Lauren Lyle discusses Karen Pirie, Outlander, and more (Exclusive)

Karen Pirie -- Courtesy of BritBox
Karen Pirie -- Courtesy of BritBox /

Lauren Lyle is best known to Outlander fans as Marsali McKimmie Fraser. She’s taking on a completely different persona in Karen Pirie.

The new Karen Pirie series is now available to stream on BritBox. It’s a great story about a young female police officer who is eager to prove her worth. When she’s put on a task force to investigate a 25-year-old cold case—and as the lead, at that—she delves in to figure out what happened all those years ago.

She’s not willing to leave any stone unturned. That includes clues laid out in a podcast and the potential ability to use an ancestry website that could help her locate an adopted baby 25+ years later.

We spoke with Lauren Lyle about the new series as well as about Marsali in Outlander. She’s also got a new project coming up, so we talked a little about that, too. Take a look inside our exclusive interview with the star.

Lauren Lyle talks Karen Pirie

We started the interview with a look at Karen Pirie. Who is the character and what does she stand for?

Claire and Jamie: Can you just describe Karen? Who is she and what drives her?

Lauren Lyle: Yes. So Karen is a sort of determined young female detective right at the beginning of her career. Quite often in this genre of shows, you see the sort of depressed, alcoholic, middle-aged person, who’s trying to get their way through all of that, and on top of it, solve a case and it’s a bit depressing.

Karen’s very much a fresh face She’s really determined, she’s excited, and she’s at the beginning of her career. And she is ready to do it. She’s funny and isn’t trying to be funny; she doesn’t know that she’s funny at all. She’s just very sarcastic, and absolutely direct as a human being, and highlighting all the sort of ridiculous nature of some of the very, I guess, masculine, pompous nature of the police sometimes, and that she just finds all of it stupid and funny. Sort of like when the men stand up as she walks into a room, she just laughs at them. And I loved all that sort of nature of things, and that she really is there to do the work and solve the case.

And she’s got a sex life. And she’s, I guess, a young person just trying to make it through life. At the same time, she is just naturally very good at a job and is determined to do it.

C&J: You say sarcastic. There’s a line where it’s like, ‘oh, so you’ll remember this case? I was three.’

LL: Yeah. And ‘we really need to get a move on with this.’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, it’ll be 26 years soon.’ She just finds them all of it hilarious, which I loved. It was such a joy to play that sort of thing. And to be able to sort of handle really dark subject matter as well. And a case that really means something and that really speaks on something and says a meaningful message, as well as being able to have levity was very cool.

Karen Pirie
Karen Pirie — Courtesy of BritBox /

C&J: I know there was a lot of preparation for this role, and I heard that when you were in St. Andrews filming in the cemetery there was this female officer who was Karen Perrie. Can you share what happened? How you used that?

LL: So well, we had advisors anyway. So we had people advising the writers on the script and things, so we were very accurate in terms of how Karen would interrogate. It was very accurate, that actually a woman of her age or a detective of her age would be the ones to do the interrogations and interviews because so often you see the sort of quite high-up detectives doing it in shows and that’s actually not that realistic. They wouldn’t have someone so qualified to do it. They would take they would give it to the younger detectives.

But there was one night. It was like my first week on set and I wasn’t even filming that night. I just got down to the cathedral because it was these spooky Gothic grounds. That cathedral’s almost 1000 years old. So because of that, we had police guards, sort of onset guarding the area. As I was walking, I saw this young woman, my height, blonde, my sort of build, and in full uniform, and I was like, I need to talk to you. I went over to her and I was like, ‘Hello. Are you with us?’ And she was. And I was like, ‘So what’s it like being a police officer looking like you do being the height that you are.’ And it was really helpful.

She spoke a lot about how it felt like she was wearing armor and that it really was a persona that she puts on when she puts a uniform on and that was very helpful for me with Karen and the clothes that Karen chooses to wear are her armor.

