Ronald D. Moore and Diana Gabaldon Discuss Bringing Outlander to Life

Outlander makes its official debut this evening on Starz, and as we get ready to step back in time, let’s check out this recent conversation that we took part in with Ronald D. Moore and Diana Gabaldon.

Ronald D. Moore on adapting Diana Gabaldon’s books and expanding on the world that she created:

“We’ve tried to make it as faithful an adaptation as possible of the book, so that fans of the book recognize the characters and the story, and really the tone and flavor of the book. In terms of specific changes, we’ve put in scenes that might have been implied in certain characters’ back stories. We tried to do things that might have happened or could have happened within the storyline. But it’s always been important to us that when we make changes in the show that we make them for a specific reason and then we bend the story back to where the book would have taken the characters.”

Diana Gabaldon on the storyline that she’s most excited to see come to life on screen:

“There’s a very intense sequence of scenes that happens near the end of the [first] book that involve torture and a man being sort of psychologically and physically dismantled. I am really eager to see how the actors tackle that because it’s a very, very challenging thing to do. But it will be absolutely spectacular if they pull it off.

Moore discusses setting up production in Scotland, selecting the locations for Season 1, and the production process itself:

“I first went to Scotland almost a year, year and a half ago. Right away we just started looking around for potential locations for the show and Scotland’s a beautiful country, it has a lot of choices. The first thing we were looking for was a home base for the production studio so we needed a facility that would house the entire production, where we could build sound stages and sets. Once we settled on a place in Cumbernauld, then you sort of draw an imaginary line about an hour’s drive outside of that, and that became sort of the hub of where we are. We’ve taken the show out further and taken the crew out into the actual highlands. We’ve gone on several overnights to do location work as well. But the truth is there are a lot of choices in Scotland; the castles are real, the villages are real, there are old houses. There are plenty of places to shoot. The most challenging part is not so much finding them per se, as it is trying to shoot them in the weather. We shot through the winter in Scotland and standing out in the cold and the rain and the mud at 2 o’clock in the morning, trying to get some shots is quite difficult. So it’s a testament to the cast and the crew that we’re able to pull of the show. We have a lot of choices and a lot of places to shoot in Scotland because everything is just really stunning.

“It’s been a very challenging production. It’s very hard. We’re shooting on location in Scotland, and … it has its own challenges, being outdoors. But it’s also different from the normal television show in that, a typical series has a home base; it has a hospital, a precinct, an apartment building, something, where you’re always going back to those sets and shooting them over and over again, and that provides a comfort level for the production, it saves money, time, planning and resources. And this show has a story which evolves. Castle Leoch is our home for just a few episodes, and then the story leaves Castle Leoch and doesn’t go back. And as a result, the production is very challenging because we’re constantly creating new locations, new sets, new characters, and we’re always moving forward. I’ve realized that it’s not so much a TV series we’re shooting as it is 16 different movies. And that’s a big thing to chew on for all of us who are used to doing television.

“In terms of the sets themselves, I think the Castle Leoch sets were probably near and dear to all of our hearts because they were the first ones up on the stages. The great hall of Castle Leoch was probably the biggest single set that I’ve built and it was great. You could always walk in there and really feel like you were somewhere else. Claire’s apothecary, the hallways and the kitchen were as close to home as we got. In terms of least favorite sets, I don’t know if I have a least favorite set. There were places that were more challenging to shoot than others. The exterior location for Castle Leoch is a place called Castle Doune, which is a real 13th or 12th century castle and we shot all the exterior stuff there. We tried to shoot the interior but it was just way too difficult. There were a couple of shots of Claire and Murtagh in a spiral staircase, but that was virtually impossible to get a camera in there and actually shoot in. And it was a historical site, so it was very limited in what you could actually do to setup lights and so on. Some of these older places are gorgeous, but very hard to physically maneuver a crew around. But they’re all kind of special and great. And they all look very beautiful on camera.”

Moore on incorporating the mix of genres while still keeping it grounded:

“You just try to keep the show grounded throughout. The book has a sense of authenticity to it and truth about both the period of the 40s and the 18th century. I said from the beginning, we want that to be a key element in the show, and that we want to really believe that both of these places exist. I’m a strong believer in the idea that if you’re going to take the audience on a fantastical journey, the more believable you make it the better. Then the audience will be willing to go with you when something crazy — like time travel — happens. So we went out of our way to really try to make the 40s very believable, to keep the characters as real people, and then when Claire travels back in time, that the world of Scotland in 1743 felt authentic and truthful. And because you have this foundation, it allows you to sort of give yourself over to the drama and to the adventure story of what we’re telling.”

Gabaldon and Moore on the world premiere at San Diego Comic-Con and finally screening an episode for fans:

“I was absolutely delighted. It was great to sit there and feel the fans respond to specific images, moments, and appearances of characters. I told them afterwards, ‘You all laughed in the right places,’ as in they responded to it exactly in the way that I would have hoped they would. In other words, the story telling was a faithful adaptation of the books, and very powerful in a visual medium.” – Diana Gabaldon

“For me it was very gratifying. As a television writer you seldom have the opportunity to sit in a theater with people watching the show, and you’re always anticipating what’s happening with the audience. So to have a chance to see it with an audience that is primed to love it and that did laugh in all the right places, and applauded, and really gave themselves over to it, it was enormously gratifying and a really great night.” – Ronald D. Moore

Photo by Melissa Girimonte. Copyright © 2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *