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‘Outlander’ a great fit for TV writer Anne Kenney

 

sam-heughan-anne-kenney-out-thumb-640x427-28882 Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser on “Outlander,” with writer Anne Kenney on location in Scotland. Courtesy of Anne Kenney.

“Outlander” writer Anne Kenney’s cozy home office on the Westside is a world away from the fan-intense Writers Bloc event (Inside the eye of the Outlander storm) where we first met last month. As part of the press tour for the show’s second season, Kenney joined her fellow writers and lead actors Caitriona Balfe, Tobias Menzies, and Sam Heughan for a panel to discuss the challenges of adapting for television Diana Gabaldon’s much loved and complex series of books about a World War II combat nurse who accidentally time travels back to 18th century Scotland. It was a rare on-stage appearance for the writers. The shows actors are usually the stars of such occasions, but on this night they seemed happy to let the writers have the spotlight. Members of the always passionate Outlander fandom filled the audience at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, many possibly realizing, for the first time, just how vital a role the writers play in bringing their favorite piece of literature to the small screen.

I visited Kenney a couple of weeks later to find out what life has been like for her since starting on the Starz show in 2013. “I’ve never done anything like this,” the veteran writer/producer said of working on a project with such a huge built-in fan base. “I went from having four Twitter followers — my family — to almost 10,000 and it’s all about “Outlander.” I usually don’t tweet about anything else.” Kenney still finds it strange when fans come up to her at events and want to have their picture taken or have her sign things. “But actually,” she says, “that’s been kind of fun and mostly people have been positive.”

Known for her work on “L.A. Law”, “The Big Easy”, “Greek, and “Switched at Birth,” Kenney had read (and loved) Gabaldon’s books and jumped at the chance to write for a show that combines so many genres. There is historical fiction, adventure, fantasy, romance, and refreshingly, a strong female lead character in Claire Randall (played by Balfe.) “This show is great for women. It’s from a woman’s point of view,” says Kenney. She earned high praise from critics and fans last season for writing episode 7, “The Wedding,” in which Claire is forced to marry the young, virginal Highlander Jamie Fraser (the show’s other lead character played by Heughan) in order to protect her from the British army. Much was written (see How Many Women Does It Take to Make the Perfect Sex Scene?) about the episode’s groundbreaking female-centric depiction of intimacy between lovers who start off the night as awkward near-strangers.

Originally from Oregon and Ohio, Kenney always knew she wanted to be a writer. After earning a journalism degree from Ohio University, she worked on small newspapers until classes in playwriting and television writing led to a move to Los Angeles in 1987. She met her husband, writer/producer Fred Golan, the same year. A voracious reader, particularly of historical fiction, Kenney enjoys the process of adaptation but acknowledges that Outlander can be problematic. While the first season was fairly straightforward, with Claire mostly trying to find her way back home to the 20th century, the second season, now well under way, was far more complicated to adapt. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t yet watched, but as Kenney says, “there was so much exposition, so much more explaining to do.” Things won’t get easier for the writers if the show continues on to season three. Gabaldon’s books are famous for their geographical reach and huge jumps in time.

The Outlander writers are based in Los Angeles (the writers’ room is in the Valley and Kenney crafts her scripts at home) but all are producers as well, which means periodic stints in Scotland to supervise production of episodes. The show is shot at a studio in Cumbernauld, just outside of Glasgow. The cast and crew also spend a huge amount of time on location. As a supervising producer “you’re there at the beginning and during prep when we’re deciding what the locations will be and what scenes stay or go for production reasons,” says Kenney. “We work with the actors and directors and there’s a give and take. Sometimes there’s something I’ve heard in my head and one of the actors will come up and say ‘this sounds really weird to me’. There’s a negotiation that goes on.”

For example, she points out that it’s “very interesting” working with Menzies, who plays a dual role: Claire’s twentieth century husband Frank and his 18th century ancestor, the villainous Black Jack Randall. “I think the assumption is that actors want more to say, rather than less,” she says. “I’ve found that’s generally not the case…especially with Tobias. He often feels he can tell the story more effectively with fewer words, and frequently he’s right.”

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Kenney was in Scotland for two months last fall, overseeing one of her own episodes for season two as well as one written by Gabaldon. It was the Outlander author’s first attempt at adapting her work into a script. Kenney says working with Gabaldon was “really fun…we had a good time. My experience was she really put her student hat on. She was there to see how it goes and she was such a trooper. It rains a lot and we were out in the cold and wet. She was fun and funny and didn’t complain once. Like all of us, she got notes and certain things would get re-written and she was very cool about all of it.”

Outlander production has been a boon to the economy in the areas where the show shoots, as Kenney saw one day on location with Gabaldon. “Diana and I were in a coffee shop in a place called Culross. We had our headsets around our necks…our names were on the back. After picking out some stuff, the guy followed us out, went up to Diana and said, ‘oh my god, are you Diana Gabaldon? You’ve brought us so much business..everything’s on the house for you.’ After that the joke was that we all should write her name on our headsets to get free food.”

In addition to dealing with inclement weather, Kenney has found some differences in the way Scottish sets are run. The typical working day is 10 hours (unless the crew agrees to go over) unlike the usual 12-14 hour day in the U.S. There is also a “right to walk” rule that allows the public to legally access any location where the crew is shooting. But so far “people have been very respectful and the actors have been extremely gracious with fans who show up and want to talk and have pictures taken,” Kenney says. She admits that one of her (and fellow writer Toni Graphia’s) biggest problems is understanding some of the Scottish accents. The desk clerk at their hotel was one of the toughest to decipher. “He could have said ‘there’s a serial killer on the third floor’ and we’d be like, great!”

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HOW THE TIME-TRAVELING WORLD OF ‘OUTLANDER’ IS CREATED

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by Julie Kosin, August 29, 2016

The show’s costume designer and production designer—who just so happen to be real-life best friends—open up about bringing the book series to life.

In Season 2 of Outlander, time-traveling heroine Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) journeys through the 18th century, from the French court of King Louis XV to the Scottish Highlands, to 1940s (and later, ’60s) Scotland. Sounds like a daunting task for any design department, right? Not when your production designer and costume designer have been best friends and collaborators for nearly 30 years. Instead, you get a veritable smorgasbord of lavish costumes and intricate sets that tell their own stories—as well as Emmy nominations aplenty. Here, HarpersBAZAAR.com chats with Jon Gary Steele, Outlander‘s production designer, and Terry Dresbach, the show’s costume designer (and wife of its showrunner, Ronald D. Moore) to discuss their collaboration, designing accurately through different time periods and dealing with fan reactions to one of the most popular shows on television:

Harper’s BAZAAR: How do your teams collaborate to create the feel of the show?

Terry Dresbach: Gary and I have been best friends for, I hate to say, almost 30 years. I know him better than maybe I know my own husband in some ways. Creatively he’s like my twin. We confer a bit—”What color is that wall” or “What color is that dress?”—but we’re always linked creatively.

Jon Gary Steele: We actually think alike. If we’re walking the streets we’ll both notice the same thing. We always show each other as many colors of what we’re doing in advance. In Paris especially, everything was discussed. We were going for deep, dark rich colors for the walls and things like that, so her costumes would pop off. The first year we couldn’t use red because Ron [Moore, Outlander showrunner] wanted the Redcoats to be only red. It’s all thought-out and talked about.

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HB: Are pieces of the sets echoed in the costumes?

TD: Always. Gary and I take vacations together and road trips. I make him chocolate cookies and he brings over a giant stack of design magazines. It doesn’t matter whether its fashion design or interiors, we’re both going, “Oh my God, look at that color.” I’ll open my email and be like, “You’ve got to see this image from Elle Décor ” or “I just saw this dress or this piece of jewelry,” so we’re always in sync. Those little pieces get echoed. I’ll walk on a set and go, “That looks like that jewelry piece you showed me last month.” Or he’ll go, “There’s that fabric color you were talking about.” It’s always threading through everything we do together.

JGS: I noticed there was a scene in Jamie and Claire’s bedroom and Claire was wearing some kind of metallic thing that was like a chain. It was a very old, ancient thing and it went from one part of her chest down to a little pocket, and Jamie has these buttons on the coat he was wearing. They’re sitting by the fireplace in this chair that had studs all up and down the sides. The fire was hitting the studs and his buttons and this piece of chain that she had on. We discussed it later; it was like it was all planned. We’re all trying to achieve the same magical thing and it does happen a lot.

