He had his fingers burnt when last month he signed an open letter from Artists for Palestine UK, alongside the likes of Tilda Swinton and Steve Coogan, which accused the Government of “aiding and abetting” Israeli war crimes, but failed to condemn Hamas’s terrorism. The following day, Heughan rescinded, saying he hadn’t “fully understood” what he was signing.
“I was maybe naively calling for peace, which is what we all want, but, unfortunately, that situation is so complex, I can’t understand it all,” he says now. “As an actor, you have a platform, but if you put your thoughts out there, you upset people, but you’re also damned if you don’t say anything.”
Heughan’s taking time to navigate a potential post-Outlander career path. “I’m a workaholic, but I have to be discerning. Whatever I do next, I have to feel really passionate about.” Possible plans include directing and exploring a different side to Scotland than misty heather and bagpipes. “I think that underbelly you see in [Ian Rankin’s] Rebus and Irvine Welsh is very interesting, there are still pockets that are very hard and gritty.”
Back in 2005, he auditioned for James Bond in Casino Royale – the role that eventually went to Daniel Craig. Now, there’s a new vacancy. “I’ll throw my hat in the ring,” he says, grinning. “I’d be a brilliant Bond, I’m good at action and I’d bring a lot of emotional intelligence.”
There might even be space for a personal life. Heughan’s mystified by “facts” he reads about his private life online. “There’s so much nonsense that’s completely false – apparently, I have a daughter. News to me!” he says, flushing. The truth, he says, is that Outlander leaves no time for relationships.
“It’s insane hours and takes over everything. Caitríona’s carved out a beautiful family for herself that she protects very well, but I’ve seen how hard it is for her to do that. I want a cat, but I’m too scared even for that, how would I look after it? One day, maybe,” Heughan says, dreamily.
The Couple Next Door begins on Channel 4 on Monday 27 November at 9pm; stream all episodes from this date