Will anyone admit to being Team Frank? If you’re an
fan, it’s so easy to be Team Jamie, for a number of reasons—not least of which is that he’s the one with whom we spend the majority of our time. In the books, we don’t get very much of Frank, but the show version of the story tips the scale more in his favor, not only by increasing his presence and giving him a point of view, but also by making him a better man.
“If you listen to the majority of the fans, they hate Frank,”
executive producer, writer, and director Matthew Roberts explained. “They’re Frank haters. There’s a team Jamie, but there’s no Team Frank. It’s just Jamie. But if Frank is an evil guy, if he’s a shitbag, if he’s a jerk—what’s the choice?’
Roberts was in the middle of giving me a tour of the production’s studio in Cape Town, South Africa, pointing out all the amazing sets built inside on stages and outside in the open air. Pirate ships. Jungles. Caves. Villages. Markets. Mansions. But when the subject of Frank came up, Roberts stopped the golf cart we were in, excited to discuss the Claire/Frank dynamic in depth.
“You have the books, and those live forever,” he noted. “This is the TV show, and it’s a completely different thing. The books are our source material, but the books are told from Claire’s point of view. And if you just tell it from Claire’s point of view, you can lose the other perspectives. We won’t know what happens, and that’s not conducive to television.”
Claire Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) in
books by Diana Gabaldon, Frank isn’t a perfect man by any means. But he is recognizably human—even when he cheats on her. Still, Gabaldon wanted readers to have a reason to root for Frank, as she explained in an online forum back in 2005. “Of course Frank isn’t ‘a pathetic slimeball,’” she said. “Frank wasn’t beating her, or mentally torturing her, or otherwise behaving badly…. He’s angry at her, confused by what happened, and obviously having a hard time with everything, but he does love her.”
We don’t see much of that in the books, but the show does more to make us feel for Frank. In season one, we witnessed to his long search for Claire, which almost had him believing in the magical properties of the standing stones at Craigh na Dun. We repeatedly hear Frank telling Claire how he feels. “I love you, and nothing you could ever do could stop my loving you,” he tells her during their trip to Inverness, before she goes through the stones. And when she returns, he reminds her that he loves her unconditionally, “no matter what.”
When she does tell him her story in season two, he takes a leap of faith for her, and tries to believe her. “Truly, all that matters is that you’re back,” he tells her. Frank reminds her of the “utter void” caused when she was torn away by a set of circumstances he didn’t cause, and didn’t understand. “I knew that you did not choose to leave me, that something had taken you from me,” he says. He even tells her that he can understand her feelings for Jamie, and also her broken heart. He’s thrilled, but then angry, about her pregnancy. And then, remarkably, he offers to raise the child as his own. This, Roberts said, makes him a “solid dude.”
“If you elevate Frank, that makes Jamie an even better guy,” Roberts explained. “Because if you have a solid guy, but your love is still so powerful for this other guy that you still can’t give your heart to the solid guy, then that’s the dilemma. That’s the triangle. If it’s just Frank on the outside looking in, there’s no triangle.”
The scenes of Frank and Claire’s life in Boston, which play out in the first half of season three, detail their efforts at co-parenting, along with their less successful attempts to salvage their marriage post-Jamie. “We just channeled
,” Roberts said. “We filmed it like a little play.” Given Claire’s emotional distance, Frank becomes the tragic figure of the story, the unsung hero—the man who loves a woman even when she won’t let herself love him back.
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