Why Playing Stephen Bonnet On 'Outlander' Is An Extreme Role Reversal For Ed Speleers


Outlander Season 4 is set to premiere Sunday, Nov. 4, and Jamie and Claire will be back and more in love than ever (if that's even possible). But like every season so far, forces will be conspiring to keep the couple apart and throw them into danger. One of those such forces is a villain more fearsome than any we've seen on the show: a terrifying pirate turned smuggler named Stephen Bonet, played by Ed Speleers.

The man behind this new Big Bad should be fairly recognizable to viewers. No stranger to the small screen or to period pieces, Speleers previously appeared in BBC dramas Wolf Hall and Downtown Abbey, and has also graced the big screen in Breathe and Alice Through the Looking Glass. But fans of the children's fantasy book series Eragon might best remember Speleers from the movie adaptation of the same name, in which he starred as the titular protagonist. It was his first role at the age of 17, and Speleers freely admits that it was difficult to jump right into such a challenging part. “It was a baptism by fire in some respects,” he told Interview Magazine in 2016. “I didn’t have a clue about how a camera worked. I didn’t know anything about that world.”

Even though landing such a high-profile role at such a young age was a major success for Speleers, he confessed to The Guardian that the fame went to his head. "I found the whole experience overwhelming. It’s a stupid cliché, but if I knew then what I know now, I’d have played things differently," he said. "I was already quite cocky and I was thrust into this world, running around, drinking too much. I lost my focus. I wasn’t getting parts, and the few I was being offered were drivel. I took jobs pulling pints and putting up marquees. I thought: ‘This one thing you wanted to do in life, you probably won’t do again.’”

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But Speleers has managed to make a comeback, and while he may have started out as a hero, his new part will inspire anything but admiration from viewers. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Outlander's cast and crew revealed that Bonnet will be an even more formidable foe than Black Jack Randall was in Seasons 1 and 2.

"It's hard to top Black Jack but we have with Bonnet," Sam Heughan (aka Jamie Fraser) shared. "Ed Speleers committed to this. People are going to hate him. He's so charming, so you kind of like him, but you find out later down the line that he does some really terrible things. He's a great new villain." Executive producer Maril Davis added in the same interview: "[Speleers is] such a nice guy in real life but this is really dark. He's such a great baddie with charm yet danger and he's adorable."

So, Speleers might not exactly win over the hearts of Outlander fans — far from it, it sounds. But one thing's for sure: you won't forget about him.