If you follow our reviews and interviews, you know STARZ‘s Outlander is one of our favorites; both book and tv series. The first season has come and gone to much critical acclaim, and as of tomorrow morning, we’ll know if they get any (much deserved) Emmy nominations. The show is based on the worldwide best selling historical fiction series by author Diana Gabaldon, and is going into it’s second season on tv sometime in 2016.
I am rather lucky in that the things I enjoy and am a fan of ties into my professional life. One of these things is the ability to get into a pressroom (a room of reporters from tv, websites, and newspapers) and ask questions of one of my favorite writers/show runners/personalities, Mr. Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander). Who totally rocked the kilt at SDCC 2014, btw.
AND before I forget to tell you fans, the second half of Outlander season 1 will be available to purchase on September 29th 2015. No word yet on Volume 2 of the SOUNDTRACK however, which is a downright shame because Emmy winning composer Bear McCreary’s work on the show is ridiculously amazing. You can get volume one on freaking vinyl though, how cool is that?
(Every so often, a question comes across that paints the reporter in maybe not the best light. In this instance, a question regarding one of the big historical battles the Highlanders waged against the English. The Battle of Culloden is THE definitive moment in the Uprising, most of the Clans do not survive. In the story of Outlander, Jamie Fraser is there, he participates, he barely makes it out. When we DO hear about his experiences, it is in the form of memories told to Claire, and it isn’t until a later book, NOT in the second. Just wanted to clear that up.)
Q: During the first season, and through a lot of the second book, the battle of Culloden gets mentioned a lot. Are you living in fear that this battle may end up as your Helm’s Deep? Are you going to film that?
Ron: No, and it definitely doesn’t happen in the second book. It’s not within this season. It might be something we do in the future, it’s not really the Battle of Helm’s Deep because the Battle of Culloden didn’t last that long. It was over pretty quickly, and it was pretty much a massacre. It *is* something I can see is filming and producing at some point, but where and when- these are problems I hope to have.
Q: What sort of changes will we see?
Ron: There will be a lot more changes in the second season, because the second book is huge, so much to adapt. The second book switches point of view a couple of times, it’s more political, the dynamics are just more difficult to deal with. The first book had a cleaner straighter narrative you could deal with, looking at it saying ‘oh, you can break it down into these components’, these’ll be the episodes. The second book just took more time. We were sitting in the writer’s room, trying to figure out how to shuffle things around. ‘If we can’t use this thing, is there another way we can get around to this thing’, maybe the same piece at a different point in the story. It just took more energy, it’s a tougher show. It’s also a tougher production, because suddenly we’re in Paris. Every set, every prop, every costume had to be different; we were really designing and producing a whole different series.
Q: What was the thought process behind making the choice to have the first season have 16 episodes? Will the numbers change from season to season?
Ron: It was a network and studio decision. It had mostly to do with STARZ broadcast schedule, what shows they were putting on the air and how they wanted to roll them out. Doing 16 was different for them when the normal season order was in 8s and 10s. They really loved the show and had a lot of faith in it and said ‘Lets do the first season in 16’. From now on, generally speaking, we’ll do a pattern of 13 each season.
Q: The Scottish Highlands really set the tone for the first season. How is the move to France, with the political intrigue, changing the tone for this upcoming season?
Ron: It changes it quite a bit. They’re now in an urban setting, it’s the most populated city in the world at that time. It’s aristocracy as opposed to the Highlanders, visually the colors are different. It’s more refined. It’s gilte and satin instead of wool. I mean the sets, it’s not just heavy stone walls and dark wood, it’s fabric walls and upholstery and draperies. It’s a completely different show. The move and the feel of it is different, it’ll be a lusher richer show. The mood will be different now too, because it’s about conspiracies, double dealing, who can you trust. There is a bit of that in the first season, but it wasn’t really the narrative thrust (heh, narrative thrust) and now it’s ALL about that through the Parisian episodes.
Q: The characters went through so much in the first season, how is that going to impact them going into season 2?
Ron: All that carries forward. Jamie’s experience from the end of the first season are obviously still with him, Claire is pregnant, we go forward from there. The first season is more a courtship of these two characters, and in two, now they’re married and jointly a couple, trying to together do this very difficult thing and still deal with the aftermath of all the Jack Randall stuff. So it’s different for them, they’ve moved into a different point of their relationship.
Q: How much is the hospital going to figure into season 2?
Ron: Quite a bit. With Mother Hildegard. (he pauses, so I take the moment)
Me: FANTASTIC CASTING BY THE WAY!
