One of the highlights of the Winter Press Tour (TCAs – television critics’ association) was the anticipated “Outlander” on Starz for this summer.
The drama is based in the 18th century Scottish Highlands with British Army nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe).
New Series Trailer for STARZ’ “Outlander” (Length 1:15)
Showrunner Ron Moore brings this epic tale from Glasgow, Scotland that defies genres. It’s full of romance. It’s got time travel, history and it’s got a lot of adventure, but it’s also got a lot of emotional heart.
The “Outlander” panel included Ronald D. Moore executive producer; Diana Gabaldon who is the author and creator of these characters; Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser; and Caitriona Balfe who plays Claire Randall.
Moore introduced the story, “Well, it’s a big story. We’re shooting it on location in Scotland, and probably the best way to show you some of the show is to show you some of the show. So we have a piece that we put together. It’s sort of a sizzle reel, not really laying out the detail, but I think it gives you a sense of the location, the texture, and sort of the tone that we’re going for.”
Regarding the medium of TV versus literature, Ms. Gabaldon said, “Television is a different medium and to do a literal page by page translation of the screening would just not be a very good T.V. show. But Ron and his partner Meryl came out to talk to me at my home in Scottsdale and spent an entire weekend with me talking through the story lines and the characters, the backstory, what I knew that wasn’t in the books, asked me for any material or outtakes I had and shared with me their ideas on adaptation. Just as a brief example, Ron said, ‘Obviously, Claire is the focus of this entire story. It all rests on this character. We need to appreciate who she is immediately.’”
She added, “The book starts rather slowly, and you can do that in a book because the prose will draw people in, but we need to see Claire in her element. ‘So what I would like to do,”’ he said, ‘is start with maybe a two minute prologue set in World War II where we see Claire in a World War II field military hospital doing what she does, blood spurting, sewing people back together, being the very competent and resilient person that she is,’ and I was going, Yeah, yeah, sounds great.”
Mr. Moore reiterated he was not reinventing this material but adapting it. Mr. Moore said, ” There is a dedicated base of fans who love these books who have read them for many years, and it’s the favorite book to a lot of people, that book that sits on their shelf that’s dog eared and they’ve read it many, many times, and I take that obligation seriously. I want to give them their story, but I do have to translate it into a different medium because there are differences of being a reader and being a member of an audience. So in writer’s room, we always start with the book. We put the book up on the board first. What’s the book version of events, what are the scenes, and then we kind of go from there. Okay. Well, that doesn’t quite play here in the hour format. How do we bridge that? Maybe we change or maybe we add some things that could have happened but aren’t mentioned there. Maybe we have to change something, but we always take pains to get back to where the book takes us because that’s sort of our job.”
Actor Sam Heughan noted the wardrobe for this series was different. “Yes, the kilt as you can see is a big bit of material. These are obviously modern kilts, but in the show we use the feileadh mhor (philamore) which is the traditional kilt. It’s a long bit of cloth. I can’t remember the actual size of the traditional ones, but our are about seven, eight foot long, and they are basically used as a tool. The Highlanders would use them to obviously wear to keep themselves warm. You could use is it as a sleeping bag. You could use it as camouflage to blend into the background. They had sort of a variety of uses. They also had lots of pockets and you could wear them in different ways. So, yeah, it took a long time to get used to it, but it’s a real joy to work with it, and you can find various uses. I mean, we even discovered you can use it as a shield you can wrap around your arm. Ron could probably tell you more, but Terry really sourced all the materials as well. She went back to the beginnings. All the colors you see are taken from the environment, so natural herbs or berries.”
Mr. Moore shared more details on the garments for the production. ” Terry is our costume designer. She also happens to be my wife and she like this is the Kinsey Tartan that we use in the show which is also Sam’s kilt, but she went back and basically did research to discover that what we think of as tartans and kilts in the contemporary sense was really a reinvention that happened in the 19th century. There was this romantic period where people were looking back and reinventing the idea of what kilts were, but our show is set in the 18th Century, and actually in those days, these are closer to the colors that they actually used because they didn’t have access to the bright dyes of reds and pinks, and also if you’re wearing red and pink in the forest you tend to stand out, so this is sort of closer to what they actually used. We actually had these patterns made. We had them specifically for the show, and we’ve tried to sort of you know, that just sort of gives you an idea basically that we approached the series with an eye towards authenticity, towards being real for what really happened in the 18th Century and for delivering a real world and not really reinventing it for modern sensibility.”
For the actors, they spoke of the mind altering dream becoming part of this fandom and the fan reaction to their casting.
Caitriona Balfe said, “Well, first of all, it’s been really exciting. I mean, the fans have been incredibly supportive and really welcoming. I don’t think I was aware of the magnitude of the fans and how enthusiastic they were, but yeah, it’s like a dream role. It’s a dream job. So it’s been only good so far, and I think it will continue to be and I don’t I think there’s nothing that really changes you. It’s just you are finally getting to do the thing that you’ve always wanted to do and love to do, so just happier maybe.”
Mr. Heughan said, ” It feels like we’re at the start of a real rewarding journey as well. I mean, Diana has wonderful books. There’s a whole wealth of background and information and stories and adventures there, and it really feels like we were just talking about this earlier. We’ve filmed, you know, four episodes so far, and we feel we’re right on the edge of this roller coaster, and it’s just been a thrill to be part of it.”
Ms. Balfe added, “I think there’s a responsibility to do the best job that you can do, but that’s with every job. I think it’s just really nice to know that you have this built in audience who really wants you to do well and they are really supportive, and in that sense, I don’t think of it as a pressure. I think of it kind of as an added bonus. I mean, so often you just start from scratch trying to get your audience in and get attention, and we’re so lucky that we have this already built-in.”
Ms. Gabaldon offered her perspective. “Speaking as the writer, I often get asked, ‘Do you feel an obligation to do what your fans want?’ And the answer is absolutely not. I am creating this and would hope that they like it, but my obligation is to the book and the book alone. It’s going to be the best I can make it, and if people like it then I’m happy, but I’m never going to write something just because I think someone else would like it.”