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HB: Gary, is there ever a time you have to make sacrifices in authenticity for the sake of filming?

JGS: Most of the time Ron wants it to feel as real and authentic as possible. Especially Season 1. When we did the first year, we did tons of research on the stones. It was so much easier to build our own stones. I hear stories all the time from people who live in the area trying to find those standing stones. I’m like, “Well, keep looking.” I wanted to put the stones up in a grove on a hill. Everyone was getting annoyed with me, and the director, John Dahl, said, “Gary, we could put it down there in the middle of that field and make everyone’s life 1,000 times easier. You’re making this really difficult!” So we get back to the office and he says, “Why are you insistent that this be in a grove on a hill when it would be so much easier to film in a field?” And I said, “Because this is the magic of this show. When you read the book, this is the one place. You shouldn’t see it from miles away. You have to work your way up and see little glimpses of it. You should get chills on your arms when you see pieces of it coming through. It’s the only thing that’s really mystical and magical. And he said, “You got your way, get out of my office.” Everybody gets it when you need it to be magical. He came up to me after we filmed it, with the women dancing around with the torches, and he said, “You were right. It worked.”

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HB: What were the highlights of Season 2 for you both?

JGS: I’m a huge Francophile. It’s a dream to get to design 18th-century Paris sets because it’s one of the most decadent periods of time. It’s amazing for art, architecture, fashion, landscape architecture—everything. The best set to me was King Louis’s Star Chamber. Ron let me go a little over the top with it. The scripts just say it’s a mystical, magical space where the king leads Claire for this judgement thing. It was during a time of enlightenment, so people were interested in science and astrology and astronomy and witchcraft. We know from researchthe king dabbled in some of this. So we covered all the walls with 16th-century alchemy symbols and etchings that we found. I kept finding these amazing images of domes from ancient times throughout the world and a lot of them were pierced with little circles or stars that light would come through and land on the floor. When Claire walked through it, I wanted to have these little shafts of light cross her face and torso. I think the most response I got from anything was from that set. Even the actors were jumping up and down when they walked in, going, “Oh my God! This is fun!” And of course those crazy poisonous snakes. Usually I’m the one that asks for crazy stuff so when I heard there were going to be poisonous snakes I’m like, “Really? They’re gonna think I asked for this.”

Then we had the brothel, which was a hoot. I wanted to make the wall panels pierced so you could see the prostitutes taking men to the doors through the screens. It was supposed to be a very decadent place where Bonnie Prince Charlie would hang out. He’s royalty, he wouldn’t go to some sleazebag place. In our research, we found these underground clubs—I think one of them was in London, called the Hellcat Club—where men would do alchemy and magic and hire prostitutes. It sounds like this period was even more risqué than what we thought it was. The rich were really, really rich and they flaunted it. Sometimes it’s hard to show that kind of wealth but that’s what we were going for. We were trying to show the complete opposite of Scotland, which was much more utilitarian—just enough to get by.

TD: The French court was one of the real reasons I wanted to do the show. My whole career—my whole life—I wanted to do 18th-century France and now I’m like, “Done that! We’re good.” I’ve never been so glad to get out. I kind of poo-pooed Scotland. The kilt wasn’t a big thing for me. But I just fell in love with the Scottish stuff. There’s a subtlety and a richness and a depth to the textures. The way we tried to interpret nature in our Scottish costumes, they became something so unexpected. When you’re recreating Paris you can go as big as you want and you can be spectacular and beautiful, but you’re still creating something we all know. There’s millions of paintings. There’s clothes that still exist. But there’s a freedom to Scotland, a creative freedom that’s just magnificent. We’ve gotten really experimental. We’re painting all sorts of things and playing with textures and fabric treatments and it’s really exciting work. There’s no blueprint to follow but you have to remain true. When the show moves forward there’s a truth that we have to interpret but we get to interpret it and it’s exciting.

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HB: Terry, tell me about that Swan Dress.

TD: The dress is an incredibly dramatic piece. What I tried to do with that dress was almost upstage the exposed nipples with the gloriousness of that dress. I’ve never done an adaptation before, but what I’ve learned is that people build so much anticipation into certain pieces. The Swan dress, the red dress, the wedding dress. They become pored over in detail so that when they come out, you can never match that expectation. Whereas the brown dress with the flowers on it, the Dior dress, Jamie’s coat with the deer stag. The fans didn’t have any way of anticipating them, so when they came out they were like, “Whoa!” When there is no expectation I can blow you out of the water because you weren’t anticipating something fantastic and it came at you anyway. People were freaking out about Louise’s costumes but you don’t really think about what she’s wearing in the book. [Before the show] nobody gave St. Germain’s costumes a second thought. Then they were floored by them. [The fans said], “What a minute, what? A man wore that? Oh my God, imagine walking into a room wearing that!” The other thing [about designing costumes for an adaptation] is that you are making a show for readers and non-readers. With the red dress or the nipple dress, people who didn’t read the book are like, “Huh? Why is that there?” It’s a finely-cut thing.

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HB: Terry, can you walk me through the Season 2 finale? What were the challenges of going into the ’60s? What were you trying to convey with this older Claire?

TD: You should recognize the Claire we saw in Season 1, the Claire we saw in Season 2 and the Claire we see in Season 3. She should be recognizable. She cannot be this new person. It was really rewarding when viewers were going, “It’s still Claire!” They also had really powerful, emotional reactions to her costumes. People were telling me, “I cried when Claire came out with the blue robe because my mom had that robe.” Claire’s pajamas are my mother’s pajamas—literally. They’re made by Vanity Fair. They’re that nylon blue color we all know. You’re able to see Claire but you’re also kind of able to see yourself or someone you know. A lot of our audience is either Claire’s daughter or Claire. They are of that age. There’s a familiarity and there should always be. The beauty of the books for me were, “What would I do if I were in that circumstance?” So it’s about identifying with that character and trying to imagine myself in her situation. There has to be a sense of, “She’s familiar to me.” I love doing her clothes. I loved her clothes for the ’60s. I was going for Anne Bancroft.

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HB: Were there particular challenges that come with aging her 20 years?

TD: Ron and I had a big argument about this. He said, “People need to believe that she’s older.” And I go, “Clothes don’t do tricks. They’re not angry, they’re not taller, they’re not shorter.” It’s really about what the person is doing. I kept saying, “You’re going to see such a leap. It’s going to be such a shift to see this woman out of 18th century clothing and into the ’60s. Then you depend on a phenomenal actress like Caitriona Balfe to sell it.

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HB: We’re meeting Brianna for the first time. What did you want to say with her clothes?

TD: That was everything I ever wore when I was nine. My mother was a clothes horse. When I was nine I had a leather suit, a leather beret, a leather vest and jumper and knee-high leather boots. I remember all those outfits with tremendous love. So I translated that into Brianna. I had those corduroy pants and that pea coat and that cap. She’s listening to The Beatles and she’s looking at Carnaby Street. The British invasion is happening for her. We’re not doing Mad Men. Those million, brilliant costumes are New York on Fifth Avenue. Outlander is a different world. People are like, “You’re going to have fringe vests and paisley pants!” The majority of people didn’t wear that.

HB: What can you tell me about Season 3?

JGS: Well we’re in America, we’re in some Caribbean islands and we are also in Scotland—that’s the only set that plays more than one period. It’ll be there all three seasons. That set is still up, that’s the only set that’s been up that long. I don’t know if I should tell, but we’re building a huge Boston apartment. I’m excited about the look of Boston. And the print show is gonna be awesome. We had two real print presses made by a guy who makes replicas for museums. I’m trying to make it feel like one of the first factories, with a pre-industrial look to it. It’s gonna be awesome. I walked around through it last week. It’s a big set. There will be all kinds of fun stuff to keep everybody going. It’s a completely different look.

TD: It is a completely different show. This is a really good season for us because it’s almost like a transition, story-wise and it’s not hard on us. The beauty of a show about time travel is that it’s a show about time travel. We are bouncing back and forth right now between the ’60s and the 18th century. Right now I’m knee-deep in the ’60s. That’s so much fun. Just when you think you can’t see one more 18th century gown, you’re suddenly doing mini skirts. There’s a few surprises out there that are gonna excite a lot of people and piss a lot of people off. I can tell everybody that right now. And beyond those, it’s kind of a low-key season for us and then Season 4 is huge! Because we’ve been picked up for two seasons, we’ve put a lot of our focus on what’s going to be happening in 4. It took us a year to prep for Season 2 and it’s going to take a year to prep for Season 4. Season 4 will be another biggie.