C&J: Were you familiar with the books at all before getting the role? Did you read them afterward? What was that process like to develop this character?

LL: I read the book when I knew I was auditioning for the part. And I really immersed myself and I guess, watched as much detective stuff as possible. I watched all the series that you could do. I read the book, I read the scripts a million times; I had this whole wall n my apartment that was the case so that when we were filming out of order, I knew who she trusted who she didn’t trust, who she was interrogating, who was dead, who was not dead, who she knew was a suspect and who she trusted?

Outlander Season 6
Outlander Season 5 — Courtesy of Aimee Spinks, STARZ /

Lauren Lyle talked about Marsali in Outlander

We then moved on to discuss Marsali in Outlander. While Lauren couldn’t tell us if we’ll see the character in Season 7 at all, she did discuss the development for the character and adapting some of the stories from the book and changing elements.

C&J: We’ve seen Marsali go from this relatively naive young girl into this fierce mother, wife, and sole provider for her family at one point. What was that development like for you?

LL: I think it was probably one of the best developments of one of the characters in the show. When I first got cast and the first episodes came out, I got a lot of messages being like, ‘Oh my God, if she was my daughter I would punch her in the face’, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, don’t punch your daughter in the face!’ But she was such a nightmare and in a really fun way. I love playing someone that people sort of love to hate a little bit and being the daughter of the Spawn of Satan—Laoghaire, who’s a misunderstood character—it’s quite fun to play someone that’s maybe a bit evil and a bit of a nightmare.

But then develop into having such a great relationship and really becoming an adult and a mother and learning all these skills and butchering animals. I love that we’ve never lost her bite, that when it comes to things like butchering animals and killing Lionel in Season 5; I loved that we got to keep all that.

She’s also found her sort of maturity and that she’s grown up and really found her place on the Ridge. I don’t think half of them could survive without her.

C&J: I know a lot of the book fans are just like, ‘No, no, you can’t change the source material.’ There has been n change for Marsali from the books. She’s become Claire’s apprentice for a while and she killed Lionel. What were those conversations like going into these changes? I hope you didn’t get too much hate personally!

LL: We don’t worry so much about the hate, because it’s a TV adaptation. It’s much like Karen Pirie. There’s a version of canon people who have read the books have in their heads, and you might not be that, and you have to be prepared for that. With Marsali it was the same thing that as a character, I might not have been what people imagined. Luckily, it seems to be resoundingly fairly positive that I was, but I don’t worry so much about the hate.

When I got this stuff about the killing, I was like, yes, that’s really exciting. [Outlander showrunner] Matt Roberts did come to me about the sort of abuse that Marsali and Fergus suffer together and asked if I would be okay with that. I was really into it all.

To make things exciting and dynamic for TV, things have to change slightly. And it is the television adaptation, it’s not the books, so lots can change. I’m also so grateful that it has because Marsali was just never meant to be such a big character, and I think because of the fans’ love for her and their support, the writers do listen and it was such a wonderful response that they did write her up and I got a lot more because of it. So I’m thrilled. I’ll just ignore anyone that hates it to be honest. Sorry.

What’s the new project, Lauren Lyle?

Sasnak City attendees were disappointed lately to learn that Lauren Lyle would no longer be able to attend the 2022 Gathering. This is all due to a new project, and we did get a chance to talk a little about that.

LL: I’m doing a survival thriller. It’s in the Dominican Republic, a new film by StudioCanal, and I play a mad woman who’s getting married. And I’m like an absolute Bridezilla. She’s got ginger hair, and she’s very glam. She sort of falls from grace massively, and by the end of the film, the whole thing goes into a big survival thriller. So it’s brilliant.

This interview has been condensed for clarity purposes.

Next. Karen Pirie review. dark

We wish Lauren all the best with new projects, and we’re looking forward to hearing about a renewal for Karen Pirie. Lauren Lyle really is a star to look out for.

Karen Pirie is now available to stream on BritBox and Outlander is available to stream on STARZ.