Till then....2 Interviews with Ron Moore
ENTERTAINMNT WEEKLY: EP Ronald D. Moore answers our burning questions
Well, it looks like poor Jamie will spend the next six months crouched in Black Jack’s window, considering Outlander won’t return to Starz until April 4, 2015. (The upside: His quads will look HUGE when he finally gets to stand upright.)
Saturday’s midseason finale—in which Claire once again found herself confined in close quarters with the ruthless Redcoat—raised more questions than it answered, so we rang up showrunner Ronald D. Moore to chat about that cliffhanger, Frank’s increased presence, and, of course, male nudity.
EW: Congratulations on a great first half of season 1. What reactions have you been hearing from fans?
Ronald D. Moore: I would say that I’ve just been getting a very positive response. Fans of the book are definitely appreciating how close we’ve stayed to it, and I think for the most part, they’ve understood why we’ve made certain changes, and they’ve been excited to just see the scenes and storylines come alive. And the reaction I’ve got from new viewers has been very positive. People have just been intrigued by the story and wondering where it’s going and say they haven’t really seen a tale like this one on television. It’s just been a very positive response, overall.
I’m hoping you can settle a debate I’m having with my editor over the midseason finale: In that really great scene in which Frank and Claire were simultaneously standing atop Craigh na Dun, could Frank hear Claire through the stones? Or was it just Claire who could hear Frank?
That’s a good question. We left that deliberately ambiguous so that it would be ambiguous in Frank’s mind. Did he hear her voice, or was it just the wind? We kinda wanted to play it a little bit mystical but not so overtly that he had concrete evidence that he had heard her.
All right, that settles nothing then! Moving on…Frank’s gotten a lot more play in the TV series than he did in the book. Can you talk a bit about the decision to include him more?
I thought it was really important because Claire’s drive through a big chunk of the first season is to go home, to get back to Frank, and return to her own time. So I thought you had to sort of get the audience inside of that. The audience had to understand emotionally why she wants to do that because otherwise, they would just go, “Come on, lady! What’s the matter with you? Just stick with the redhead guy and enjoy yourself.” I thought it was very important that the audience have an investment in that triangle, that they understand her dilemma, that they understand that she is torn between these two men and these two periods, and that you had to sort of invest in Frank as a character to pull that off.
In “Both Sides Now” we see Frank’s hunt for Claire—something we’re not privy to in that first book. When you create new threads like this, do you talk with Diana Gabaldon or just dive in?
We just kinda jumped in. We kept Diana in the loop, and she saw scripts and dailies and cuts, and she’ll comment back from time to time, and she’s been very generous and very free to say, “You know what? I’m the author, you guys are the TV writers, you do what you do, and I’ll just trust that you don’t destroy my book.” And that’s kind of the attitude that we’ve taken. We try to honor the book, and we try to preserve the spirit of it, and we try to stick as close to the storyline as we can, but it is an adaptation, and we are adapting it for another medium. It has different requirements, so we embellish on things and we change things around, but we’re always at pains to get back to where the story goes.
You ended on a nice little cliffhanger. Was that the one you had in mind all along or did you consider other options?
I knew from the outset that that was the perfect midseason finale. It falls just about midway through the book. It’s the most exciting image. It’s the moment in the book where you go, “I have no idea what’s going to happen next, and how the hell did he get in that window?” It’s a great moment to fade to black on.
I can only imagine what you would have faced if you’d concluded before the wedding. Fans probably would have mutinied!
Oh yeah! [Laughs] We weren’t going to tease that much.
Much has been made of Outlander having a strong female gaze. Does that come inherently from the source material or is that something you made an extra effort to capture?
Well, obviously, the book is told through the female perspective, but as we do the show, we just kind of tell the story as best as we can. And I guess as we were approaching the sex scenes in particular, we had a long conversation with the director and the cast, and my mandate was just let’s not over do it. Don’t do the blowing drape and the candle. Let’s not overly fantasize and romanticize it. Let’s not make it just soft-core porn. Let’s make it sex. How do people have sex? Let’s try to do the most naturalistic interpretation of how two people have sex in this context. So the first time is going to be getting it over with. There’s a lot of chemistry, and there’s a lot of anticipation, and there’s the taking off of the clothes for the first time, and there’s all that excitement. But he’s being deflowered, and she’s really uncomfortable, and the first time’s probably not going to be that great. And it’s going to be over kind of quick. But once that’s out of the way, it kind of creates room for the second time to be about something else, and the third time you actually move to love. We just wanted it to feel real. We just wanted you to believe that these were two people making love for the first time in this extraordinary circumstance, and it just didn’t feel like we were trying to be fancy or over-glamorize it or just overdo it. Sex is exciting enough, and let’s just have two people just have sex.
I don’t want to call it disappointing editing, but we came so close to seeing all of Jamie but didn’t! Since this is Starz we’re talking about, do you ever foresee going there with one of the male characters? (And by “there,” I mean the full enchilada.)
