he’s also with the indigenous people that have lived there for many, many centuries before the Europeans arrived. So the ideals of America, the adventure of America is something that has struck him to his core and his heart so he believes in that. He is a man that fights for what he believes in. 

"And number two is that I think he will follow his uncle to the end of days, and if his uncle is going into battle, you’ll be knowing that Ian is by his side. And honestly thank God, I think Ian has saved his uncle’s life multiple times now!"

Yes, and Ian turns out to also be instrumental in William’s survival in this episode. So are Ian and William going to become best friends? 

"Ian and William are going to have an interesting relationship. As you can see by their initial meeting there is a power dynamic there because Ian knows so much more about who William is than he does himself. At the end of the day he is family, and Ian loves his family so of course he wants to support him and protect him. But as Ian’s priorities change this season a bit, a certain somebody may be turning up that may change his viewpoint on a lot of the world, and that certain somebody may be getting in between him and William and lead to some tension."

Well, we could see some sparks flying between Ian and Rachel Hunter in this episode… 

"Sparks were flying!" 

And that goes back to Arch’s bug threat. Is Ian afraid now to get close to anyone now? 

"I think he has been afraid for a long time, not just because of Arch Bug but because of what love has meant to him in the past. Love has meant loss, great loss, so I don’t think he is keen to repeat that again. But he wears his heart on his sleeve so I think he can’t help it. We don’t choose who we fall in love with, neither does Ian. When he meets Rachel there’s that instant chemistry and as the season develops those two will only get closer. And as much as he probably wishes he could back out, and run away from it and protect her because of what Arch Bug has said, the heart wants what the heart wants. Love makes him vulnerable but we know Ian, he’s capable of dealing with the business (laughs)! He can handle himself. "

Outlander season 7 is currently airing on Starz in the US and streaming on Lionsgate+ in the UK. 

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