Gillebrìde MacMillan didn’t even know what Outlander was when his friend shared a Facebook post with him which said the show was looking for Gaelic singers. 

The show, based on the hugely successful book series written by Diana Gabaldon, is set to have its seventh season air later this year. 

Little did MacMillan know that it was an audition which would change his life. 

“I had just released an album when my friend sent me that advert and I thought I’d see what was happening”, he told The National. 

“I did a screen test in Edinburgh which was sent to the US and then I got the job. I didn’t really know the scale of what I was involved in till I got there and they had built a castle inside the studio.”

MacMillan, originally from South Uist, would go onto play Gwyllyn the Bard in the show’s first season. 

Since then, much of his career has been dominated by his role in the show which is known for its dedicated fanbase. 

MacMillan said: “So many fan groups have wanted me to sing for them and recreate the scenes from Castle Leoch by singing for their holiday groups.

“As a result of Outlander, I’ve been singing in Germany, Canada and the US so that just kind of kept it going.”

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His role on the show continues today with MacMillan serving as the Gaelic coach on the upcoming season. 

“The previous Gaelic consultant (Àdhamh Ó Broin) had left and so they wanted somebody for season seven.

“That led to working with the cast, teaching them a bit of Gaelic and also writing a song for the new series.”

Having been in at the start of the show, then taking a break to get involved with the fan community, and returning at the height of its popularity, MacMillan admits it’s been quite a journey. 

He added: “Nobody could have envisaged what has become of Outlander and really what a phenomenon it is.

“For me, it’s been amazing working on the show which gives you the recognition and then working behind the scenes and seeing so many places in Scotland I would never have known about. 

“I’ve visited so many castles, villages and towns I didn’t know about to my shame.” 

"They do something meaningful"

Something which impresses MacMillan is Outlander’s commitment to a portrayal of Scotland which is as authentic as possible rather than opt for something more stereotypical.

Rather than just fulfilling a “Gaelic quota”, there is an effort to make the language as much a part of the story as possible. 

He explained: “It could be so easy for them just to put one word in every second sentence and fill a Gaelic quota like that.

“But they actually do something meaningful and deeper by interweaving it into the episodes and the music.

The National: Gillebrìde MacMillan says Outlander's fans are one of the best things about the showGillebrìde MacMillan says Outlander's fans are one of the best things about the show (Image: Robin Mitchell)

“They want it to do really well and that shows. They want to invest in someone’s time to make sure they get it as right as possible.”

He adds that the cast played a role in this, with everybody wanting to make sure they had their pronunciation correct. 

“Sam [Heughan] was fantastic and John Bell [who plays “Young Ian” Murray] deserves a special mention for his commitment to making his pronunciation perfect. 

“All of them were really keen on making sure there was as much as possible in the show to make it as authentic as possible.”

Showcasing Gaelic on screen

MacMillan hopes that knowing roles like this exist will encourage children across Scotland to see Gaelic as an opportunity rather than as something “boring”.

It’s been able to form the backbone of his own career and hopes that it can do the same for others. 

He said: “It’s important for a minority language to be given a showcase on an international stage so people who are in school at the moment and don’t think it’s cool and wonder about jobs, they see there are opportunities. 

“People are interested in learning this. It’s a skill they have that sets them apart from other people when looking for a job.”

For MacMillan though, the fanbase is what makes the show as special as it is.

“It’s put me in touch with this network of incredible fans who are so supportive of the show but also to anybody with any connection to it. 

“I think that’s been the most gratifying thing, I’ve been able to meet people from all over the world. 

“They have a love of the show, a love of Scotland and a love of the Gaelic language as well.”