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There’s no shortage of drama or conflict on “Outlander.” Two characters of the series who know that all too well are Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin).

After a tumultuous fifth season that included traumatic assaults, a kidnapping, a near-death experience by hanging, and the low rumblings of the American Revolution, one would hope Bree and Roger could catch a break heading into Season 6.

It’s wishful thinking, perhaps. In previewing what’s to come this season, Skelton and Rankin both agree that Bree and Roger’s story may have found some calm — but that’s within the eye of a troubling storm.

Variety spoke with Skelton and Rankin to talk about Brianna and Roger’s goals now that they’ve settled to live in the past, how the two are processing past trauma, and what fans can expect for the short-but-sure to be lively sixth season.

How does it feel for the droughtlander to be over and seeing fans’ initial reactions to the premiere episode?

SOPHIE SKELTON: It’s funny. “Outlander,” we’re with it 365 days out of the year. If we’re not shooting, we’re reading other scripts, or we’re talking about it. So we feel guilty because we know “Outlander’s” been so long for the fandom, and we’re sympathetic of that. We’re excited for the fans to have it back. Now we can share it with them instead of just having it to ourselves.

Season 6 was filmed amid the pandemic, a feat that has caused challenges for numerous productions in film and television. What has been a positive takeaway from the experience?

SKELTON: We started when the pandemic was still in lockdown. We get up at like 3:30, 4 a.m in the morning to go to work. 6 a.m. you’re in your trailer. Before you can eat or drink anything, you’ve got a cotton swab up your nose and the back of your throat. It’s fun! Brianna’s just kind of leaking out of her nostrils this season. Just blame COVID.

I’m sure that was fun for Richard to deal with on set, a very snotty Bree?

SKELTON: Richard loves when I’m snotty.

RICHARD RANKIN: Love a Snotty Bree!

SKELTON: But look, we felt just so grateful to get to be able to work in the middle of the pandemic. I’m kind of in awe of how Starz handled it, because so many films around us were shutting down, left, right and center. The fact that we got through nine months of shooting without shutting down was pretty impressive. It obviously had challenges. The set looks very different, and the way that things were running were very different. But we enjoyed it. The fact that we were allowed out of the house and we could be with our work family was something that we’ll never take for granted.

RANKIN: So many people weren’t in the position of being able to go back to work. There were so many people that actually had that taken away from them. Things were canceled. Things ended up being stopped halfway through filming or didn’t return when they were supposed to — I suppose that was a bit of a fear of mine. I always knew that it was unlikely, but I’d always have that worry during lockdown that we might not return, and we might not have the opportunity to do so. The fact that we did was amazing; we were lucky in that regard. I think that the good thing to take away from it is there’s a certain strength that we get from that. It was tough at first filming through the pandemic with masks and the constant testing. As Sophie said, having a PCR test shoved up your noses first thing in the morning and you haven’t had your coffee yet — I think it brought us closer, even in spite of the distance.

How did the pandemic alter this season’s storyline?

SKELTON: Obviously, we couldn’t have big scenes — “Outlander” often has huge crowd scenes and we had to cut that down. The silver lining of it was that I feel this season we really got some lovely intimate scenes with main characters that you wouldn’t necessarily see together. I mean for example there is a lovely scene with Brianna and Ian. Brianna and Roger, too. You get so much family time this season. I think that it just creates a lovely dynamic in the show, which we maybe haven’t always had the time to fit in before in the episodes. I think it created, especially for Bree and Roger, this really lighthearted, lovely, warm feel in the McKenzie family.

Safe to say a lot went down in Season 5. Moving into Season 6, they’re making their home in the past — as it seems that is where the stones want them to be. What can you share about each of their goals now that they effectively are living in an America on the cusp of the Revolution and how they could use their modern knowledge to help Fraser’s Ridge?

SKELTON: I think initially their goals were to just survive, to be honest. I feel their goals were to make life easier for people around them on the Ridge, try and bring modern things to make life a little smoother in terms of how things are run. They’re young parents. Like you said, now that the stones have put them here, they’re just putting those roots down properly. Just make the best of the situation. Make the safest and most convenient place for Jemmy [their son] as well. Their goal before was maybe to try to change the future and protect people. I think that they’ve now learned the hard way that’s not always feasible. Obviously, a throughline this season is the pending American Revolution. The question that is always in “Outlander” is if you can change history, can you and should you? I think their priorities have now shifted, in that of course they want to protect the masses, but at the same time, their priority is their child. So this season, for Roger and Bree it’s more about this family dynamic and doing everything to protect the people they love.

RANKIN: I think they’re actually very well equipped to succeed in the 18th century as a family. They’re very clever, very intelligent. I think now that they’ve anchored themselves in the 18th century and made the commitment, I think we can see the potential of them as a couple. They are a bit of a power couple, because they’re armed with the engineering skills of Bree and Roger is an intelligent, educated man. They’re armed with that knowledge and that skill to succeed, and they can now apply that to make life a better place on the Ridge.

Richard, could Roger help bridge a gap between the Ridge and Tom Christies’ group by reconnecting with faith and preaching?

RANKIN: Yeah, he does. He has that knowledge of where the history of Protestants and Catholics goes. It’s been a subject of contention for even a couple of hundred years before that. I think it’s one of the motives that pushes Roger into that direction of faith. I mean faith is one of the overarching themes this year. It is about bridging that gap but he can also see how staunch Tom Christie is and how he delivers that a little bit on the heavy side. I think Roger thinks if he steps in, he can bridge that gap between the Frasers and the Christies because they’re a Catholic family and Roger himself was a Protestant. But also… there is that void on the Ridge. I think Roger feels he can do some real good and help out in the community even though he wasn’t necessarily going down that road of being a minister. He sees a role that he can step into given his background and given that his father was a minister.