HB: There are particular challenges for Season 3 for you, Terry. You have to deal with changing body types. Jamie’s been living in a cave for years!

TD: He’s living in a cave for several years and I don’t think anybody’s bringing in a new rack of clothing every week. We have different issues. We have issues of breakdown in aging—you gotta believe that everybody looks the way they’re supposed to, so we have a different set of challenges. It’s not going to be about building huge spectacular costumes like we did in Paris and it’s not like Scotland. It’s a new world and a new reality that we have to create and it’s already fantastic. We’ve barely started. We were out on set, we saw the first day of shooting and we were like, “OK, here we go again!” It’s a fascinating show that way.

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Outlander‘s Tobias Menzies on Black Jack’s Brother and the Things You Do for Love

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The 2016 Emmy race has begun, and Vulture will take a close look at the contenders until voting closes on June 27.

In the last year alone, Tobias Menzies has played five very different characters, two of which are on the same show. On Outlander, he stars as Frank Randall in 1945, who suffers the loss of his wife, Claire, when she accidentally travels back in time to the 18th century, and Black Jack Randall, Frank’s assumed ancestor in the past, who torments Claire and her new husband Jamie whenever they cross paths. Although one is ostensibly good and mild-mannered, and the other veers toward villainy and sadism, Menzies manages to find their common ground and make them incredibly distinct, without the usual crutches of say, an accent, a limp, or anything too obvious. During a recent visit to New York, Menzies chatted with Vulture about a pivotal trip to the bathroom, confronting two different Jamies, and why he decided not to cry during a death scene.

I heard a story about how you first decided to become an actor, and it involved a trip to the bathroom?
[Laughs.] Yeah, really early on, when I was young, we went and saw a production of The Wind in the Willows in a theater. At the intermission, I went to the toilet, and in the urinal next to me was the actor playing Badger. I didn’t quite know why he was in the urinal meant for the audience, and not backstage, I’m not quite sure about that, but there was something thrilling about seeing someone I had looked up to on the stage, and then seeing him beside me having a piss. There was something really about that which stayed with me. It seemed a little bit of magic in a way, this sort of mythical figure breaking through and just being there. And that was the first time I engaged with the idea of wanting to be an actor, and also being a person.
It seems fitting for the kinds of characters you’re attracted to, in which you take these people and really humanize them, warts and all.
That’s what’s interesting about humans, that we’re always a massive contradiction. There’s a lot more to everyone, isn’t there? What I’m interested in doing is making the character more three-dimensional, big or small, because that’s what’s both great and infuriating about people. Everyone has a family. Everyone comes from somewhere. So it’s harder to demonize someone when you see them with their family, as you do with Black Jack in this most recent episode. You have to engage with Jack the sibling, which is always complicated. That’s one of the benefits of doing a television drama over a long period of time — you get to explore these little contradictions. And one of the benefits of doing the TV show from the books is we can fill in the gaps, and color in more of the characters around Claire, and that’s particularly true of Frank.

We might not have thought we’d get to see a tender side of Jack, just as we might not have thought we’d get to see a more violent side of Frank. But perhaps these men have a few things in common. Do you approach them differently?
Not massively. There are a few physicality things that are different with Jack. Frank is closer to my own physicality. It’s mainly instinctive, really. I suppose it’s gotten more instinctive the more I’ve done it, and I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. But I never regarded Black Jack as someone who didn’t have tender feelings somewhere. My main thought was that I was keen for him to not be so confident. In the first season, we saw someone with an absolute self-belief, that arrogance, that belief that he’s indestructible. But since then, in different ways, and in much lesser ways, he’s still affected by what happened at Wentworth Prison at the end of season one. We only had a couple of chances to convey that, starting with Jamie and Claire in Versailles, and then with his brother. But these scenes speak to somebody who is a little more lost, a little bit away from his comfort zone, away from his natural territory and strength. And that felt like an interesting development, rather than have him be unaffected at all.

You talked to author Diana Gabaldon for guidance on how to portray that, correct?
Yes. Her main point was that Alex is probably the most important relationship in Jack’s life. It’s not what you usually see or would imagine that he has in his life. It’s someone whose good opinion he values, and that only helps to enrich the person we think we know. So with Alex’s imminent death, and then his demise, it challenges everything for Jack, and brings all of that up to the surface.

And just as we’ve started to see this tender side of Jack, his violence emerges again with Alex’s death. His reaction is odd, to say the least…
It’s perhaps the biggest change from the books, for him. And originally in the script, it was written that Jack wept. He was just full of emotion. But we’ve all seen the scene where a brother cries at the bedside of his loved one, and that didn’t seem quite keeping with the character of Jack. And we could see that he was emotional about his brother passing. So we decided to skip the crying, and have him physically attack the body of his brother. It had to be something odder, something weirder, something more violent. It’s a weird expression of his love: If you abandon me, I will destroy you. And it felt surprising. It’s the last thing you’d expect, but it’s also keeping with the character.

Frank, Black Jack, and even Edmure Tully, who you play on Game of Thrones, are all very different characters, and you give each of them a complete sense of self. But it seemed like all three were placed in these positions that they didn’t want to be in, where they had to make a difficult choice, and they ultimately chose the person they loved over themselves. Frank takes back Claire and agrees to raise another man’s child. Black Jack gives up military intel and marries Mary for his brother’s sake. And Edmure gives up Riverrun to protect his infant son, even though he’s never met him.
All three of them, yeah, it’s a theme — the things you do for love. We talked quite a bit about Black Jack’s betrayal of the British army, of his battalion, that he gives their secrets to Claire. I was worried that it seemed too easy of a choice to make. Whatever you might think of Black Jack’s morality, I think he is a loyal soldier, a loyal subject. He wrestles with that, even though we don’t see it. He’s in disguise, because these two armies are very close to each other around Inverness. And he feels vulnerable around Claire because of his concern for his brother. I don’t think he enjoys having to ask her to aid his brother, but it’s his only choice. We both need each other, and distrust each other. And Alex is so important in his life, he’s willing to make that bargain. There was a lot to play with there.

With Edmure in Thrones, you could almost argue that it’s an expression of self-love. Self-protection. Self-preservation. He feels much more cowardly in that decision, and obviously he doesn’t want to lose his family, his people, his castle, but that character is less about the expression of love than Frank is. Jack, love is very weird for him. But they are all different facets of, What are you made of, in extreme situations? When the shit hits the fan, which way do you go? And why? They certainly all have that in common, that larger theme of love and betrayal, cowardice and heroism.

You really feel Edmure is a coward? He seemed prepared to deny Jaime Lannister, until his son became part of the equation. My interpretation was that he betrayed his uncle to save his son. And he’s also endured a lot over the years, being a prisoner.
You’re right. Thinking back on playing that first half of that scene with Jaime Lannister, he actually has arrived at a place of despair and has resolved himself to die, denying Jaime. He’s forced to engage with what that entails, all the ramifications, what would follow from that apparently heroic act of saying, “No.” It would result in great suffering. Edmure now, the man we met in these last few episodes, is not the man we met before, the almost comic, buffoonish character of season three. He has changed. And I guess you can’t be a hero unless you feel fear. So maybe he’s heroically being a coward! There certainly is a moral dimension to the scene with Jaime, the investigation of Jaime’s position, to see Edmure wrestling with that larger question. Game of Thrones seems increasingly a meditation on deeply flawed people. I don’t think there are many inherently good people. Everyone’s been compromised. Everyone’s in a position they don’t want to be in.

How did you manage to fit in not just Game of Thrones, but also The Night Manager and Catastrophe? You’re juggling so many characters at the moment…
It’s a good problem to have! Catastrophe, I went to do that, almost as an in-joke. Sharon Horgan is an old friend of mine. We’ve known each other and worked together for many years. So whenever she calls me up and asks me to do something, I generally do it. She’s a brilliant woman, and it’s a particularly brilliant show. The Night Manager, I fit in between season one and two of Outlander, and then I did Thrones in the middle of shooting Outlander, in September or October? And I also fit in the new Underworld film in Prague, where I play a vampire.

One day, you’re a sadist British redcoat, the next a prisoner of war, the next a vampire…
I had a few different personalities going around my head! Weirdly, I didn’t find that hard. I don’t know what that says about my psyche. [Laughs.]

 

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Outlander: Terry Discusses Keeping Track of All Those Pieces!

