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Interview with OUTLANDER stars Sam Heughan & Caitriona Balfe, EP Ron Moore + creator Diana Gabaldon

Maj Canton - January 10, 2016




Friday at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour, Starz presented an OUTLANDER press panel that included series stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore, and creator and author Diana Gabaldon. Answering journalists' questions, they dished about Claire's pregnancy, revealed that Jaime and Claire play father and mother to sort of a surrogate son, and discussed the roles of fashion, fighting and Frank in Season 2. We edited the panel's proceedings for clarity and readability, and added photos from TCA and from Season 2.


What were the stars wearing at TCA? Well, I asked them. Before the panel started, Sam told me he was wearing Armani, I asked him if it was silk. He looked at the label inside his jacket and shrugged his shoulders. He let me -- and others standing around him -- feel his jacket, and it was definitely a silk blend. After the panel, I caught up with Caitriona, who said she was wearing a Proenza Schouler silk/wool blend dress with black Bally heels.


Season 2 of OUTLANDER is scheduled to premiere April 2016, but no official date has been announced. In the meantime, you can check out this trailer for the upcoming season.


Question: Cait, do you prefer the fashions of Paris or Scotland?

Caitriona Balfe: I think Terry [Dresbach, costumer designer and wife to Ronald D. Moore] will agree with me that I don't know if we'd called the Scottish clothes necessarily fashions. They're very practical clothes. It was a palette that was very muted and fabrics that were very practical and sort of earthy. But once we went to Paris, I think Terry was given this incredible freedom to make the most incredible beautiful pieces, so we have very rich fabrics, gorgeous colors, and it just looks amazing. It's so sumptuous.

Question: Sam, because you've moved from the Highlands to France, has the style of fighting changed at all?

Sam Heughan: Wow. I would say that the danger in Paris and Versailles is less physical with the swords and weaponry. It's more politics and backstabbing and poison. It's more hidden. There's a lot more politics at work and a lot more danger, so it's a different kind of world. But we certainly do go back to Scotland where we go back to the mud and blood and gore. So there's something for everyone.


Question: Sam, Jamie went through so much at the end of last season. How much is all that he went through with Randall with him? And how much is it still with you since I know those scenes were not easy to shoot?

Sam Heughan: Yes. It certainly played out in Season 2, but it's not the primary focus of the season. Obviously we go to Paris on this mission, and we're there for a reason. But Jamie's definitely still affected by the trauma. I think time is a great healer, but ultimately, he puts his whole body and soul into this mission about changing history, and then there is a great revelation that kind of cures him -- or brings him out of himself -- which I can't really tell you what that is, but it certainly brings back the old Jamie.


Whether or not that still lives with me, yes, I guess. I think myself and Caitriona, we both love any scenes that are kind of quite dramatic that we can really get our teeth into, that we can really stretch ourselves, our acting ability. I thoroughly enjoyed those episodes and look forward to more challenges.

Question: Caitriona and Sam, the idea of shifting to different eras is pretty exciting. If you could visit any era, what would it be?

Caitriona Balfe: I think I always used to say New York in the '20s, but I would also love to go to Egypt at the height of the pharaohs. I think that would be very...

Sam Heughan: We've discussed how you would make a great Cleopatra.

Caitriona Balfe: I would like to be Cleopatra, yes.

Sam Heughan: We should remake a movie. Starz remake CLEOPATRA.

Ronald D. Moore: Better plumbing in New York probably.

Caitriona Balfe: Probably, yeah.

Sam Heughan: I've always been obsessed with the King Arthur legends, and I don't really know what period that would be. Yeah. I'd love to discover the source of King Arthur, I guess.

Question: Would you be King Arthur?

Sam Heughan: Absolutely. But then maybe Mordred's a more interesting character.

Question: This show has launched both of you into the public eye in a different way. How do you two navigate that success, and what's sort of the double-edged sword of being known?

Caitriona Balfe: I'm not sure really what the navigation is. We have this amazing opportunity to work on a show that we love, and that's been the greatest gift. Obviously you do have more recognition, and I think that the great positive things of that are Sam and I both now have a voice where we can do positive things with that. We both have charities that we support, and I think we both love that side of things. I think also -- I can only speak for myself -- I haven't really had a negative side to that yet, and I hope I won't. I think if you're the type of person who sort of lives your life kind of privately, you can still more or less do that. You know, obviously when we're at the clubs at 4am falling out, that changes things. [Laughter.]

Sam Heughan: Happens a lot.

Caitriona Balfe: So far it's all been positive.

Sam Heughan: Yeah. Pretty [much] exactly what Caitriona said. We do have that ability to support charities and have done so, and I think that's definitely the positive side to this industry.

Question: Diana, this is a really bold step to do the things you're doing, going back and forth and having her decide, and Jamie finally understanding and so forth. Did you always know you were going to go in this direction? What was the thinking that went behind having to go back and try to change things.

Diana Gabaldon: I don't plan the books out ahead of time, and I don't write in a straight line either. I write where I see things happening. Consequently, as I got the first book sort of coming together, I had already found a literary agent, and so as I got it coming together, I told him, I said, "I can see that there's more to this story, but I thought I should stop while I can still lift it." He said, "Great." So when he went to sell the book, I said, "You can tell them there's more." He said, "She says there's more." And they said, "Well, trilogies are very popular. Do you think she could write three?" Being a very good agent, he said, "I'm sure she could." So I had a three-book contract. So I had all the room in the world to do anything I wanted. So I sort of jumped off a cliff, and that's been working pretty well for me so far, so I just keep doing that.

