The Outlander Bit Player Who Stole Our Hearts

Written by: Denise Stewart




While everyone is OOOHING  and AHHING over the expanded television roles for so many of the minor characters in the books--Rupert, Angus, Ned--I am in awe with bit character Willie. OK, maybe, just maybe,  I even have a little crush on him. Why not? He’s attractive as, Highlanders go-his clothes aren’t all disheveled and his hygiene seems relatively in check.  He’s kind and thoughtful-I mean really, he’ll even go fifty yards and downwind if needed. And he is loyal-he’ll stand up for friends in the most harrowing situations. But who IS Willie?

Read more after the jump . . .



Willie, in the credits for the show, is listed as “Willie” no last name, no clan, nada. We can assume that he is someone who belongs with the Clan Mackenzie. After all, we first see him in “Rent” with the other Highlanders collecting the rents for the Laird Mackenzie. And Ned lets us know that he is new to the road, explaining that there is some hazing going on, translating that they are teasing Willie about having “sexual relations with his sister.” Who else would he belong to?  But that’s it...as far as the television show goes.  Now, you may be asking, “Why in the world did they even bother with this character in the show?” Truly most of what he accomplishes could have been carried out by any of the other Highlanders. But the truth lies in the fact that he WASN’T supposed to be a recurring character!  Show writer and executive producer, Ira Steven Behr--who describes Willie as “a young, very religious kid”--said that Willie is another character who really didn’t exist, and one they almost didn’t use. He says in an interview with Outlander Cast, “that it was only when they had hired the actor, Finn den Hertog, that we realized this was a character who we could get to use and be a whole other texture of the show.” I think to figure out who Willie is, we need to look into the books a little more.

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There are different “Willie” references throughout the first and second books.  In the novel, Outlander, when the rent party returns to Castle Leoch, Mrs. Fitz greets them and it is Willie that she addresses with the line, “Willie, my dear. So good to see ye.” (in the show that is changed to Rupert). Then there is a Willie McMurtry named later in the book. It is believed that this Willie is also the one who is sent by Rupert to get Jamie some decent clothes to wear to the Oath Taking. Toward the end of the first book, McMurtry is one of only five of Dougal’s men who goes with Claire and Murtagh to rescue Jamie from Wentworth. OH!! So that MUST be him, right? Don’t go so fast!  Because, in Dragonfly In Amber there is a  Willie Coulter, or Willie Coulter MacKenzie.  This is who Diana Gabaldon, HERSELF, believes our beloved Willie to be. She had even said in an early interview, “If they take my advice, he is Willie Coulter. But we haven’t gotten that far into discussion on season 2.”  This Willie is a comrade of Dougal during the Uprising and is the first to appear at the Kirk during the Battle of Falkirk Muir.  He is also known to witness a HUGE event that happens at Culloden House, but we will keep this semi-spoiler free! Even into the third book there is yet another Willie, Willie McLeod.  I’m betting that our Willie is going to be a conglomeration of all of these small characters combined.  


So, knowing all the facts for Willie, why do I love him so? Let’s me explain... Willie is, as I said earlier, attractive, as Highlanders go.  His hair is well kempt. Well, he isn’t exactly a GQ model, but compared to Rupert, he manages OK.  He has all of his teeth…(Angus!)  And Willie is a little more modern. He is seen mostly wearing trews.  It is said that men who wore pants were wealthy. But my guess is that Willie’s trews, being made from a tartan plaid, were more of a repurpose of material. Still, trousers were being worn by men throughout England and the rest of the world, so we’ll just say he’s worldly!


Willie is kind and innocent.   Now he doesn’t have a lot of dialogue that would lead us to know this exactly, but his demeanor is that of one who cares. He is not crude and belligerent like the other Highlanders.  He is thoughtful of Claire when she is around. The production is sure to show him with sideways glances towards Claire at any given time, which then leads us to believe that he might even have a little crush on her.  This is most noted in the finale as he is saying goodbye.  He tells Claire he will miss her, and “they will never find another healer the likes of you.” He kindly extends his hand to shake hers and SHE embraces HIM.  As the rowboat pulls away, he is the last one standing on the shore longingly watching the boat row away.  What a most beautiful, sigh-worthy moment that was.


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Willie is LOYAL!  Of all other characteristics of this young man, loyalty is probably the most obvious. He is loyal to God--did you see/hear his scripture battle with the Priest in “The Wedding” episode? This young man remembers his catechism (as best as a young man does, ye ken?) and is willing to use his knowledge against a priest to help his fellow clansmen in securing a church for a proper wedding.  In “The Reckoning,” Willie is subjected to the harassment of the other clansmen because he has remained loyal to “The Mackenzie” and had told him of Dougal collecting for the Jacobite rebellion.  Then his biggest, and in my eyes, most loyal, move he makes is when Claire asks Dougal’s men for help in rescuing Jamie from Wentworth prison.  While all the other men call her crazy, basically, Willie stands tall and says,
“Jamie always looked after me, protected me...on the road, Leoch.
             And I ken if it was me about to go meet the hangman’s noose,
             he’d come for me. Try to set me free. Whatever you call for, Mistress
             Claire, my life is yours to command.”


Claire and Willie
WHOO HOO!!!! I think the first time I saw this, I looked like Mrs. Fitz with my fists pumped high in the air! And even as they sat on horseback looking at Wentworth looming ahead, the others looking uneasy, Willie appears to look nervous, but he also looks ready to go!  Without Willie stepping up to the challenge to go and rescue Jamie, the others would have never gone.  Oddly though, Willie is not part of the group that actually goes into Wentworth. We could speculate why--he’s young, he’s inexperienced--but he IS at the Abbey waiting for them to arrive.  Maybe they thought it best that Willie, being more of a religious intuit, should be the one to go ahead and secure a safe place for them to stay in the monastery.   


