‘Outlander’ Season 2: Diana Gabaldon, Ronald D. Moore on the Collaborative Process

Ronald D Moore Outlander Costumes Display
Showrunner Ronald D. Moore pictured in 2015 at an exhibit of costumes from the first season of the STARZ Original Series ‘Outlander (Photo by Matt Sayles / Invision for STARZ / AP Images)

Starz’ Outlander panel at the Television Critics Association in Los Angeles featured the series’ lead actors Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, writer/executive producer Ronald D. Moore, and author Diana Gabaldon. The foursome fielded questions from members of the television media anxious to learn about season two of the critically acclaimed – and now People’s Choice Award-winning – series. Outlander‘s has been well received by fans of Gabaldon’s bestselling book series, and Moore and Gabaldon have developed a real collaborative working relationship that ensures the TV series will remain as faithful as possible to the novels.

“From the beginning, I went to Diana, I spent a weekend with her before I sold the project and talked about the process of adaptation, ideas I had at the primeval stages of the project. She was always very generous with the material and spirit of, ‘I know there’s going to be changes and you’ll do right by us.’ Since, it’s still been very positive,” explained Moore. “I send Diana outlines and scripts and script changes and cuts and dailies. She’ll see things and ask questions. We can use her as a sounding board. If we made this change, what’s the butterfly effect of that down the line of the books?”

Gabaldon’s appreciative of being given an active role in the process of bringing her characters alive on the screen. “It’s been great from my point of view. They’ve included me to an amazing extent. When we first wrote the contract, my agent said, ‘They’re making you a consultant. This is a way of paying you more. They may use you, they may not. They may be paying you to stay away, which is what usually happens,'” said Gabaldon. “I was very pleased they wanted to talk about things.”

In fact, Gabaldon’s involvement in the second season has expanded a bit from season one. “I actually wrote one of the scripts for season two. It’s way different than writing a novel, for sure. It was deeply entertaining to be on set while that was being shot. I knew things flexed but to see why things flex, an actor pulls out their sides and says, ‘I can’t say this.’ Or it’s too long and they slash it,” explained Gabaldon.

Asked if her participation in the series has added to her work load of writing, Gabaldon replied, “When I started writing Outlander I had two full-time jobs and kids. Time expands to fill the work available.”

Gabaldon’s response to a question about whether her involvement in the series will keep her from making the deadline for her next book generated a lot of coverage immediately after the TCA Q&A wrapped up. She was asked if Outlander the series would slow down her writing in a question that specifically mentioned George R.R. Martin missing deadlines. Her response has blown up on the internet, however she didn’t call out Martin; the person asking the question offered Martin as an example. “Unlike George, I write no matter where I am or whatever I’m doing,” replied Gabaldon. “He admits it himself. He likes to travel and he can’t write when he travels. Everybody’s got their own writing mechanism. As I said, when I began writing I had two fulltime jobs and children. I just wrote in any moments I had. I have a couple hours in the middle of the night I can count on when things are quiet and that’s my main writing time, but I will write in the middle of the day.”

Gabaldon’s editors ask her when she believes she’ll be finished with a book, and it normally takes six weeks from when she finishes writing to get it published. “They call me when they think it’s close, ‘Do you have an estimate?’ I say I have an estimate, but it’s going to be wrong. It’s always going to take longer. Do they listen? Never. Next thing I know it’s listed on Amazon.”

Sam Heughan pointed out that he’s seen her writing on the set while filming was underway and Gabaldon explained, “I could on the inside scenes because there’s a long stretch where they turn things around while you’re sitting there. When it’s outside, no, because you’re standing in ankle deep mud for 14 hours. I can do things in my head but can’t actually write.”

After the TCA panel was finished, I asked Moore if we’d be seeing Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe age this season as they do in the books. Moore confirmed it will happen, but not in season two.

– You can check out our coverage of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe’s portion of the Q&A here.

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