Yeah! I mean, we don’t have anything against it. It always depends on what we want to do in these scenes. Does it distract you? Does the scene become all about that suddenly? In the second time they have sex and she says, “Take your shirt off, I want to look at you,” and he looks at her, if he had been standing there with an erect soldier, it would have been what the scene was all about all of the sudden, and that wasn’t the point of that moment. We wanted you to be with them as people not just going, “Wow, I can’t believe they showed that on television!” I just think it would have taken you out of it. That’s not to say in future episodes there isn’t a time where it would feel more natural and it would feel more appropriate to what we’re doing.
Have you filmed anything like that yet?
There’s all kinds of footage sitting in the edit bay as we speak… We shall see.
Commenters sometimes complain that something significant—a moment that will pay off seasons down the line—has been cut from the episode. How mindful are you of the long game?
We’re aware of all that, and we talk about it in the room. Some of the writers are more familiar with subsequent books than others. I like the mix. We’ve got people who are focusing on this year and other people who have the whole show in their hands, so we always talk about the interconnectedness of the mythology. If there’s something that we drop that’s important for a later episode, we just file it away as something we have to get back to or revisit or explain. I’m sure there are various pieces that may seem like they’ve gone by the board that we’re aware of and we plan to explain or rationalize or do something with later on.
Looking ahead to the back half of the season (and without getting too spoilery), Jamie has some pretty intense, painful scenes coming up. How much of that will we see?
We did it. It’s pretty intense stuff. We just got finished shooting those sequences. Some very brave actors and some emotionally and psychologically difficult material to deal with on set. It’s such an important part of what the book is and what the story is about that there’s really no way to shy away from it. It hasn’t been edited together yet—we literally just finished shooting it.
Is there a scene in the remaining season 1 episodes that you’re particularly excited for fans to see?
The whole story once you get involved with Geillis and the witch trial—that’s all really cool and exciting. It’s just great to bring her back, and she’s such a fun character, and it’s really great to see her and Claire together. I’m really looking forward to people seeing that whole story.
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: "We All Went Beyond Our Comfort Zones"
[WARNING: Spoilers ahead from Saturday's midseason finale of Outlander, "Both Sides Now."]
How's that for a cliffhanger?
Outlander closed out the first half of its 16-episode freshman season with Jamie (Sam Heughan) barging in just as Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) was about to cut off Claire's breast (Caitriona Balfe). Ouch. "Get away from my wife!" Jamie proclaims, a wry smile creeping up on Black Jack's face as he laid eyes on the young Highlander. Readers of the books know what's about to come for the three unlikely compatriots, and it's fair to say, it'll be even more disturbing than Jamie's violent flogging at Black Jack's hand.
Read more 'Outlander' Sets Spring 2015 Return
The episode, titled "Both Sides Now," also spent significant time with Claire's grieving husband Frank (Menzies) as he struggled to grapple with and figure out what may or may not have happened that day at the stones. Did she really run off with another man? Is a supernatural force at work here? Frank, after arriving at the stones at Craig na Dun, nearly catches wind of Claire's screams from 1743 but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Director Anna Foerster, who also helmed last week's wedding (read Heughan's take on the episode here), talks to The Hollywood Reporter about Saturday's midseason closer.
In addition to episodes seven and eight, you're directing the final two episodes of the season that will air next year. Have you wrapped production yet?
They are finishing today [Sept. 24] with pickups and inserts. We did the last wrap on Monday night. It was quite exciting. Not only was it the season finale, but it was the 200th shooting day for the crew. You could see the strain on the crew. It was a long run for everybody. Including the actors, particularly Catriona [Balfe]. She had no stopping.
This episode followed Claire and Jamie’s wedding, which you also directed. What was the most important thing you wanted to capture in the aftermath and how did last week’s episode inform your approach?
When we shot the wedding episode, it was interesting what’s been happening to Claire. She essentially agrees to do this wedding to survive, so she’s not [getting the wrath of] Black Jack. But on a larger perspective her objective is to go back to the stones, go back to Frank, go back to her time. In a way, being married made it easier for her to get to that goal. She is starting in a relatively pragmatic way and then, as you see in Saturday’s episode, it doesn’t quite go the way she thought because she fell in love. That is the first time, when you see her reaction at the end of the episode, that she is realizing her objective is not clear anymore. In the beginning of [episode] eight, Claire got sidetracked.
As a director, what was the most critical thing you wanted to convey in this episode?
In "The Wedding," we were almost exclusively in Claire’s world except for the flashback with Frank. In this episode, we’re starting with Frank and that is something taken from the book. When I read the script, I was intrigued by that because it’s great to see what’s happening on the other side [in 1945] — to see Frank’s struggle and despair, and what happens to his love of her. What’s really interesting is you get a glimpse of character traits of Black Jack in Frank, even though they are not the same person. There are certain moments, like when Frank beats up the man in the alley, where you can see certain character traits have survived a long time in this family.
Seeing how Frank coped with Claire’s sudden disappearance was an added treat, considering viewers haven't spent considerable time in his world. How did you balance those two narratives visually? Was it a challenge?
