The third season of Outlander has finally arrived, and with it a whole new crop of characters that audiences will surely grow to love as much as book fans do. Included in that list is an English soldier who forms an unlikely bond with Jamie. So who plays Lord John Grey on Outlander? The character is played by David Berry, who is an Australian actor that American audiences may not have seen before. Unless you're into soapy Australian dramas, that is.
John Grey has already been seen once before on Outlander, back during in Season 2 when he was a teenager during the '45 rebellion. Grey was the plucky redcoat soldier who snuck into Jamie and Co.'s camp and attempted to sneak up on Jamie and cut his throat. Obviously that effort failed, but because Jamie chose not to kill him, Grey insisted that he now owed Jamie a debt of honor. This honor was fulfilled when Grey's brother allowed him to return home to Lallybroch, assuming he'd die on the way there, rather than executing him with the rest of the Jacobite rebels following the Battle of Culloden. John Grey shows up again, however, as the governor of the prison where Jamie is sent when he gives himself up to the redcoats. Here, the two form an unlikely bond, and Grey finds himself falling in love with Jamie, as everyone does.
This role is therefore incredibly important to the plot, and his personal development requires a lot of depth. Is Berry up to the task of playing the extremely honorable English soldier, attempting to contend with his homosexuality in a time when to be homosexual was forbidden by law? Well, looking at the actor's credentials, I'm going to hazard a guess at yes, though I'm not very familiar with his work.
Berry is most famous in Australia for his portrayal of James Bligh in the series A Place to Call Home. The show is about a small town in Australia in the 1950s following WWII and centers around the Bligh family, including all of their personal dramas and difficulties. James Bligh is married to a woman but is gay, and must find a way to reconcile that in a time when homosexuality was viewed as immoral or a psychological condition. Gay people in this era underwent enormous trauma and mental and physical abuse, often against their will, in an effort to correct this. After five seasons, Berry has probably gotten fairly accustomed to portraying this very particular character struggle. I have no doubt he'll do the role of John Grey justice.
In the beginning, I did a lot of research about what it meant to be a gay man in this era. But I also interviewed men who lived through this time, as well as those ordeals — including the so-called therapies. I looked at real stories so I could tell an honest one with these characters. That’s why I feel an enormous burden. I have a very real possibility to do James well because there are so many people who can relate to him.
In dealing with homosexuality in 18th century Scotland, there is no electroshock therapy, but the punishment for being gay could be even more severe, including death sentences, or overwhelming public shame leading to suicide. Berry will certainly play the character with the same amount of respect that he gave to James Bligh.
Of course, there is a lot more to John Grey and his relationship to Jamie than simply being gay. Jamie is his prisoner and a Scottish rebel. That means that Grey must contend within himself how to love a man who cannot love him back, and who Grey's strong English loyalty demands that he detest. At the end of the day, Grey's personal convictions win out, but not without a struggle. Personally, I cannot wait to see how Berry portrays this relationship with Jamie.
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