SDCC Interview – Ronald D. Moore – Outlander
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ronald D. Moore, executive producer/showrunner of Outlander, in a roundtable setting while at San Diego Comic Con. The conversation with my fellow journalists began with joking about the place card they brought along with them to each table to identify who they were. Ron wondered what would happen if he switched his name with Diana Gabaldon, Sam Heughan, or Caitriona Balfe.
For the Outlander interviews, I represented both The MacGuffin and Outlander TV News.
[Spoiler Alert: This interview does discuss certain elements of the second season, so if you would prefer to stay spoiler-free, avoid reading this interview.]
Q: With so much of Jacobite history being intertwined with religion, was it a conscious decision to downplay Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) faith versus Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) nominal Catholicism and the deep devotion of the Scottish people?
Ron: No, it wasn’t a conscious decision. I think it was just a question of emphasis. We didn’t try to play it down. I guess it just didn’t quite play into the story as much. In the dialog, it just didn’t write to it. We could have. It wasn’t really a strategic choice or even a creative choice. It just sort of evolved that way.
Q: With the timeline changing in book 2 (Dragonfly in Amber), how difficult was it for you to adapt that and make sure that fans that have not read the books understand what is going on?
Ron: It’s a big challenge. The second book is much more complex. It’s a more difficult book to adapt. As a result, it shifts point of view, it plays with time, it’s more political. It is dealing with the Jacobite rebellion. Most people in this country (U.S.A.) have never even heard of, so it is a challenge. We are always trying to play this to two audiences, the book fans and then the general audience who has no idea, and you have to play fair with both. The fans are looking forward to certain things and you want to satisfy that and you also want to surprise them. You want to catch them off guard, and sometimes you want to scare them, like “Oh my God, Frank (Tobias Menzies) is going up that hill! If he goes through time, I’m out of the show!” It’s great. I am sitting here watching and going, “Across America, people are losing their minds!” And that’s fantastic, and I enjoy that.
The MacGuffin: The teaser where it was really Claire’s dream and she tells Mrs. Fitz (Annette Badland) . . . people were losing it.
Ron: I know. And that is…fans of the books also have discovery. They should also be surprised. You want to engage their emotions as well. But then there is the other half of the audience that has no idea what the books are about and you have to tell them the story clearly. They have to be able to follow along. I always make the comparison to Game of Thrones that I have never read those books, so that TV show has to stand on its own. It has to work for me and it does not matter whether that scene was in the book or not. If I don’t get it, I’m not engaged anymore, so we are always trying to keep both elements of the audience in mind.
The MacGuffin: Since Tobias (Menzies, who plays both Frank and Jack Randall) is not here, I wanted to ask how Tobias and Laurence (Dobiesz , who plays Jack’s brother, Alex Randall) are getting along. Is Laurence trying to mimic some of Tobias’ mannerisms at all because he is playing his brother?
Ron: No, I don’t think he is actually. We shot some scenes with him and no. I think we have kind of stayed away from that. I mean, in the book, they are so close together that they/she literally mistakes him for Jack when she first sees him.
The MacGuffin: He (Laurence) looks remarkably similar . . .
Ron: He looks pretty close, but I did not want to play that gag twice. There was no way. Tobias was never going to Alex as well. It was one bridge too far for us. He (Laurence) is not trying to pick up any ticks or anything.