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By: Erin Conrad July 17, 2016

On Twitter this morning, Terry Dresbach showed fans a bit of what it takes to wrangle the tens of thousands of costume pieces Outlander has used in the past two seasons. All of the information and photos in this post are from Twitter. With a system that has been used by large costume rental houses, museums, and other facilities that house extensive collections, she put an RFID scan system in place to identify and track the pieces and their details, who has used them, and where they’re stored.

She said that as they start Season 3, about 30,000 pieces have had a bar code attached and been entered into the system, taking about 6 months. Going forward, all pieces will be entered into the system as they’re made (for Season 3, so far, though, only about 10 costumes have been created). The system was set up retroactively, however, because when the show started, the costume department only had a small space and a staff of about 8. Her staff now numbers about 70 people.

Terry says that she believes Outlander is the only show using a bar code system – she says there may be others, but she doesn’t know of any. But the huge number of individual pieces, many of which will likely be reused, made an organization system a necessity. The costume department now takes up about 20,000 square feet, including offices, workroom, storage, ageing and dyeing, fitting, fabric storage, drying (costumes get wet from filming outdoors) and more. Terry says the only comparison she can make is “to running the military. Dressing, feeding, transporting…” She said “it takes a year, and a village. This is not the local theater group.”

Costumes for extras are fit weeks before those people work, so that if shooting is done out of the Cumbernauld studios, everything is already organized before travel. Terry estimates that they have used hundreds of thousands of buttons, and have about 40,000 pieces (shoes, cuffs, jackets, etc), and outfit at least 5,000 extras per season. They make up to 6 copies of lead costumes!

The slideshow below gives you all of the basics, and some fantastic photos inside the costume storage area:

Would you like to have the chance to meet Terry – and Grant O’Rourke – in person?
Join us at Thru The Stones in December!

Follow me on Twitter: @OutlanderTIBS, @ErinConrad2 and @threeifbyspace
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(Starz Entertainment, Getty Images (inset))

The 13th episode of Outlander, “Dragonfly in Amber,” marked the second season finale the Starz series. (Tear!) We asked Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore to look back at the challenges of adapting Diana Gabaldon’s second book, Dragonfly in Amber, to the small screen — and what we can expect in season 3.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long did you know you wanted to use the Chamber Brothers’ Time Has Come Today for the finale?
RONALD D. MOORE: Quite a while. I think it was actually in the script. I think [writers] Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia came up with that as their end title song. Everyone just sort of loved it from the beginning.

And the title card featuring the scene from The Avengers!
That started with Matt. I think we were talking about doing something with an old television and a clip. At first he said, you know, it should be Star Trek. I giggled and thought that’d be funny, and then immediately I thought it has to be one with Scotty, one where he is wearing his kilt. Then I looked up when Star Trek was actually on the air in the U.K. and it turns out it wasn’t on in 1968. We still wanted to start with a clip that puts us in that time period. What would have been shown there that was iconic and American audiences would get? I think it was Marina Campbell, who’s our assistant, came up withThe Avengers.

Let’s go back to the start of the season, when you began the action in the ’40s rather than the ’60s, when the book actually starts. Was this a way to give Tobias Menzies more screen time?
No. It’s just that starting in 1968 was too big of a leap for the TV audience, because the last time we saw Claire and Jamie, they’re sailing off to France. I just thought fading into 1968, when Claire not only returned to the 20th century, but also has a grown daughter was too much. It was big enough to say that she returned to the 20th century. So you saw her return. You still had the shock value of that. Then we could hold off the 1968 stuff until the end of the season.

The political machinations got pretty dense in France. What was it like for the writers, trying to keep the story clear for the viewers?
It was very tricky. In the book, the section in Paris is even more episodic. The Comte St. Germain’s story is over here and there’s the relationship with Master Raymond over there and then the Duke of Sandringham. We kept trying to find ways to unite the storylines. For instance, the big dinner party where everything goes askew … the book doesn’t have either Prince Charlie or the Duke there, and the dinner party is unrelated to that plot. We knew we wanted to play the dinner party because it was such a key moment in the book. But then we tried to work a way so that it also fed into the Jacobite plot. Those were our struggles — finding ways to unite various plot threads to go through events much, much faster.

What did Diana Gabaldon think about how things were addressed in France?
She said, “I think you’ve guys have done a nice job. This is tricky material.” She was very supportive.

Did you decide early on to show more of Prestonpans and less of the Battle of Culloden?
Yeah, but that also follows the book because the book doesn’t take you into the Battle of Culloden. That was an easy decision to make. The book did detail a lot of Prestonpans. It also dealt with the Battle of Falkirk, which we decided not to do because we just said, let’s do one big battle. Prestonpans seemed like the best one to do for a variety of reasons.

I understand you shot Prestonpans in a tent with lots of smoke.
It was historically accurate, because it was a surprise attack in the wee hours of the morning. A lot of their numbers were cloaked in fog. That helped to panic the British, because they had no idea how many they were dealing with and where they were coming from. There was a certain disorientation on their part when the Highlanders just came screaming out of the fog.

Were you happy to take the action out of Paris?
I think everyone wanted to get back to Scotland, because it felt like Scotland was home to the show. Season 1 was a love letter to Scotland. There was a sense that when we were in Paris it wasn’t really Outlander, even though it was with our principal characters.

One last question about those France scenes — did French dildos really exist and look like that?
They did actually exist. And I think they looked like that. I think dildos have been with us since the Egyptians.

After finding your Jamie and Claire, was it a walk in the park to track down an actress who could play Brianna?
No. It was difficult. They’re very tricky roles to cast, especially when you’re casting the adult child of two of our leads. So, you want to see both characters in her immediately, which is a big challenge in terms of who that actress is going be. She also has to literally play the daughter of Claire in the episode. She has to have a certain chemistry with Roger. And even though she’s in the episode a lot, she’s not as big in the next season. The roles of Roger and Brianna grow over the course of the books. At first you’re just seeing the two of them for briefer periods of time. All those things added up to a very complex casting process.

Brianna is raised in Boston, but you went ahead and cast Sophie Skelton, who is from the U.K. Did you consider casting an American?
We did talk about that. We looked at Americans. I think there were some Canadians in the mix. It was a fairly wide net.

Brianna is supposed to have a Boston accent, but Sophie ended up not using one. Why?
Boston accents are tricky. It’s easy for them to become a caricature pretty easily. We’ve got so many accents going on in the show. It just didn’t feel like we needed to go there, as well.

Was it important to find a sexy man to play Roger?
He just needed to be charming and funny, and you had to instantly like him and feel like he was a good match for Brianna. Richard Rankin had that in spades. Everyone just immediately likes him when they meet him.

Are you starting production on season 3 any sooner this year?
We’re ramping up now. We are working on scripts and stories. We will probably be on an accelerated overall production schedule now that we have two season pickups. So we can start actively planning season 4 as opposed to waiting for a pickup. Season 3 is a traveling show. It starts in Scotland, but then it’s a sea voyage. There are pirates. It’s in Jamaica. It’s in the New World. And book 4 is in the New World and suddenly in North Carolina. So having the ability to make long range plans about where we are shooting certain elements and where we want to dedicate resources is enormously helpful in planning the show.

Can you say where season 3 will be shot?
Our home base will always be Scotland. We’re looking at various options for where to shoot the ships and where to find tropical beaches and jungles to play the Caribbean section of the story. Hopefully, we’ll find a place that has both things at once so we’ll only have to make one big trip for the company.

Does a Waterworld-like Outlander season excite you?
It will be great. They’re challenging shoots. Anything having to do with the water is very challenging for any production. But my production company is called Tall Ship. This to me is going be a lot of fun. There are big logistical and technical difficulties involved.

How much longer are we fans going to be able to enjoy Tobias?
Unfortunately, his role will come to an end relatively soon. It’s not over yet. We’ll still see him in season 3. But other than occasional flashbacks to Frank or Jack, their story pretty much ends in book 3.

Of all those killed off this season, which one would you have wanted to keep alive?
That’s a hard one to say. I think we all will probably miss the Duke of Sandringham quite a bit. He’s a great character. I lament his loss.

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‘Outlander’ Finale: Sam Heughan & Caitriona Balfe Talk Culloden Consequences, Season 3

Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen the “Outlander” Season 2 finale, Episode 13, titled “Dragonfly in Amber.” Refresh your memory of where we left off with our previous “Outlander” recap.

