Joey Phillips: ‘Caitriona Balfe Is The Best Woman In Every Sense’ – Interview

By Olivia Emily

11 months ago

Season seven of Outlander arrives on 17 June

Joining award-winning cult series Outlander for its seventh, and penultimate, season is Joey Phillips, a seasoned theatrical actor you might have caught in the likes of Gods and Monsters at Southwark Playhouse, A View from the Bridge at Gate Theatre, and Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Rose Theatre. We sat down with Joey to find out what it’s like joining such an established series, and what filming Outlander was like.

Interview: Joey Phillips On Joining Outlander For Season Seven

Joey Phillips

Photographer: Joseph Sinclair. Stylist: Annabel Lucey. Grooming: Paul Donovan.

Hi Joey, how’s life going at the moment?

It’s going well, thank you. It’s an exciting time at the moment.

You’re about to star in the seventh season of Outlander – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

Time travel, Scots, drama, love, sex and war!

You play Denzell Hunter – can you describe him?

He is a devout Quaker and a brilliant surgeon. He’s an inherently good person, kind, loyal, and very protective of his sister Rachel. He’s a voracious learner and relishes the opportunity to better his skills as a surgeon by learning from Claire and very much regards her as a mentor and friend.

What can viewers expect from the new season and your character?

They can expect war, epic battle scenes, struggle, sacrifice, pain and loss, but love is always at the heart of it. And, from my character Denzell, they can expect just an intrinsically kind, protective, decent man.

How does it feel to be joining such a huge show?

It feels amazing. Slightly daunting, but I’m in amazing company and feel very lucky to be a part of the family.

The costumes and settings are so amazing – what was filming like?

It was so much fun. The entire cast and crew were such a dream to work with – it definitely felt like we were making something special.

How did you get into character?

It definitely helped me to have Diana Gabaldon’s books to refer back to, to get a deeper sense of who Denzellis is and how he sees the world. I also find music helpful, depending on the scene. I would often play a piece of music in my trailer before shooting.

How did you prepare for the role?

I just tried to do as much research as I could. I watched season one and six of Outlander to get a feel for the show and the characters, and then I read the books from when my character Denzell enters. Researching the Quaker faith and American history of that time period was also really helpful to create a world for yourself before stepping onto set.

Any funny stories from rehearsals or filming?

I had to learn how to drive a horse and cart, which was a lot of fun. But I’d been learning in a practice cart with a foot break and the brilliant trainer next to me. When we got to shoot the actual scene, it was a different cart, no break and no trainer – just me and poor Izzy who plays my sister. We were riding on quite a narrow track with Charles on horseback next to us. Let’s just say, the first take didn’t quite go to plan. I thought I was going to kill us all! But I got the hang of it after a couple more!

Joey Phillips

Photographer: Joseph Sinclair. Stylist: Annabel Lucey. Grooming: Paul Donovan.

You’ve previously starred in many plays, including Billy Elliot, Gods and Monsters, Romeo and Juliet… What was it like switching from stage to screen?

Growing up, I did both stage and screen, and I always thought of it as just acting. But as you get older and gain more experience, you learn they’re two very different disciplines. I think every job is a chance to learn more and grow as an actor. I think you should never feel like there isn’t more to learn.

What was your favourite play to star in?

Oh, that’s a hard question. I’d probably have to say A View From The Bridge. I played Rodolpho. I love Arthur Miller and I got to work with such wonderful people on that job.

Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?

Another very hard question. I’ve been very lucky and have always loved the actors I have worked with (for the most part). But I think I’d have to say either Juliet Stevenson or Timothy Spall. They are masters of their craft and were both so gracious and kind to me. I loved every second of working with them.

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

That would have to be Caitriona Balfe. She is just the best woman in every sense. Firstly, she’s an incredible actor and scene partner, but she is also so kind and connected to every person on set. She takes the role of being number one on the cast list very seriously and makes sure everyone is being looked after and feels secure and seen. I’ve said this before but, in the show, Claire is a mentor to Denny, and I feel like that relationship translated into real life for me.

What’s your dream role?

That is almost an impossible question. I don’t know if there’s necessarily one dream role. I just want to do as much good and varied work as possible, work with great people and push myself as an actor.

What’s something you’d like to do more of?

My ideal is to be able to always do a mixture of stage and screen work – projects and characters that are totally different to the previous one.

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

Haha, not at the moment, but I’ll keep you posted.

Do you get to spend much time at home?

I’m very close with my family and I love my family home. Even though I’ve lived in London for about 12 years now, I still very much see the North as home. I try to get back as much as I can. I miss it when I’m away.

Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?

So I’m based in London, but my home-home is a lovely little seaside town called Lytham. I see that as the country and I spend a lot of time outdoors when I’m there, either walking and hiking in the Lake District or just along Lytham green and the beach. I love London, but I’m a country boy at heart. I feel happiest and most at peace in the country.

Joey Phillips

Photographer: Joseph Sinclair. Stylist: Annabel Lucey. Grooming: Paul Donovan.

How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?

I think FaceTime and WhatsApp are brilliant for keeping in touch with friends and family when you’re away. The older you get, the busier everyone seems to become. I think it’s so important to plan things with your friends, like a dinner or drinks. It’s food for the soul to laugh with people you love.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An actor – that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be from being four years old. I think my mum would have liked me to be a doctor. I play one on Outlander, though, so I guess technically I am one now!

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be? 

Just keep going, enjoy every moment, listen, learn, ask questions. Also, work hard and don’t think you can get away with blagging everything.

How can we all live a little bit better?

Be kinder to each other.

Quick Fire

I’m tuning into… Succession 

What I’m reading… Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban

The last thing I watched was… The Whale

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… Oppenheimer

Favourite film of all time… Singing in the Rain or Walk the Line

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Maggie Rogers 

My ultimate cultural recommendation… The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante 

Cultural guilty pleasure… Musicals

What’s next for me is… We’ve got the Outlander premiere in New York at the Tribeca Film Festival in a couple of weeks, so I’m very excited for that!

Season seven of Outlander arrives on Starz on 17 June 2023.