Production on the second season of Starz’ critically acclaimed Outlander series is currently underway, adapted by Ronald D. Moore from author Diana Gabaldon’s second book of the Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber. The upcoming season finds Jamie and Claire in the French Court attempting to alter the course of history and stop the Battle of Culloden from ever taking place.
Book two of the Outlander series kicks off with an unexpected time jump, and author Diana Gabaldon talked about that during our roundtable interview at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con. Gabaldon also discussed the show’s two lead actors – Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe – and how much she’s involved in the process of bringing her bestselling books alive on the small screen.
Diana Gabaldon Interview:
What was your reaction to the very first episode you were able to watch?
Diana Gabaldon: “Oh, I was blown away by it. I actually got to see it in the production suite with the film editor and with Ron [Moore]. They were showing me the rough cut of the first two episodes together. It was so sweet; the film editor actually cried. He said, ‘It was so great to see you see this for the first time.'”
What characteristics of Jamie and Claire from the books are you looking forward to seeing in future seasons?
Diana Gabaldon: “It’s hard to say because so much of it depends on the actor and what they can do. Sam, for instance, is a very analytical actor. He’s read the book several times and you can see him do Jamie’s little physical things, little drumming his fingers when he’s thinking and so forth, and which you pick up – those are conscious decisions. At the same time, you instantly grasp the emotional sense of Jamie. The very first time I saw him in the audition tape I saw that. I never thought they would find anyone to do that, and he did just like that. It was amazing. At the same time, there’s a certain Sam-ness. It’s very weird to be sharing joint custody with a character.
Caitriona…well, everybody’s take is completely different and it took them forever to find Claire. She just walked into that part and just handled it. Her physique doesn’t match with the book and it doesn’t matter. I’ve always said to people that it just doesn’t matter that much what an actor looks like. It’s how they act, and she just totally nailed it. Again, it’s just instinctive on her part I think.”
Book two begins in a surprising place, compared to the end of book one…
Diana Gabaldon: [Laughing] “People always think they’re reading the wrong book.”
Will season two start out in the same way as Dragonfly in Amber? Brianna and Roger haven’t been cast yet and filming has begun.
Diana Gabaldon: “Well, it actually could. They shoot things out of sequence so it doesn’t tell you anything except that they haven’t cast them yet – or at least they haven’t told you if they have.
I was not involved in a discussion of how to break the story, so to speak. They do show me the script outlines and the script. They show me the footage as they shoot and the rough episodes as they come together, which is great. But I very seldom am in the writers room discussing things. That is their job. I’m happy to contribute opinions. Sometimes I’ll read the script and be, ‘Hmmm, I understand why you did it this way but you could do it that way and get more of the original book in. Move this little piece over here.’ Sometimes they’ll do that. Nine times out of ten if I have a concern or a suggestion they’ll take it. The tenth time they’ll explain why they can’t.”
Have you ever wished you had more input into the scripts?
Diana Gabaldon: “No, you can’t. You just don’t.”
E.L. James does.
Diana Gabaldon: [Laughing] “Maybe she shouldn’t.”
There you go. Thank you. So you would never want to be that involved?
Diana Gabaldon: “No, I wouldn’t. I don’t actually think that’s a good thing, on the whole. It is an adaptation of a separate art form. What makes a good novelist is not necessarily what makes a good screenwriter or showrunner. I don’t know whether I would be good at writing a script because I haven’t done it yet. But I’m positive I would not be a good showrunner. I think it’s much better to let the experts do that. I can quibble over details. I can tell them you couldn’t do this historically or you can’t do that historically. Or, ‘Well, it really was this way but I see why you’ve done it that way. But you better change this just for a little extra accuracy.’ That can be helpful.”
Has anything that’s happened in the TV series made you want to change anything from the books?
Diana Gabaldon: “No. People do ask that all the time and I can see why but, as I say, they’re working 30 years behind where I am. There’s eight books between me and them, and I’ve written all this stuff in between.”
Do you picture Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe now when you see Jamie and Claire in your head?
Diana Gabaldon: “No, I can still see the original Jamie and Claire as they are. It’s fun though because they are totally Jamie and Claire when I’m watching the show. But I don’t have any problems with show versus book. I can easily see both images in my mind.”
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