It was a challenge but I thought it defined the episode, jumping between those two times. You see what one person is doing and what the other person is doing on the other side and towards the end [those two worlds are] basically merging. When Claire and Frank are running to the stones at the same time, she wants to go back to 1945 but the reason he is going is of despair. He doesn’t believe in the mystery and the fantasy. There is a moment when Frank screams for her and it carries over into her world. From a visual point of view, it was very interesting to choreograph that.
The aspect of time travel hasn't been a driving force of Outlander until this episode, when characters like Frank are forced to face the possibility of supernatural events.
There is still no real explanation, there are speculations when Frank gets told what is happening — that the energy comes together and it's a maze that you travel through time. But you don't really know. The only thing we know for sure, and what Claire knows for sure, is that if she would have touched those stones, she would have gone back [to 1945]. Frank touched the stone and didn't go through, so it does take a specific person. Now the question is, how is Frank going to go? Will it be destiny for it to happen?
It's all taken seriously by Frank, which is interesting because he is a very pragmatic person. He, like the majority of the general population, would feel like this is fantasy and not really happening. Then in the biggest moment, he goes up there to the stones against his better judgment. Even he is drawn to the idea that there is something there.
At least from the start, Claire and Jamie seemed happy about being newlyweds, but that doesn't last. How quickly do you think they're falling in love and do you think one is more deeply invested than the other?
The thing is Claire doesn't know, and the audience doesn't know, if Jamie really loves her, or if it's just a marriage for the same kind of reasons as he lists in the wedding episode — to save her, help her, to do the right thing. We suspect it but with Claire during the wedding night and the three different times they are making love, the first time it is just consummating the marriage. By the third time, it is making love. By then, she realizes this has nothing to do with contracts. She really enjoyed [the sex]; she didn't say she's falling in love but essentially that's what's happening. That's why in episode eight, they are starting out in a honeymoon glow.
When they're having a picnic and an arrow hits right next to Jamie, they should have been more alert, more aware [but instead] they're talking about pretty intense feelings. In a way he's not as on-guard and as alert as he should be. The second time, it's kind of a similar thing. They're in the meadow and they are enjoying themselves without thinking about where they are going and how they need to be safe. Claire's lost sight of her morals and he is losing what makes him the guy who is always on alert, losing his attention as a warrior. It starts in a happy place and then heads in the opposite direction.
Let's talk about the scene in the meadow. Things take a dark turn when Claire kills one of the Red Coats after he attempts to rape her. What was important for you to capture in that moment?
One of the most important things was she has to protect herself and she couldn't rely on Jamie, who promised her he would always protect her and that she would always be safe with him. Suddenly that's not true anymore. It's one of those things where there is something really terrible happening and in the midst of this terrible thing, when it's becoming almost a blur, she instinctively does the right thing [in killing the Red Coat who was about to rape her]. This is when it becomes clear that Claire is a survivor. She has the instincts of a survivor; it doesn't matter the circumstance.
Claire's reunion with Black Jack was fraught with tension because of what transpired between them two episodes ago. What was it like to film?
Her reunion with Black Jack I unfortunately didn't get to film because they had to shoot it before I moved over there. It was shot three blocks before and it had something to do with the set. (Editor's note: Richard Clark directed the final sequence.)
What was the most challenging scene to get right?
A very obvious one was the reunion between on Craig na Dun. That was a challenge for lots of reasons because it's two characters [Frank and Claire] going there for different emotional reasons. It's a bit of a leap for the audience to go there as well. You don't want it to become too supernatural either; you want to keep it grounded somehow. Another scene was the rape, which definitely required some thought and discussion. What happened [to Claire] isn't straightforward, instead it is the essence of what is going on [and that's how we chose to film it]. It's more of her experience of that moment rather than a clear depiction — more like an impression.
And on a completely different note, when Monroe comes to meet Claire and Jamie and he has a tongue that's been cut out. We did research on when sign language was developed, which it wasn't back then, so we came up with something together for what he could have used as signs that he and Jamie would know because they had been friends before. The actor had sort of an Invisalign in his mouth to pull back his tongue so it was literally disabled.
Any favorite moments from the wedding and this week's episode?
First of all, I have to say all the actors are amazing, particularly Caitriona, Sam and Tobias. All three of them are open to adjustments for each take, so you can approach it one way and then you can throw in something else that twists it in another direction and create certain nuances. That's something the tree of them — Tobias especially is the master of that and Caitriona is enjoying as well. One of my favorite moments is at the end of the wedding episode with Claire's ring falling on to the floor. That was always important to me to make that a big moment. In a weird way, I liked when Murtagh and Jamie were in the stable. It was a small and intimate scene, but I really liked it as a moment. And in episode eight, I liked the despair of Frank in the beginning. Those moments gave the episode another full layer of Frank, which isn't really in the book. We all went beyond our comfort zones in a good way. I have never worked on anything that was as emotionally taxing than what we did here, but I'm not sure if television has ever gone to the places [Outlander has and will go]. That's what's exciting about Outlander, from each episode to the next you never see the same thing. That's what I really like about the series.
Outlander returns April 4, 2015 on Starz.