Ronald D Moore, Executive Producer of Starz’s Outlander tells us about planning out the series while keeping faith with Diana Gabaldon’s books.
With eight of the sixteen Season 1 episodes of Outlander already aired Ronald details how they went about plotting the second half of Season 1, of buying his own kilt and how they will film Paris in Season 2.
Can you talk a little bit about the writing process and how you dealt with any changes you had to make to Diana’s book coming up in the second half.
We start in the writers room with the book order of events and the book scenes. Then we put them up on the board and we carve it up into discrete hours, and then you focus individually on each episode.
You say, all right, is this an hour of television? What’s the theme of this particular episode?
What’s the arc? Where are the characters starting and where are they ending up? And you make changes along the way in order to accomplish those goals.
We have the philosophy of we don’t make changes unless we have to. And then, if we do, we always strive to get back to where the book was and get back on the path.
So you always have a guide of what you’re trying to accomplish, and we have an integrity to what the series is at this point.
We’ve changed certain things. We’ve made certain adjustments. And so you are honor bound to maintain the consistency of that going forward, especially for the audience that has never read the books, so they’re just watching the show.
So you’re always trying to keep an eye on the book and keep an eye on what you’ve established in terms of continuity and mythology and just keep moving forward.
Are you finding that Book One fit the 16 hours perfectly? Did you stretch or cut or move bits?
No. Sixteen was a good number for the first book. We did the entire book in the course of the first season.
Along the way, you would look at individual episodes again and you would decide in this moment do we want to expand this sequence? Do we want to contract it? Are we short?handing certain things? It’s a case?by?case basis.
Episode 6, we made an entire episode out of a very small chapter of a book. And in other places, we’re condensing many different events into a single episode
So it’s all in the moment of how you’re deciding to tell the story. But we did manage to do the entire first book in the first season.
In the midseason finale of Outlander Season 1 when we got to see Frank’s perspective which wasn’t a part of the book. Are we seeing Frank anymore, or is that part kind of in the past now, so to speak?
It won’t be for the rest of the first season. The story does revisit Frank in the 20th century in Book Two. And so in the second season, you will.
In the beginning of the first episode of the Outlander second half of the season, we switch from Claire’s voiceover to Jamie’s voiceover. Is that something we’re going to be seeing throughout this season?
It was just for this episode.
We did that for a couple different reasons. You know, as we got into the season and we knew there was midseason break, so we had this great cliff?hanger. And then, as we were developing Episode 9, we said, well, all right, don’t want to really pick up in real time just on the cliff?hanger.
We’re also restarting for the audience, so let’s have a lead?in to the episode and start the show again. It was an opportunity to then shift point of view. So it was interesting to tell those events in that first hour from Jamie’s point of view.
It also served a larger goal in the life of the series in that the show beyond Season 1 is really about Jamie and Claire together.
This was a moment to pivot to now include him in the perspective for the audience, and that gave us permission moving forward to then do scenes that Jamie was in, that Claire wasn’t in, so now the show became about both of them as we move forward.
Downton Abbey has a consultant who tells everyone about the proper way of wearing things and the proper manners of the day. Do you have the consultant or several people on the set?
Well, we actually have a variety of consultants on the show. There’s a full-time historian who gets all of the scripts and we consult with at the script level.
There’s also technical consultants that work with the costume department, with set design, language coaches and dialect coaches and herbologists for the medicine.
And we’ll bring in medical technicians on the day to do things with bandages and splints.
In terms of how the actors wear their costumes, that’s pretty much left up to the costume department and their interaction with the actors. I believe there’s a significant amount of freedom for the Highlanders how each of you wears the specific kilt and what you are comfortable with.
The second book and I’m assuming the Outlander second season takes place primarily in Paris. Is there any plan to change location, or are you going to make Scotland look a little bit more Parisian?
We’ll continue to shoot in Scotland. The second book is divided into two pieces. There’s a section in Paris and then it returns to Scotland for the second half.
We’ll build interiors at our facility in Cumbernauld where we do all of our stage work. We’ll also do some location work in Scotland.
For exterior Paris streets, we’re starting the process of looking around and seeing where else we can shoot that kind of material.
Then, it’s Scotland for the entire second half of the season.