The show does so well with respecting the experience of how people go through traumatic events. In the premiere, we saw a heartfelt exchange between Claire and Brianna regarding Claire’s sexual assault last season. Bree tells her mom she’s happy she didn’t lose her heart, and also that she used to say she was “fine” too. Sophie, what can you share of how Bree may try to help Claire work through her trauma this season?

SKELTON: It’s one of my favorite scenes because it’s very simple, but it’s very impactful. I think one thing that Caitriona and I have always ensured with the show is that, look, if we’re gonna show a lot of sexual abuse, then there needs to be a reason for it. So by that, what I mean is educate people in different ways.

In Season 4 with Brianna’s rape scene, I wanted to get rid of stigma. A lot of people will say, “Oh, I’d fight back.” In the book, it’s mainly about Brianna not having the physical strength to fight back. I wanted to shake that. We’ve seen that before, and I wanted to educate and show people that actually there are responses that happen when people go through something. For example, I researched and found out about something called tonic immobility, which is an involuntary response that your body has whereby it goes completely numb when you’re in an intense state of stress. So you don’t feel anything. It’s like when an animal plays dead, essentially. So what happens, people who experience rape in that way, they don’t actually feel it as it’s happening. So you see, Brianna’s eyes kind of glaze over and you can see that she’s not in the room. It’s only when it’s over that I really played all of her senses. That was a really important thing that I wanted to show.

Then, we ensure that Claire’s experience was very different as the rape happened. We wanted to show that people deal with trauma differently too and people heal differently and there’s no right or wrong way. There’s no timeline. I think that that’s really helpful for victims. Hopefully, they can live then through the characters and also get to the end of that and find some catharsis through the characters. I think Brianna represents this. It’s not that the trauma’s gone, that never leaves you, but she’s living with it. She seems very together and she’s open to talking about it, but that was a long road for her.

I think what’s lovely about this season is that Brianna had kept it to herself because she didn’t want to put everybody else in danger. She knew they’d go after [Stephen] Bonnett and potentially die. I love that the difference is that Claire’s holding it in out of choice. It’s not about if she told people they’d be in danger. It’s just that’s how she’s dealing with it. I think it’s so important to show that everybody heals differently. Also that Brianna has been through the same thing as Claire, but not necessarily in the same way. I also think there’s always a big push for people to talk about things. Obviously, when you love somebody you want to help. You want them to talk to you so that you can help them. But it’s okay to just say look, I’m here if you need me, but you don’t have to talk. I think that that’s a really important message and just a beautiful moment between Claire and Bree where she says, “I used to say I was fine too.” She’s basically saying, I know you’re lying to me, mom, but that’s okay, and I’m here whenever you want.

Absolutely. What’s interesting also is that we’re seeing almost a role reversal with Bree mothering Claire a bit.

SKELTON: You know, she is Claire now. She has a child, and she just gets it. I think there’s often been this twist in dynamic, even in Season 3, when Brianna gave Claire the go-ahead to go back to the stones to see Jamie. I think she’s turning into a young woman. She and Claire are very similar, and often with mother and daughter, that’s why they clash. But now, it’s why Claire and Bree bond. I think it’s such a beautiful thing to show that mother-daughter growth.

Both of your characters went through horrible experiences in prior seasons. Roger nearly died from being hanged, and lost his voice for a time. Bree finally saw an end to Stephen Bonnet, by her own hands. What did each of you find important in preparing for this season in terms of expressing this growth, this ongoing healing process for your characters?

SKELTON: Brianna’s always been a very stoic person. She doesn’t let her emotions show that much. It’s an internal struggle that she’s always had. So I think that we saw that then we saw her outwardly grieving in ways and outwardly suffering with her trauma. I always played her very jumpy. It’s why when she loses Jemmy in Season 5, anytime she turned a corner, anytime there was a nose, it was like “Oh my God, it must be Bonnet.” Now, just having that closure that he’s now gone, she can just rest easier and just sleep a little better at night. I wanted to show that trauma doesn’t just go, it’s definitely in there. But I don’t think it’s bubbling in there and hurting her inside as much as it used to. I think she feels safer internally and externally, which is a really different dynamic and a different side of Bree this season.

RANKIN: I think certainly with Roger, coming to terms with himself and accepting that they are each changed people through their experiences and through their traumas. That was a big element for Roger last season. He’s been fundamentally changed through his experiences, especially through the hanging and the PTSD that came with that and overcoming the trauma of that. I think he’s accepted that he’s not going to find the person that he was and that’s OK. He’s changed, and he has more of a hardened shell now. I think what’s interesting to watch is we see these characters carry these experiences, these parts of the narrative through the story with them. You see that sort of evolution. It’s very easy to leave these things behind in television when it’s not directly referenced. I think it’s just important to make sure that you understand what these characters have been through and remember to carry those with you and how does that affect your character, whether it just be a steeliness to them, whether it be physically something different or it’s in the eyes. I think that’s just much more interesting for the audience, to see these characters and how these things have been brought along on their journey.

How would you describe what we’re about to see in Season 6?

SKELTON: It’s fresh, a completely different dynamic. We’ve got so many new faces and as ever when somebody new comes into “Outlander,” it usually means that some feathers are going to be ruffled and some drama is going to kick off. I think [Season 6] turns what “Outlander” has been completely on its head. I think Brianna and Roger are completely different people this season. I think their relationship almost splits with Jamie and Claire’s relationship. It’s really fast-paced. I know it’s short, but I think the fans are going to hopefully forgive us for the long droughtlander. It’s definitely worth the wait.

This interview has been edited and condensed.