The Outlander leads, Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin in the company of executive producers Matthew Roberts and Maril Davis and nothing less than Diana Gabaldon, the one who started it all with her books, gathered at a virtual panel for Paley Fest, discussing all the prospects for the next season and season five major issues.
A very much anticipated event for fans of the series (which was actually due to take place in Los Angeles last March), considering that, due to pandemic, the actors haven’t came back to set yet nor participate in conventions or other events that have always filled the void left by the end of the season’s airing and the beginning of the so-called Droughtlander with pictures, videos and exclusive news.
Moderated by TV Guide Magazine journalist Kate Hahn, the panel opened with a small celebratory moment for all fans who continue to follow the series with so much passion since its debut six years ago. From the beautiful love story beyond the time between Jamie and Claire, and all the events they face, the series “never stands still” says Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) “It spands over different genres – going from 1740s Scotland to the French court of Versailles, then the Caribbean and now to America”
Very interesting the answer of the author of the books, Diana Gabaldon, who, when asked if she had somehow created the contrast between the series’ two main couples, she wanted to point out that she does not “create” the characters but if anything she “finds them” and these then grow layers as they come along with the story, and in the specific case of Roger and Brianna, their relationship is characterized by different elements than that between Jamie and Claire also because of the “discovery” of their characters.
Executive producers Matthew Roberts and Maril Davis reserved words of homage to both Gabaldon in the first place, who with her huge book provided several interesting cues and a great challenge in the creation of the script, starting from the search for a basic theme for which it took a hard job of research, both for the production designer Jon Gary Steele (for whom season five was the last season working for the series), who according to Davis “keeps topping himself and pushes forward what we have already created and kind of tops it” with his works, both for the new costume designer Trisha Biggar, who found herself faced with a very risky task by replacing the historical costume designer of the series Terry Dresbach and managed to create “her own mood” and at the same time following the same style that always characterized the Outlander costume design.
“I think every year we just keep topping ourselves. […] This year we keep saying it [that we have reached the highest level] because “hey, we’re in America now, it will be easier” and instead it just keeps getting harder, but this is the thing that makes us all love it and want to come work every day and strive to do our best, for ourselves but also for the fans who are expecting certain things”.Maril Davis on the series production arrived at Season 6
In discussing last season’s most important and dramatic moments, Caitriona Balfe tells us how it was to deal with the medical part more specifically this season with lots of environment and instrumentation, emphasizing how it was stimulating and “it helps as an actor to have such a rich environment to step into that it seems so real […] are just those little details that are so vital in giving you such a rich tapestry to work on” and helps the actor shape the character in that specific context, as Balfe says, which also mentions the key role played by Outlander’s medical consultant, through which she would not have been able to emulate certain medical interventions; With Sam Heughan it was discussed in particular the turning point in which Jamie is almost dying from a snake bite, and talking about that, the actor said he was really fascinated by the conversation that got generated with the makeup department about what happens to a body when it gets bitten by a snake and what it looks like; Sophie Skelton, who had one of the most poignant and complicated narrative lines of this season, illustrates Brianna’s post-traumatic syndrome, as “you can put a bullet in a man but not a bullet in what happened.” and the consolation brought by the death of Stephen Bonnet by young Fraser; And finally we have, what we at Survived the shows would call “the man of the season”, Richard Rankin, who explains how the change that you see now in Roger, compared to season four, is due more than anything else to “an accumulation of everything he had to face”, as Rankin said, although cathartically the hanging was very influential in the young Mackenzie’s vision of life because it brought it all back to his mind, trying to return to be who he was before but then find himself embracing the change and rediscovering a new version of himself.
Season five is also marked by important experiments in handling trauma at both screenplay and also visual level. Traumatic experiences, as Roberts points out, are situations in which you need to enter the characters’ mind, and coming to five seasons, there is no room for the use of out-of-court inner monologues and you need to get out of your comfort zone and visually represent the characters’ mental state, their thoughts and their feelings. In particular, subject of experimentation were episode 8 “Famous last words”, which was shot as if the flashbacks concerning the trauma of Roger’s hanging were part of a silent picture, and episode 12 “Never, my love”, for which a dissociative technique has been used through which we see Claire face the terrible violence and harassment that are afflicted by her captors.
“For episode 8, we actually filmed it both ways [as a flashback and silent picture] because the studio and the network were a bit concerned that the silent picture wouldn’t reveal itself the way… they couldn’t get their way around the page, but we thought we could get our way around it, so we asked the actors to film it both ways and it was so challenging for them, from filming a scene as if it were a flashback to film it as in a silent picture”.Matthew Roberts talking about visual and narrative experiments used to tell Roger’s trauma.
Speaking of the trauma experienced by Claire and the post-rescue, Caitriona Balfe reiterates that, from the screenplay point of view, it took time to find a compromise and the right perspective to deal with a subject so delicate so as to handle it in the right way. The actress also points out that she insisted about Claire not having too much dialogue in the dream sequence, so as to better convey her dissociation. Sam Heughan adds that there was much talk and work on consent, and to determine when Jamie could actually touch Claire despite her psychological and phisical weakness, as you can see clearly in the final scene of season five.
But let’s move on to the hot news we’re all waiting for! What can we really expect from Season 6?
As Roberts teases, with the Fraser family coming together more than ever in both love and trauma, we are getting closer and closer to the dreaded American Revolution, which will see its first bars in Season 6, And in all of this, the Frasers and Mackenzies keep putting themselves out there and taking risks to help the people of the Ridge, coming as usual to the generation of a thousand dynamics. “There will be joys, but you know, as Diana can very well tell you, there will be drama, there will be suffering, there will be tears and so on”.
Fellow producer Davis adds that the beautiful thing about book six, on which season six will be based, is that “there is so much for everyone in it”. The love between Jamie and Claire becomes more solid and deeper, Roger and Brianna continue in their own journey, with something fun and new coming, always according to Davis, and even Lizzie will be the protagonist of a series of really interesting dynamics. And not to forget that Gabaldon, a few months ago, had teased during an interview the arrival of a highly anticipated character by book readers in season six: Malva Christie. What more can we want?
“Maybe a new haircut or a brighter wig for Claire” so launched the bomb Caitriona Balfe, when she is asked what she’s more excited about at the thought of going back to filming season six. And yes, we’re talking to you, Richard Rankin, who during all these months let a beautiful Roger Mac-style hair grow. Maybe with this bonus, producers will turn a blind eye to the fact that filming is almost upon us and Rankin hasn’t read book six yet….
As usual, both cast and producers are very hopeful about a possible renewal of the series beyond the sixth season, but I found it particularly encouraging and beautiful what executive producer Matthew Roberts said in closing. He was extremely grateful and still in disbelief that the show got six seasons, and “knocking on wood, we get more” continues the producer. But I doubt that with the great response that received this great fifth season, no one from STARZ will answer on the first try!
You can watch the full panel here below!
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