After a season spent barreling towards the Battle of Culloden, it felt like something of a relief to be spared the gory details of that fateful fight, with the Season 2 finale of “Outlander” spending most of its time focused on what really mattered — Claire and Jamie’s relationship, both in its vibrant immediacy on the morning of the battle, and through melancholy memories that played out across Claire’s face 20 years later as she revisited Scotland. Claire took a monumental journey in the extended episode, moving from grief and repression to a rekindled sense of hope as she realized that Jamie hadn’t died at Culloden, meaning there was still a chance for her to reunite with him, even two decades (and two centuries) after leaving him.

The episode skipped back and forth between the 18th century and Claire’s “present” in 1968, allowing us to meet Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna (Sophie Skelton), and Reverend Wakefield’s dashing adopted son, Roger (Richard Rankin) — as well as catching up with Claire’s Season 1 friend Geillis Duncan — aka Gillian Edgars — before she traveled back through the Standing Stones and met Claire for the first time back in the 1700s.

The finale provided yet another showcase for Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan’s nuanced performances; Heughan exuded both strength and vulnerability as Jamie was forced to say farewell to his wife — and that was after the ordeal of killing his uncle, Dougal, when the war chief discovered them plotting to kill Bonny Prince Charlie in a last-ditch effort to avert Culloden.

“You just see how desperate they’ve become that they would even consider something as horrific as this, but as Claire says, it’s take the life of one to save the lives of thousands,” Balfe says of their scheme. “It’s a really heartbreaking moment for Jamie because no matter what Dougal has done, he’s his uncle, he raised him for a lot of his life and trained him, and there was a very complicated love there, but there was some kind of love there.”

Heughan agrees, telling Variety in our video recap above, “We decided that Claire should be involved in that and that isn’t in the books. I think it makes them both complicit in the murder of Dougal, it makes them both guilty. So they’re united in their desperation of trying to save everyone and everything, and in doing that they’ve had to kill Jamie’s uncle, which doesn’t sit well with him.”

At that point, Heughan admits, “it’s about trying to save Claire — she doesn’t quite know that until they get closer to the Stones.” Their farewell scene was monumental both for the characters and the actors, he says. “We were both very aware that this is the last time they’re together, so there is a pressure, but you also don’t want to pressurize yourself as an actor, otherwise you begin to tense up – we just wanted to see what happened, and out of it came this wonderful almost choreography, this moment where it’s almost like a dance, where Jamie’s guiding Claire with her back towards the stones so she’s staring at him… it seemed to work because we couldn’t work out how to get to Claire to the stones, because she doesn’t want to go.”

The farewell at Craigh na Dun was one of the series’ most heartbreaking and evocative yet, made all the more desperate because they know Claire is pregnant again. Balfe admits that there was some debate about how Claire and Jamie’s final moment of intimacy should play out during filming.

“In the book it’s very different, because they stay overnight in a cottage and we were condensing the time and because we’d filmed things in Season 1 where there was no cottage, we couldn’t do that, so then there was a whole thing about ‘where do they have their last moments together? They have sex and where is that gonna be?’ There was a lot of talk about up against a tree and I was like ‘no, not gonna happen that way! That’s so not romantic, it can’t be up against a tree, that’s not right,’” she laughs, recalling the moment. “I was so adamant about it, and they were like ‘well, it’s gonna be cold and wet, are you gonna wanna be on the ground?’ I was like ‘I don’t care, I’ll be on the ground, it can’t be against a tree.’ It just seemed so wrong and so not beautiful.”

Despite the need to save their baby, Balfe says, she felt that “Claire would fight towards the end and she wouldn’t want to leave, so how do we get Jamie to take her to the stones and yet how do we get Claire to go, because I just felt like she just wouldn’t want to. I know she has to go to save her child, but she just wouldn’t want to, and somehow we came up with this beautiful almost like a dance, where they’re locked together and they’ve got their heads together and they’re looking in each other’s eyes and he sort of dances her to the Stone and she’s just crying and telling him that she loves him and it’s so beautiful. When we were filming it, I feel like everyone got so swept up in the moment. It’s so sad. These characters are so much a part of us at this point, it was just heartbreaking – how do you let go, how do you say goodbye to someone? It was just awful. I think some of the crew were all misty-eyed, it was great.”

In addition to those emotional scenes in the past, Balfe also deftly managed to portray a wholly new version of Claire in the future — one with 20 years and countless life experiences behind her — while still maintaining her character’s integrity, fire and resolve.

“I went ahead and I read all of the information from [book three in Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series] ‘Voyager,’ that showed Claire in Boston, because I wanted to really get a sense of what her life had been like in that interim 20 years,” Balfe says of tackling the later iteration of her character. “I really wanted to more concentrate on ‘what does 20 years of, in some ways, a compromised existence, how does that weigh on a person?’ Claire is a survivor, we know that about her – we know that she’s a fighter, but having lived in a marriage of convenience in many ways with Frank for 20 years, that has to have had an effect on her shine in a way, on her vitality. And yet, at the same point she’s become a surgeon so I wanted her to have a bit of gravity and she carries herself very well and it was really interesting to play with all of that.”

Balfe says she looked to the work of some of her favorite actresses to inspire her performance, including Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep. “I watched films they did in their late twenties and then I went and watched some things that they’d done in their fifties and obviously people physically age, but how do you carry yourself?” Balfe says. “It’s always very slight, there’s a maturity but it’s more in how they carry themselves.”

Despite the tension between Claire and her headstrong daughter – who is reluctant, to say the least, to believe that her real father was a Scottish warrior from the 18th Century, Balfe notes that “a big part of Claire now is that she’s a mother, and that relationship with Brianna was very important. At this point when we meet them, they are somewhat strained, there’s distance between them, but myself and Sophie when we were talking about the relationship, [we felt that] it can’t be that this has how it’s always been. Even with Claire’s relationship with Frank, it couldn’t have been miserable for 20 years, otherwise she wouldn’t have stayed in it. So there have to have been moments where things were working, and I think always in the back of Claire’s mind, she’s never really loved him again in that way, but there have to have been good times and they co-parented and there’s joy in seeing your daughter grow up and all of these things, but it has been more compromised, so there was all of that was so interesting to play.”

We’re spared the brutality of Culloden and what happens to Jamie after Claire says goodbye to him at the Standing Stones, but Heughan promises that all will be revealed in Season 3.

As Jamie lets Claire go, Heughan says, “he knows he’s going to die, but at least she is going to be safe, and his unborn child, who will be Bree. We won’t actually see what happens to Jamie after she’s gone through the Stones until the next season – for me that’s a really big question and something that will be really interesting to look at – who is Jamie without Claire, why is he still surviving or what has he got to live for when he’s lost the woman that he loves? She will eventually return, but they’re both older, so who is the man he’s become age-wise, physically? I think that’s the joy of the show, it’s never the same thing, it’s constantly moving, so next season should be quite an adventure.”

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A Song of a Lass Gone

Ronald D. Moore on the daunting task of adapting the epic, wildly popular Outlander novels to TV and why he’s still paying for killing off one of Hollywood’s most beloved characters.

©2016 Starz
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in Outlander.
June 30, 2016 Written by Todd Aaron Jensen
Ronald D. Moore
[The industry] is going to tell you ‘no’ over and over and over again, and you’d better find out really quickly whether that’s going to knock you out of the business or if you just somehow insanely believe enough in your talent to keep on going.

Simply put, Ronald D. Moore likes it big. Really big. Through a jagged prism freighted with psychogenic combustions, desolate spiritual sojourning, and blunt, gory, diffident warfare—familial, romantic, global and, uh, intergalactic—Moore’s finest work as one of television’s finest showrunners, producers, and writers takes audiences to worlds far, far away, often to epochs long vanished, showing them that for whatever star system, colonial starship, constitution class transport, standing stone, alien race, or Highlander battleground they think they’re seeing, every tale is always, only about yearning for home.

Moore mined these bottomless philosophical wells expertly as a late-addition to the Star Trek: the Next Generation writers’ room, on the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, and again with Outlander, his current project, enjoying critical acclaim and sizable audiences in its second season on Starz. Based on the bestselling franchise by novelist Diana Gabaldon, Outlander merges time travel, star-crossed romance, revenge play tropes, history-hugging detours, savage battles, and frank, unapologetic sexuality like few television shows before. The show’s ethereal thematic concerns remain well grounded by Moore’s trademark earthiness, satisfying fans of Gabaldon’s books while attracting a large “virgin” audience to the boob tube.