His love and admiration for both Jamie and Claire becomes even more evident when he speaks to Jamie on his sickbed in the final episode.  Willie tells Jamie he must eat for Mistress Claire’s sake if not his own.  He reminds Jamie how she loves him fiercely.  And then he refuses to give Jamie his blade when Jamie asks for it-something that Murtagh later confesses to Claire he would do if he felt it was necessary.  Willie tells Claire of this encounter which then throws her into her attempt, and ultimate success, to get Jamie back from his black misery.  GO WILLIE!!



Photo credit ibtimes.com
I don’t know how many of you have given much thought to Willie; who he is, where he came from, where he’s going, what’s his purpose? But I sure have! I love to see his boyish face with that sheepish grin on the screen.  I so look forward to seeing him again!  And I’m betting we will see a lot more of this endearing character not only in season two, but maybe even in a third season!



Do you love Willie as much as I? What do you think is his most endearing quality? Are there other characters that you would like to know more about?




26 comments

  1. Yay! I too have a mild Willie crush. Over Christmas I delved into the OL Companion 2 trying to find out more about him. I love his tenderness, loyalty, unwavering devotion to Jamie, and his smile. Not sure I agree as to "which Willie" he really is though. But I'm definitely a fan and truly appreciate your blog on him. P.S. I'm also intrigued by "the fair Letitia"

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    1. I'm thinking they are going to make him Willie for TV. There is also a Willie mentioned in Voyager. I'm hoping they keep him around for that, too(if/when we get a season 3)

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  2. I am so happy to finally see Willie get the kudos he deserves. I also found myself being drawn to his character as I watched the show for all of the reasons you so eloquently listed above. Willie is one of those guys you want in your fox hole. He will always do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. I also sincerely hope we see lots more of him in Outlander seasons to come!

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    1. It's so nice to see that others appreciate Willie as much as I! I was smitten with him from the beginning. Definitely want his loyalty on your team!

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  3. Well said Denise! I love Willy too for all the reasons you mentioned. I bet he makes it through Colloden & we see his angelic face again......

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    1. Oh My!! I can't agree with you more!! He definitely could help out in Voyager!

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  4. I always thought he was Willie Coulter, never gave it a second thought.

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    1. That's what Diana leans toward too. But would Willie Coulter have been new to the crew during "Rent?" I don't know. I do know he is a contemporary of Dougal. But that's why I'm thinking the writers might be meshing the different Willie's together. But truly just my opinion obviously. Thanks for your input!!

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  5. Willie Coulter MacKenzie,to me is kind,loyal,trustworthy&loving of God&mankind,I thing he has a little bit of Jamie in him.I would certainly love to have him in my family also,hope we get more of Willie later!

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  6. Willy caught my attention too. Somebody loves that young man, laid out money for the spiffy tartan suit, got him a spot with the War Chieftan, but you knew he should be interning with Colum or at least Ned. He pays attention, remembers and then he's ready, like deploying his mad bible skillz. He's gonna be a problem solver with his brain, not always a sword. Heartbreaking to think of leaving this character in a pit at Culloden.

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    1. I'm a bit of a cock-eyed optimist! Maybe he'll survive....somehow.

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  7. Willie is a keeper for all the reasons noted above. It seems to me that Jamie sends some of his clansmen back to Lallybroch before Culloden. Perhaps Willie will be one of them.

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    1. Now THAT would be a great idea!!

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    2. I agree tv Outlander Willie will be Willie Coulter. I do love this Willie's loyalty & bravery. But he is very, very naive to have left Claire alone.

      ***SPOILERS***For those who have read book 2 & think this is the same Willie, who witnesses something between Jamie, Claire & Dougal, KNOWS it changes everything for the naive young man. That Willie does survive the battle, but we learn he was transported & dies in the West Indies. The plantation overseer who purchased Willie's bond is informed of what Willie witnessed between Jamie & Dougal on Willie's death bed. When the former overseer meets Jamie & Claire after the battle during British surrender talks in NY, An Echo in the Bone (book 7) ch. 68 p 605, you realize Highlanders will strive for justice/revenge beyond the grave.

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    3. Joanna, thanks so much for all of the info! I am reading the series and have gotten as far as The Fiery Cross! Love how DG weaves characters in and out and in again!

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  8. Willie was one of my favorites this season. I felt so bad for him when he was standing alone watching the rowboat as it was going out to the Cristebel and had wished there had been a way for him to go with Jamie, Claire and Murtagh. He does seem to have a crush on Claire, but I also think he has a bit of hero worship for Jamie as well.

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    1. Couldn't agree with you more! I'm looking forward to what they have in store for him in S2.

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  9. I loved just about the whole ensemble cast but Willie became my favorite of the supporting actors when they went to rescue Jamie and even during Jamie's recovery. He showed more strength and wisdom, plus he was the sweet one of the clan.

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    1. For such a young lad, he sure does show wisdom and strength!

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  10. I really like Willie and have been hoping that he would have a part of Season 2 but if Finn was part of it, he played it close to the vest and never mentioned anything on Twitter. I'm hoping he was asked to stay silent to keep it a surprise. Hopefully Herself was able to put in a good word for him and they kept him on.

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    1. So true. He hasn't mentioned anything on Twitter. A girl can dream!

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  11. If you want your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you must watch this video
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    (VIDEO) Win your ex back with TEXT messages?

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