Question: You have all these people who say, "Oh, you can't mess with timelines and you can't do this and can't do that." None of that bothers you? You're able to push ahead? You're able to make up your own rules as far as what can be changed and what can't be and so on?

Diana Gabaldon: Yeah. Well, you always do that if you are dealing with time travel in any serious literary way. Anybody who does time travel stuff, unless it's just the costume drama, she's going back and wearing fancy clothes, but she's going to be a 20th century person and show everybody the error of their ways -- this is not what I do. Anyway, if you do it in any serious way, you do, in fact, figure out how a time works, one way or the other. In fact, I am honored to say that I was invited to write up the Gabaldon theory of time travel for the "Journal of Transfigural Mathematics" in Berlin, which I did, if you want to see that. I can tell you what the nuts and bolts are, but it's a little long for this venue.

Question: Caitriona, it looks like from that clip [that was shown before the panel started] that we're going to see the time traveling this time. How will her experiences with Black Jack affect her relationship with Frank this season in her present? Does time traveling cause any jet lag?

Caitriona Balfe: You know, no jet lag. A little disorientation.

Sam Heughan: Like a little hangover.

Caitriona Balfe: Just a little hangover kind of thing. I think as much when Claire first encounters Black Jack and she can't fail but to see Frank in him and believe that somewhere there is that connection, I think when she goes back, there is also that reverse thing where every time she looks at Frank, she can't help but see Black Jack. There's many layers of why that relationship is difficult when she goes back. She's definitely not the same woman that left. But, yeah. I think it definitely has an effect.

Question: Can you all talk a little bit more about the pregnancy this year? How does it impact the story? Different times have different ideas about what pregnant women can and can't do. Will that play in?

Ronald D. Moore: It definitely plays into the storyline, and that particular issue does come up at a certain point. It's hard to get into anything specific without really getting into spoiler territory. But Claire's pregnancy is a threat. It's there from the first episode since they arrive in Paris, and we continue it throughout the story and how it affects their relationship and her own role in the plot to disrupt the Jacobite rebellion and so on.

Tobias Menzies as Black Jack Randall in Season 1.

Question: Congratulations on the Golden Globes. Are you trying to write to bias Tobias Menzies [who earned a nomination for his portrayal of Black Jack/Frank in the category for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television]? Is Frank a little more in it?

Ronald D. Moore: Frank's a great character. And he was such a fundamental part of the genesis of the story. Claire's drive to return to him was such a strong thread all throughout the first season. It's just a rich and interesting character. Tobias is a great actor, so it was a very organic process, being in the writers' room working on a story, and it just kind of folded itself into certain elements as we broke the season.

Question: Tell us about the new French actors. What's it like working with them, and do you all speak French?

Sam Heughan: I would say that we speak varying degrees of French. We have some fantastic new characters coming in. The French actors poured in just a new dynamic, a new world, and there's new enemies, new allies. We have Dominique Pinon. We've got Stanley Weber.

Caitriona Balfe: Lionel Lingelser, Andrew Gower, Frances de la Tour, Romann Berrux.

Sam Heughan: We have this young boy, Romann Berrux, who plays Fergus. He brings this great dimension to Claire and Jamie. He sort of becomes their surrogate son, and it's really nice to see Jaime and Claire play father and mother -- and sort of play this family. It brings another entity and dynamic to the whole relationship.

Question: Sam, could you talk about what you like about Jamie, what you admire about him? If you were sitting across from him at a table, what would you want to ask him?

Sam Heughan: I've been very surprised by Season 2. Season 1 was about discovery and about a young man sort of growing up and finding his place in the world and in a relationship. And Season 2 has been about discovering a side of the character that I didn't know was there -- that he's playing someone else. He's being quite deceptive. He's learning to be deceitful, and he does it very well. Jamie is very capable and good at most things. But there's a side to him that I didn't know, and also, he's still obviously traumatized or struggling with what happened to him. So there's not a darkness, but there's a side to him that I didn't know existed. And what do I admire about him, I think you asked? I guess his humor and his buoyancy. His natural ability to keep going no matter what's wrong. And I guess, also, his just absolute dedication to Claire is admirable and inspiring.

Question: What would you ask him?

Sam Heughan: Is he a natural ginger? [Laughter.] Or does he dye his hair once a month?

Question: Caitriona, what about Claire?

Caitriona Balfe: In similar respects similar to Sam, for Claire last season was a very reactionary season. There was just events that sort of happened one after another, and she was in survival mode, so she was just really reacting from one thing to the next. The difference with this season is that there's been time to sort of be in one place and contemplate. I feel like things are sitting with her a lot more, and she has time to consider her place and how she feels. It's been a really amazing discovery in that way, and I feel that in a lot of respects I've gotten to know her a lot more. But we have such, hopefully, a long journey to go with these characters that I'm really looking forward to playing the next phases. People who know the books know that Brianna comes in, and how that is to be a mother and all of these things.


I really admire her resilience and her intelligence, and I would love to just ask her about what her thoughts are being in all these different places and times and how she sees humanity -- and having that conversation with her and about her drive for her career and all those things. I think it would be a very interesting dinner. It would be a very drunk dinner, possibly.