Which is to say that the 51-year-old Moore, who has already joined a legendary franchise midflight and reinvented a campy ‘70s Star Wars TV wannabe into a modern classic, still had some serious work cut out for him with Outlander. Nearly 30 million readers have bought at least one of Gabaldon’s eight Outlander tales, profoundly epic, truly sprawling stories that skip between centuries and countries. On the page, the Outlander stories take up some 3,000 pages to unfurl (with more arriving in bookstores soon). Moore’s task: to devote one 13-hour season to each of the 600-ish paged novels.

An impossible mission? Not to Moore. That’s where the fun begins.

Like Battlestar Galactica—and, to some extent, the Star Trek work you did—Outlander is a series that gives viewers what they put into it. It’s not a demanding show necessarily, but the more you bring to watching the show, the richer its pleasures.

When I was putting together the writers’ room for Outlander, I very specifically and intentionally populated it with the best writers I could find, and there was one critical caveat: half of the writers’ room could be fans of the novels and the other half of the writers’ room could not have read any of the Outlander books. I did that because I am acutely aware that Outlander is a show that has to play to two audiences simultaneously. We have to play to the audience that knows the novels and loves them, the audience who is looking forward to seeing how we’re going to bring these beloved stories to life. These are very passionate fans. They know these books very, very well—the characters, the dialogue, the minutest of details—and they have certain expectations and hopes about how the show will portray all of it. But we also have to play well for an audience that has no idea what Outlander is or where these stories are going. We’re always striving to connect with both audiences.

Of the Outlander virgins you hired for the writing team, how many have steadfastly resisted reading the novels?

There’s only one left. That’s testament to what Diana’s done with these books. You can’t resist them.

The series is midway through its second season, based on the second novel in the series, Dragonfly in Amber. How do you transform a 752-page novel into 13 episodes of television?

Everybody gets a copy of the book and we tear it to pieces. I don’t mean we denigrate Diana’s writing. Not at all. What I mean is: we have to break the book down into discrete, manageable bites. What type of scene is this? What storyline does this scene feed? Is it a scene that’s in some way redundant? Is it a scene that offers exposition? If it does, is there a more visual—or more filmic—way of getting that information across to the viewer? So we break it all down like that, creating this series of index cards that are very clearly labeled and organized: the major plot points, the A thread, the B storyline, the big action sequences [which take a lot of time and budget to shoot], the love scenes, and all that. We put all of the cards up on this big board in the writers’ room, and then we all just stare at that board. For a long time. Because it is, basically, an impossible task. But eventually the silence becomes too chilling, and I’ll have to sit up and sort of arbitrarily say, “Okay, from this card to this card, that’s one episode. Probably.” And we do that until we’ve got, in the case of season two, 13 bigger chunks. After that, it’s a matter of going into each of the 13 chunks and figuring out how to manage all of the character and plot details that need to be conveyed inside of that. So we’re always going deeper into the books in an effort to be as economical as possible with our storytelling. It is a fairly massive undertaking.

Novelists have very different takes on surrendering their works to filmmakers. Many of them just take the check and hold their breath, kind of anticipating the worst will come. Diana Gabaldon, though, has been very involved in the series, very supportive of the series, and is even writing an episode this season. For you, is it preferable for a writer to leave you to your work, or are there benefits to having someone like Ms. Gabaldon so readily available?

One of the great, great qualities about Diana is her fierce intelligence. Before I even had a deal to make the show, I went to Scottsdale where she lives and spent a weekend with Diana, talking about my ideas for adapting the books and how, as much as I love the books, there would have to be changes. Diana just stopped me there and said, “Look, I’m an author. You’re a TV writer. I don’t do what you do. I’m going to have to just trust you with my characters and know that you’re going to treat them well.” I went, “Well, thank you, that’s very gracious. My intention is to do the best adaptation we can and to really be as close to the books people love as we can.” Diana and I started off on this really positive foot, and that’s been a really great thing.

From giving you her blessing to where we sit today, she has become increasingly involved in the show. How has that worked?

Well, out of respect, I’ve sent her everything as we go. Everything. She’s never asked for veto power or even to see the works in progress, but I feel we kind of owe it to her, so we do. She sees the breakdowns, the storylines, all the drafts, the dailies, the rough cuts, all of it. As she’s become more familiar with how television is made, she does chime in more often—which is fantastic! There’s not a formal notes process with Diana. She’ll simply reach out whenever she thinks of something that might be helpful or really good, or she’ll notice something that’s just a little bit out of whack, and nine times out of 10, she’s absolutely right. It’s easy to accommodate her, partly because she never asks for the impossible and partly because we really want to.

The second season has made some significant changes to the novel, primarily structurally, but in other ways as well. Has she been such a keen supporter, even through that?

Well, Dragonfly was a more complex and difficult story. As a writer, Diana tried out a lot of different things with that book. She changed the voice and point of view in different chapters. She played with time. The storyline zigs and zags. It’s a very complicated book, and Diana knows it. She knows the challenges of the material, and she’s really come to know that we’ll do right by her and her fans. Even with the changes we’ve made in season two, Diana mostly just points out certain grace notes that we, as outsiders to her novels, might overlook in our writing process—because a certain line of dialogue or a tiny little plot point doesn’t seem terribly significant right now, but Diana knows it means a lot in the fourth book.

Back to the writing room…You’re trying to break Dragonfly in Amber for season two. It’s a bigger novel. It’s a more difficult novel. What kind of nervous breakdowns are you and the writing staff enduring?

Oh, it’s just brutal. I mean, there’s not really a better word for it: it’s just brutal. For me, here’s the biggest difference between doing an original series, which I’ve done, and doing an adaptation, like Outlander: when you’re doing an original and you find yourself a little bit stuck, you just kind of write through it, and you can always go back and sort it all out. When you’re doing an adaptation, the tracks are laid. If it’s a tough ride, that’s too bad—because that’s the way the story goes! You have to figure out how to get it done. But it’s not easy, so that means there are a lot of spinning wheels, a lot of pacing back and forth, a lot of frustration, and a lot of ideas that get thrown out there and then shot down because they’re just not right. Ultimately, it comes down to determination more than anything else. You write a scene once. It doesn’t work. You write it again. If you have to write it again, you write it again. There’s just no quitting or giving up with an adaptation. You have to get there.

Determination is kind of a recurring theme in your work anyway. Looking back at Battlestar Galactica, which was a landmark series in so many ways, you devoted a good portion of that series’ storytelling to exploring your own relationship with faith and spirituality. Does that resonate for you?

Battlestar was a chance to play around with things in my own head—thoughts about spirituality, thoughts about my place in the universe, questions like “What does it all mean?” You know, the existential stuff. It was a chance to go a little deeper than the Star Trek stuff allowed me to. With Star Trek, you didn’t really want to delve into those weightier matters—unless they were somehow attached to an alien culture that had wacky superstitions or religions. That stuff had to be relegated to the aliens or the weirdos. You couldn’t really have your human characters grappling with those questions. On Battlestar, it was anything goes. What’s human and what’s not human? What’s faith and what’s science? Why do we believe and how do we choose what we believe in? All of that stuff. It was very rich ground there. I’m not sure if there’s anything terribly autobiographical about Battlestar, but it definitely allowed me to ask big questions from different points of view and to keep changing the answers. That, I never got tired of.

What about Diana Gabaldon’s novels lured you into this massive undertaking?

I responded to the first book as a piece of historical fiction, and I really liked the central character of Claire—her voice. I was really drawn to that female character. That book was just a really good page-turner. I was surprised by a lot of things that happened in the story, and that doesn’t happen to me very often. What Outlander has in common with my other work—Star Trek or Carnavale, all of it, basically—is that I really enjoy creating a world that doesn’t exist and making it more real than real for audiences. That’s really appealing to me. I like the challenge of that. I like the question of “How do you create a show when you can’t just go down the street and shoot a scene by whatever cars happen to be parked there that day?” I like all the questions involved in building a world: What are their tools like? What are they eating? How is their language the same, or different? I have the mind that goes looking for the one tiny thing that’s going to give away the whole charade, the thing that’s going to tear a viewer out of the story and remind them that, “Oh, yeah, this world doesn’t really exist.” And then I plug that hole too.

This is a terrible story to tell aspiring television writers, but your breakthrough happened simply, almost implausibly.

