Outlander’s Ron Moore tells us about the Highland drama’s move to the courts of Paris...
Time for more time travel.
If you could go back in time and change events to prevent the death of thousands, would you do it? That idea drives the second season of Outlander, which finds heroes Claire ( Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser ( Sam Heughan) in Paris using their good standing in the Court of King Louis XV to try and thwart the looming Jacobite rising.
While time travel was a subtle element in the first season, the concept is the backbone of the second, as Claire wrestles with desperately wanting to save Jamie and his Scottish kin from death on the Culloden moors in 1745, while
also trying to preserve the existence of her husband, Frank ( Tobias Menzies), in her original time of 1945.
It’s heady stuff that novelist Diana Gabaldon has been exploring for more than 20 years in eight ( and counting) Outlander books, but now it’s up to series showrunner Ronald D Moore to make it work on TV. Luckily, Moore has a history of weaving the mechanics of sci- fi into riveting personal drama from his long career guiding shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. For Moore, Outlander has proven to be more of a logistical beast than a cerebral one. The show shoots on location in Scotland, but season two has necessitated trips to Prague ( doubling as Paris) and southern England ( as Versailles) in order to service the story.
“The production itself is very difficult,” Moore tells Red Alert. “TV is typically produced with a home base, an apartment building or the bridge of the Enterprise as a standing set, which makes things faster, easier, cheaper and there’s a comfort level. These books travel and you leave things behind. As a result you are designing and prepping and shooting movies over and over again. It’s a very complicated production. The second season is even worse because now you are in Paris and every set, costume and prop [ from season one] had to be set aside. It’s Parisian salons and their parties and the Court. All the rhythms and feelings of season one are in the rearview mirror. Now it’s a whole new series.”
Actress Caitriona Balfe, who plays the fiercely independent and resourceful time-hopping Claire, admits that the change affected everyone. “It’s a different world. [ The dresses] change how you carry yourself and it changes how you interact with people. All of a sudden instead of hanging out with hairy Highlanders, you are at the Court. It’s a different set of social rules and it’s been a very interesting change.”
For Sam Heughan, who plays rugged Scot Jamie Fraser, the shift in tone has been perhaps most pronounced for his character. The actor’s had to reinvent Jamie from a wanted man on the run to a polished Machiavellian political insider who is firmly trying to shift the almost zealot- like goals of Prince Charles Edward Stuart ( Andrew Gower). “I was terrified of being lost in ruffles,” Heughan laughs about his initial reaction to the season. “I told Terry [ Outlander costume designer Terry Dresbach] from day one that’s not happening. She’s terrific and of course she didn’t do that. We see him taking on this new persona but he’s not lost his roots. The kilt is very much used as he’s a proud Scot.” Asked how he would define the course of the season, Heughan assesses, “If season one was about young love and innocence, season two is about adulthood and parenthood.”
In the first half of season two especially, as Jamie works within the Court to turn tides, Claire has the burden of tending to her pregnancy and finding a proactive role in this new world that is the most foreign place she’s ever tried to exist. “It’s interesting,” Balfe explains. “In a lot of ways Claire has less freedom in Paris than she did in Scotland. The role of women in that society is almost more restricted. They like to sit around and have tea and Claire wants to pull her hair out because that’s not where she feels most comfortable. She feels a little lost for a lot of time in France.”
As it turns out, Claire finds her path through new characters, particularly the enigmatic apothecary Master Raymond and Mother Hildegarde, who runs the L’Hôpital des Anges. “Master Raymond is her healer counterpart who she meets and he’s played incredibly by Dominique Pinon,” Balfe enthuses. “He’s just such a unique human being and a fantastic actor. They connect on a professional level like when she first met Geillis Duncan ( Lotte Verbeek). And then Mother Hildegard is played by Frances de la Tour who I was so excited to work with. These are friends for Claire who, for the first time, are equals and she has similar interests with.”
Outlander season two starts on 9 April in the US on Starz, and comes to Amazon Instant Video in the UK a day later.
These books travel and you leave things behind. It’s very complicated
Season two is based on the book Dragonfly In Amber. Don’t worry – this isn’t Pride And Prejudice And Zombies.