Ron: Yeah! Isn’t she great? She’s great. She’s so perfect, and Boutin, he’s there. The hospital is in several episodes, I can’t think how many off the top of my head. It’s a great set, we’ve already shot many of the scenes there, it looks fantastic. It’ll be really good.
(finally my question time, something I keep wanting to ask about because it makes PERFECT sense!)
Me: Are we ever going to possibly see a Black Sails / Outlander crossover? You know, with the later books with the ships and the pirates and everything.
Ron: *smiling with amusement that someone FINALLY asked* Well that’d be fun. It might be the only way we get to use their ships. They’d probably be on the other side of the ship shooting their scenes, and we’d be like over here.
Me: It would be hilarious and so perfect. Tall Ships already has the ships, so.
Ron: It would be so much fun.
Q: So all of us book fans have been clamoring about Bree and if we’re going to see ‘them’. You’d said she’d probably come up towards the end of the season. Are there any other fan favorite characters you haven’t announced yet that we may get to see?
Ron: I’ve lost track of who we’ve announced and who we haven’t in terms of actors. But we have King Louis XV, Comte St. Germain, Master Raymond, Mother Hildegard, obviously Boutin, Louise De la Tour, Mary Hawkins, Alex Randall, Prince Charles, and of course Fergus.
Q: You have so many new locations this season, can you talk about the challenges of filming in them?
Ron: Most of it will still be shot in Scotland on our soundstage like Jamie and Claire’s apartment, Master Raymond’s apothecary. We’re going to go to Prague later this year and shoot exterior scenes for the streets of Paris, and we’ll go to the south of England, there are some palaces down there we’ll shoot for some interiors of Versaille and some of the gardens. But we’re still shooting on location in places in and around Scotland, finding places that might double as a garden in Paris. There may be some of these homes that have a room that look like it could be Louise de la Tour’s Parisian apartment because we can’t keep moving the entire company for multiple days into multiple countries. And it’s tricky, I mean we’re only doing it for half the season, you can’t through all the money at THIS half, because you still have a war story to tell in the second half. It’s tricky, creatively on the page, it’s a different show, and as a production it’s a more difficult season.
Me: What are you most looking forward to for season 2?
Ron: Wrapping. *everyone laughs, including Ron*
Q: Are you guys shooting it straight through?
Ron: Well, I mean this (SDCC) is a break, for the cast and I to come out, and then there is a small break between the Paris and the Scotland set to kind of reset. And I think there is a small break at Christmas, but we’re pretty much shooting til February.
Q: Are you looking forward to season 3 and how you might do the ‘big thing’ I’m not going to spoil for people?
Ron: I think about it a little bit, but we haven’t had a pick up for three yet. I *hope* I have such problems, we’ll see. I’ve started doing some preliminary thinking. It’s a big book, and do you split it into two seasons? I’ve not really started with all the strategic thinking.
Q: What are some of the challenges of getting a story like this told from start to end on a paid network like STARZ vs cable? When it comes to speculative fiction, it seems like there are always dead bodies by the side of the road. You were pretty successful with Battlestar Galactica, but what does it really take to get from start to finish?
Ron: Each of these situations is unique. There isn’t a normal way of doing it. Battlestar had to be dragged into production. I had sold it to one network, and then that network changed hands, and another group of executives came in and decided that SyFy as a channel wasn’t going to do anymore ‘space operas’. And ‘that mini series probably won’t succeed, but we’ve already shot it so what the hell, we’ll put it on anyway’. But then it succeeded, and they said ‘oh, well then, guess we have to do a show’. It was a lot of different wrangling to make it work. Eventually it became a success, and they became proud of it. With this, they (STARZ) had already read the book, and said to me ‘why don’t you do the most faithful adaptation you can, make it for the fans, and the hopefully the general audience will just come along for the ride’. It was such a fundamentally different situation, it’s almost impossible to draw comparisons to. The relationship is so different from that group of people to this, whether they trust you vs whether they don’t, are there other political cross currents you get caught in. I mean I had sold a pilot to NBC, and by the time we were shooting it, they had already fired the president and brought a new one in. Sometimes there are just things you have no control over, you just have to throw the dice and see how it works.
Me: In season one music was such a HUGE part of everything, it was pretty much it’s own character. Do you think that’ll change into season 2 with the change of tone and everything?
Ron: I think very much so. I think it’ll be very important that the music convey a different world, I mean you can’t play the same Scottish themes while going through the palace of Versaille. It’s also a way of telling the audiences they’re not in Kansas anymore. They’ve really moved into this other world, and the music will help us tell that story.
Needless to say, Outlander is my most anticipated show to return in 2016. Hopefully, it’ll continue being as wonderfully faithful and fantastic for many years to come.