Yeah, I was dating a girl in L.A. Turned out that she loved Star Trek and had worked on Next Generation for a little while. One night, she noticed the Captain Kirk poster on my wall and asked me if I loved Star Trek, too—which I thought was pretty obvious from the poster. When I told her I loved the show, she offered to get on the set of Next Generation. The next morning, she made the call and got me a set visit for six weeks later. It took a while to schedule that kind of thing because the set was so open to fans; they’d do tours of that set regularly. Fans loved that show, and it was cool that they could come and walk around the set. So I had my date, and I decided I’d roll the dice. I wrote an episode of Next Generation, something I thought was really good, and I took it with me to the set visit and I convinced the guy that was giving the tour to take the script and read it, and I asked him to tell me later if it was any good. He turned out to be one of Gene Roddenberry’s assistants. The script made it all the way to the showrunner. He bought the script and asked me to make another one, then another one. Eventually, I got a call that they needed a staff writer who could start work the next day. I showed up. It was the luckiest of breaks, really. I had the right script at the right time. I knew the show inside and out. I loved it. I channeled that passion, threw myself into it, and it all happened to work out.

That all happened in the couple of weeks before you were supposed to report to boot camp with the U.S. Navy. In some alternate universe, Ronald D. Moore is serving in a submarine deep in the ocean enduring all of the nightmares he’s put his characters through!

Oh, the alternate universes available to Ronald D. Moore could be so much worse than being in the U.S. Navy. Trust me! The life I’m living, it’s the only life where things go the way they have for me. In every other possible scenario, I’m dead in the water. This is where I was at when Next Generation happened for me: I had flunked out of school, and I was in Los Angeles, and I had no money and I was trying to be a writer, and I was a messenger, and I was an animal hospital receptionist, and I was making just a few hundred dollars a month. It was an impossible situation. But I can look back on all of that and see now that if any one of those horrible things had been easier than they were, I might not have taken that insane chance of writing a script no one was asking for and imagining it would actually be read and loved and lead me through a series of pretty great jobs that have brought me here.

It’s kind of surprising to learn that you had a Captain Kirk poster in your apartment. You know where I’m going with this: you’re the screenwriter who killed Captain Kirk in the Generations feature film!

I will never fully serve my sentence for that! That was a…what’s the word…a complicated thing. When we first started talking story for that film, we were all talking about destroying the Enterprise as a key event. I thought that was interesting, but what if we went even further and told the story of the death of Captain Kirk. I thought that would be even more powerful for audiences. So I became very determined to tell that story. It was probably some deeply embedded psychological thing from my childhood where I was determined to kill the characters I loved as a child now that I was a man making films! There are depths to killing Captain Kirk that I’ve yet to fully explore.

Which is why the world will not let you forget that you killed Captain Kirk.

As a writer, the death of Kirk really could have been an amazing thing—a noble, inspiring, kind of tragic, Arthurian thing. But here’s the truth: I really wanted to tell that story, but back then I just didn’t have the maturity or the chops to do it well. If Captain Kirk had died well, people wouldn’t be so pissed about it 25 years later. The whole movie is this kind of meditation on mortality, and then I just didn’t land the big death, the whole point of the movie. The other problem was that there was a very real, serious pressure from the studio to make a movie that would attract new fans instead of dropping old fans, like the last couple of Star Trek movies had. So Generations ended up being kind of a Pop Star movie, a bridge thing, a transition from the original series to Next Generation. And then we were told we had to bring in the Klingons, too. There were just so many things that movie had to be that there was no way, even if I’d had the chops, Kirk was going to die well.

Your chops, they’re pretty impeccable these days. Outlander is one of the best series on television. The cast is simply flawless, uniformly outstanding. How does that impact your writing, having such a gifted group of actors?

It’s huge. One of the challenges of writing for television—because of how quickly they have to come together, mostly—is that it can take some real time for the writers to get to know their cast. That’s why so many shows take six episodes or so, maybe a whole season, to get really going. The writers have finally figured out what their actors do best. A lot of times as a writer, I’m not even aware when that eureka moment happens; I just suddenly realize I’m tailoring. I’m writing to things I know for a fact are an actor’s strengths. By the way, actors really appreciate that. On Outlander, the writers realized really quickly that we had gold in this cast, that there is literally nothing we could ask Caitrioina [Balfe, Outlander’s lead] to do that she couldn’t or wouldn’t do. That opens up tremendous possibilities for the writers. You’re, of course, beholden to the novels, but the ways you honor the novels increase exponentially when you’ve got a cast this good.

Since you’ve ruined aspiring writers with your story of “Yeah, just go ahead and get yourself into a bad pickle, write a script very quickly, and then hand it to a total stranger to get your big break,” do you have any advice for writers that might be useful?

Hey, you asked! I actually do have some advice. It’s in two parts: the first part is a story told to me when I was just starting out in the business. It contains very, very true information. The second part is a great piece of advice told to me by one of the great masters of science fiction.

Part one…

One day backstage at Carnegie Hall, the concert violinist Jascha Heifetz is preparing to go on when a young man in the wings approaches him and asks, “Mr. Heifetz, will you please tell me if I have any talent?” The kid has his violin with him. “Please, sir, just one minute of your time. Tell me if I have what it takes to make it.” So Heifetz, he kind of gives in, right? “Okay, kid. Go ahead.” The kid plays for not quite 60 seconds. Heifetz looks at him dead in the eyes. “Nope, kid,” he says. “You do not have what it takes.” The kid’s devastated, sulks away, and drops music from his life altogether. Ten, 15 years later, Heifetz and this kid, who’s now grown up, run into each other some sort of a social gathering, and the kid goes up to Heifetz and says, “You probably don’t remember me. I came up to you one day at Carnegie Hall and asked you to listen to me play the violin and asked you if I had any talent. You said that I didn’t, so I dropped the violin and now I’m in insurance,” the kid says. “I just wanted to ask you: how could you do that to me when I was so young? How could you crush my dreams like that after only listening to me for a minute?” Heifetz doesn’t miss a beat. He looks down at the kid and says, “I say that to everyone—because it’s the kind of business that if you can be discouraged, you will be, and you should find that out sooner rather than later.”

Perfect.

That’s a profound insight into the business that is really true. It is a firmly, savagely discouraging business. It’s going to tell you “no” over and over and over again, and you’d better find out really quickly whether that’s going to knock you out of the business or if you just somehow insanely believe enough in your talent to keep on going.

What’s part two?

I’m on a panel with some sci-fi writers at some event in Beverly Hills. The great, great science fiction Harlan Ellison is on the panel with me, which I can still hardly believe. The forum was, basically, the panel would be asked a question and then the moderator would go straight down the line, getting each of our responses. So the question was, “What’s your advice to young writers?” And Harlan Ellison takes the microphone and he’s kind of growling, this guttural, phlegmatic thing going on in his voice, and he says very, very firmly, deadpan, insistently, “Don’t. Be. A. Whore!” And you know what? Harlan Ellison is right! In this business, all they want to do is whore out your talents. Livelihoods are based on that kind of pimpery in this town. I’m not saying you’re too good to do a job for hire. There is much to learn and many times a lot of happiness that comes with jobs like that. But if you write like Paul Schrader, but you’re being asked over and over again for some reason to write cartoons about clever, talking pets, and you do it more than once, that’s tragic to me. You are probably a whore. Don’t do that. Don’t be a whore. Stand up for your work. Have some principles. Don’t sell out to the lowest common denominator. Those two stories sum up almost everything a writer in Hollywood needs to know.

– See more at: http://www.wga.org/writers-room/features-columns/the-craft/2016/outlander-ronald-moore#sthash.P73uVl60.dpuf

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https://www.accesshollywood.com/articles/outlander-hail-mary-gary-lewis-colums-requests-jamie-claire/ ‘Outlander’ Q&A: Gary Lewis On Colum’s Requests For Jamie & Claire In ‘The Hail Mary’ Episode

June 25, 2016 7 PM PDT

Colum MacKenzie journeyed to see the Frasers for help with a grave situation in Saturday night’s “Outlander.”

(Spoiler alert! This article contains major plot details from “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 12 – “The Hail Mary.” Bookmark this link to come back to later if you haven’t watched.)

