A graduate of the Conservatory of the Dramatic Arts and the Art Theater School of Moscow, French-Russian actress Claire Sermonne has been involved in several notable projects over the years. In addition to starring as Lucille in Monsieur Cauchmer, she’s also known for playing Sabrina in Profilage and Sylvia Strindberg in Inferno d’August Strindberg. Now, she’s starring in STARZ’s hit fantasy series Outlander as Louise de Rohan. Talk Nerdy With Us recently had the pleasure of discussing this season of Outlander with Sermonne. Read our interview below!
Did you read the books before auditioning? What research on Louise did you do prior to filming?
Yes, of course. When my agent told me I was asked to audition for the part, I read the first 2 tomes of Outlander to understand what it was about… To understand a bit more about the character of Louise. I did some research as well to know if she existed in the past in the history of France, how she looked like etc.
How would you describe Louise’s relationship with Claire?
Louise is a typical woman of this age, of this time, of the French aristocracy of the 18th century. Louise loves Claire, they are friends, Louise is very alive, she knows everything, everybody, she is involved in all the gossip of the court. Louise opens the door to the world of Versaille to Claire. She introduces Claire to Versaille so beyond her, she provides access to king Louis and to Duvernay. She teaches Claire all about the fashion trends of the court, of this aristocratic world. I think she is for Claire a friend but mostly a curiosity of this world. Louise really finds a true friend in Claire. She respects her more than anybody. She has probably found in Claire the maturity and freedom she longs for.
What kind of influence do you think Louise has on Claire?
I don’t think she has a huge influence on Claire, it’s probably more Claire, who has an influence on Louise. Claire likes her, but uses her for a good cause… The only influence Louise can have on, Claire is in regards to fashion and mores of the court, the trends, and customs of the century. A woman’s tricks to amuse a man. Louise uses her understanding of 18th-century customs and manipulates them to find a kind of liberty.
Was filming the waxing scene uncomfortable? Tell us about filming that.
At first, I was a bit anxious about how to film that, but Metin Hussein who was the director, was very delicate, very artistic! I loved to work with him, he made me feel comfortable, he explained to me how he would film it so I knew what would be visible and what not. And actually, we had a lot of fun. We used honey. I had honey everywhere. (laughs).
During episode 4, Prince Charles mentioned his romantic troubles were gone. So what does this mean for him and Louise?
She rejected him… to protect herself. She didn’t tell him she was pregnant. I am sure they truly loved each other, but his political desires are stronger than his love for her. And for him who worked for God, his romantic troubles are gone. Louise said to her husband that the child is his own. So she is protecting her reputation and her honor. And yet, she decides to have her lover’s baby.
What can you tell us about their future?
I actually don’t know (laughs) but I can tell you what I imagine: I can imagine that her child can have a life in the future. It’s hard to say. Charles is going to fight in Scotland. We have to wonder if he goes back to France after. And if he doesn’t, maybe she can run away from this Parisian world and join him in Scotland… we can imagine whatever we want. Who knows the future?
What do you admire the most about Outlander’s portrayal of sex and pregnancy?
I like that they are not trying to make it only beautiful. It’s a way to talk about women’s issues then and now. … how strong they had to be. Outlander is great for that, it’s not only adventures, it’s also a witness of a world where women had to survive and defend themselves behind closed doors and often in secrecy.
What was it like filming with the monkey?
(laughs) The monkey was so cute, but unfortunately, I couldn’t hold it. It was too dangerous for the dress. They were very sensitive to the monkey. He was very well taken care of. They would never film his shots too long to not disturb him. But I was very proud to have such a partner, the mirror, the reflexion of Louise’s heart, soul… quite an original animal in a gold cage.
What is your favorite characteristic of Louise’s?
Her innocence in her perversity.
How are you similar and how are you different from her?
I’m always very surprised by how a role always seems to find you, even if the role seems very different from you, you understand why at this moment in your life a part comes your way, there is always something close to your heart in the timing. Or maybe as an actress I try to identify with my character, I try to understand the character, and not to judge. So there is a moment when you don’t know if you are influencing the character or if the character is influencing you. The character and the actor merge. To a degree. I don’t know. There is a mystery in this alchemy of the character. But I definitely love Louise. What may be similar between her and me is her abundance of life. She always wants to see the good part of life, to enjoy life as much as she can, but that doesn’t mean she is superficial. To be like this it suggests more likely, that she is hiding something deeper, certainly a deeper pain.
Besides Louise who is your favorite character from Outlander? Why?
Of course, I love Claire so much and Jamie! But the truth is that my favorite character is Frank and Black Jack Randall. I am fascinated by the actor Tobias Menzies! And by this story! To meet the terrible ancestor of a beautiful man… How the randomness of history can change everything, how history takes one route and not another. It’s the complexity in those two men which interested me so much.
If you went back in time what time period would you want to visit?
This is a good question! When I was a child, I loved to think that with just the power of my imagination, of my thoughts I could travel in the past! (laughs). I was sure that I could meet my ancestors, that they were still alive in an another dimension. The cinema is this magic machine which can bring you back in time, to the future or the past, and that’s probably the reason I am doing this job. If I went back in time I would probably want to visit the 50’s in the 20th century… It’s not so far, but I like this period… or very far before JC in Greece to meet all those great philosophers.
As Claire, if you were in Claire Fraser’s shoes would you try to change the future?
Of course, I would try to change it, to try to solve the world knowing the future, but can we know which different future will come to be if we change the future we know… Oh, this is a big deal! It’s really a philosophical question. If we could change the future being back in the past, would it be good, or by wanting good would we really be provoking the worst? This is what is interesting in this show as well… is it possible to change the rhythm of history? Is there a balance in the world which brings birth to good from bad? Could we change something? Is it unchangeable? And who am I to decide what is good and what is bad?
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm ET/PT on STARZ. You can watch episodes any time on the STARZ app or at STARZ.com