While the Jacobite army was on a break from battle and plotting its next move, Colum MacKenzie traveled to see Jamie and Claire Fraser to ask them for help. Knowing he was dying, Colum asked healer Claire for some medicine to stop his suffering and let him pass on in peace. Colum asked his nephew, Jamie, for something else. In front of his own brother, Dougal, Colum asked Jamie Fraser to become the guardian of wee Hamish, the son he named as his successor. The request angered Dougal (Hamish’s real father) and resulted in a charged exchange between the two men in the episode.

image: https://d919ce141ef35c47fc40-b9166a60eccf0f83d2d9c63fa65b9129.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/images/Gary_Lewis.original.jpg

Gary Lewis as Colum MacKenzie in ‘Outlander’ Season 2
Gary Lewis as Colum MacKenzie in ‘Outlander’ Season 2 (Starz)

PHOTOS: ‘Outlander’: Scenes From Season 2, Episode 12 — ‘The Hail Mary’

Gary spoke with Access Hollywood about the big moments from “The Hail Mary” episode, including that scene, why Colum approached Jamie and Claire for help and his character’s final exchange with Dougal.

AccessHollywood.com: When did you find out your [character’s] death was going to be different than it is in Diana [Gabaldon’s] books?

Gary Lewis: When I saw the script. I had no idea up until I saw the scripts. I knew how it was in the books, but I was not unpleasantly surprised with how it is in the show. I think it’s very sensitive and yeah, I like how’s it’s done.

WATCH: ‘Outlander’ NYC Premiere: Graham McTavish & Gary Lewis Talk Behind-The-Scenes Laughs

Access: Colum had to go to Jamie and Claire for help in wrapping up his life, so to speak. Was that something you thought would have been difficult for him to do – to ask the two of them for help?

Gary: No, I’ll tell you why — I think in Colum’s view, both as individuals, and as a couple, I think Colum recognizes that Jamie and Claire are hugely significant for the future of his clan. Jamie, obviously because of his potential to be the heir and Claire — I think Colum has recognized from way back… that she has some part to play. I think he recognizes there’s a difference. Obviously, he can’t put his finger on it. She’s useful because of her skills in medicine and the herbal remedies and she helps him way back with the massage. So he recognizes her worth, but I think he also recognizes that she is significant for the MacKenzies. That, of course, ups when they get married, much to his disapproval, initially (laughs). But then, he is, of course, aware of the significance and the importance of those two as a couple, because Jamie – he knows way back that Jamie is the person who’s going to lead the MacKenzies. … I’ll tell you from my point of view — this goes way back to ‘The Gathering’ when Jamie straddles that very difficult position where he doesn’t pledge a complete and absolute oath of allegiance to Colum, but he doesn’t get himself killed by [Dougal], by refusing to, and he makes that very wonderful and diplomatic, but heartfelt and intelligent pledge to Colum — way back then, whether he knew it or not, he just made a successful application for the job. That’s how I see it. He showed his mettle, he showed his potential, his maturing wisdom and then later, Colum actually takes counsel from him. So it’s a developing thing. It’s not that unusual from Colum’s perspective to go to Jamie and Claire to take care of business.

Access: Let’s talk about the scene with Caitriona [Balfe] where [Colum has] to ask her [character, Claire,] basically for a death potion. It’s super serious, it’s super emotional. Did they keep it kind of limited on set that day, there weren’t many extra [people] around? I’m curious if they cleared the galleys, so to speak, for you guys.

Gary: Not especially so, but the crew are fantastic and there was an acknowledgement of the nature of the scene. You don’t really know how it’s going to be until you’re in there and you start dancing with the other actors, you start exploring the space between you. And of course Cait is so wonderful, so once we started going to work, the somberness of the scene and the gravity of it became apparent. And, because it’s the amazing ‘Outlander’ crew, yeah, they were respectful of that. So yeah, things just go quiet with a nature of understanding and this is what’s happening. He’s basically saying, ‘Hey, I need to leave the planet now. I can’t take any more and… you’re gonna help me get to the door.’ … And even the lighting and everything – everything’s subdued, and basically, he’s saying goodbye. That’s when he’s saying goodbye to Claire and he’s emotional about that. He still has to take care of business, but this is goodbye to somebody he knows will play significant part in the future of his nephew.

Access: Dougal doesn’t take the news well that Colum wants Jamie to be Hamish’s guardian. Why you think Colum can deliver basically kind of devastating news to Dougal and know full well that Dougal isn’t going to [go crazy] on his brother?

Colum: Everything rests on loyalty. … It would be suicide, it would be the end if he couldn’t handle that. Colum knows that he’s head strong and incapable of acting rationally and the stakes are very, very high. Yeah, he could just explode. But, of course, Jamie’s there as well, so there’s a degree of trust in the situation that his brother has sworn his loyalty. You can’t kill the Laird (laughs). Well, you could, but that would be the end for Dougal as well. You see the thing is, what’s really beautiful about the structure and the writing in this scene is that not only does Colum say that things are going in a different direction – that it’s going to be Jamie, and Ned [Gowan] is going to look after the boy and he’ll be counseled and Jamie and Ned will play these roles, but he also confronts Dougal with his complete – he says to him quite clear, ‘You’re not as popular as you think you are.’ He just confronts him with the reality and then he confronts him with the possibility of the failure of the cause and he confronts Dougal with his inability to take on board that this cause is on its back. They’re not going to be successful, but [Dougal] can’t see beyond that. So it’s his pride, it’s all the things which have crippled — Colum being physically crippled — but all the things, which have mentally and emotionally crippled Dougal are laid bare. … He puts it right out there.

Access: You also had a great line where you get to say to Dougal, if he would swear to put the lives of the men above all else—

Gary: That’s end game. Yeah, that’s the end game when I say, ‘Okay, you say it, you mean it, and that’s it.’ After that, it’s not even checkmate and he falls, it’s like he has to leave. He actually has to physically leave the room because that’s the end and what a beautiful line, ‘You say those words, and that’s it, you got the position. Just say them, but mean them. Mean them. Don’t just make a noise with your mouth. Mean it,’ knowing full well that he can’t. He cannot make that connection. There’s no honesty there. Sure, he can holler and wave a sword and be proud, but he could not possibly say even something as clear as that — ‘you put the lives of your men before this cause.’ It’s a great line.

WATCH: ‘Outlander’: Maril Davis & Sam Heughan Preview ‘Heartbreaking’ & ‘Emotional’ S2 Finale

Access: [How did you feel about how] Colum basically gets the last word with Dougal. Obviously Graham [McTavish] got to deliver probably one if his most emotional speeches of the season, performances, and Colum is not there to hear it, because he’s already taken the yellow jasmine.

Gary: That’s it, he’s gone. I mean, it’s the worst thing you can do to somebody who needs the audience. You just move on, you’ve left, you’ve actually left the theater. … It’s like, ‘Wow.’ And he said to him, ‘I take no responsibility for it. Your life is your own. I take no responsibility for it.’ And he’s basically just saying, ‘Hey, bang. That’s it. Goodnight, I’m gone.’

Access: What are you going to miss most about being a part of this?

Gary: I’ll tell you, Jolie, it didn’t hit me because I was concentrating on the work, so I didn’t really put any investment into thinking about, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to be here soon.’ (laughs) I never thought about it that way and then it was like, the first assistant director says, ‘That’s a wrap for Gary Lewis,’ and I still hadn’t taken it in, you know? And Matt [Roberts, ‘Outlander’ co-executive producer] was there and he [came over and] gave me a big hug, and Maril’s [Davis, ‘Outlander’ executive producer] there and gave me a big hug, but I’m still thinking I’m going to see these guys tomorrow (laughs). … So, it’s really strange. This has happened to me before. I don’t really think about it like that and then you’re in the car. You know when you’re talking to the driver and you’re like, ‘Jesus, am I–?’ (laughs) Then it hit me. ‘Oh, wow.’ … But I never let it hit me on set because there’s too much to do and those scenes are so important. I was still at work.

Access: This project really got to reunite you with a lot of the actors you’ve worked with over the years.

Gary: Oh yeah, and with Sam [Heughan] of course. I’d worked with Sam previously in the Battle of Britain drama and yeah, there [were] lots. It was fantastic in that respect. It was terrific. And lots of the crew of course, and then there was the added bonus of meeting a whole new [group] of incredible people, like Diana herself and oh God, the minute I was in the costume department [with Terry Dresbach]… it was just like something else. Beautiful genius at work… and I had a great time, great time just going through the costumes with her… and Matt and Maril, and of course, Cait, who I’d never met before. There were lots of incredible people and incredible actors to meet and work with. It was a joy — a real joy.

“Outlander” continues with a marathon next weekend, before the Season 2 finale on July 9 at 9 PM ET/PT on Starz.

— Jolie Lash

Read more at https://www.accesshollywood.com/articles/outlander-hail-mary-gary-lewis-colums-requests-jamie-claire/#XzU8QDvIcr3iiOLb.99

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