Ronald D. Moore recently spoke with Variety ahead of Outlander‘s premiere this weekend. This is definitely one of the more interesting interviews over the past few days as Moore goes into detail on how the show secured a 16 episode order for the first season. He also discusses the appeal of Claire’s character and the “remarkable” Caitriona Balfe. A small portion of the interview is included below and can read in its entirety here.
Why was it so important to have 16 versus a more traditional cable order?
It’s just a big story, you know? The book is a big tale. It travels a lot and it goes to a lot of different places. And as I looked at it… the rights holder initially was trying to do it as a feature and I knew that it was never going to be a feature. You would lose everything that was special about the book once you stripped it down to two hours. And still, if you want to do the story justice, if you want to actually enjoy the experience the way the reader enjoys the experience, you have to take your time. You have to sort of drink in the landscape. You have to get to know the people. You need to let the moments breathe. You need to let the story just unwind a little bit. And to create that feeling in television, it just required a bigger spread of hours.
And it was actually Starz who saw that first, to be honest. It’s not like I went in demanding, “you’ve got to do this in 16 episodes.” We went in knowing what their episodic pattern was and we assumed at the outset that they’d probably only order 10. And I knew that that was going to be a challenge and we’d have to make some sacrifices and the story would have to be a little faster-paced and we’d have to rip through some places in order to make it in 10.
And I said that at the outset, just to let them know that 10 is pretty short, because my mind was more geared towards 13 as a standard order. And it was really Chris Albrecht who came back and said, “you know what? I think this should be bigger. How many episodes do you think it should be?” And we started talking and I think he might have said 16 first, and I said, “I think that’s right. Let me go back and talk with the writers and look at it.” And we stroked it out and it was like, “yeah, 16 is a good number for it.”
One of the main selling points of “Outlander,” in my view, is that it’s a female-driven story, and Claire is every bit as bold and resourceful as the male characters, despite being trapped in this oppressive time period. What do you find most appealing about her as a character and as an entry-point to this world?
What I always say about Claire as a character is that her defining characteristic is that she’s intelligent. She’s smart, and everything flows from there. Her strength comes from there. I think her sex appeal comes from there. Her wit, her resourcefulness, her skill set, it’s all because this is a very smart woman, and this is a woman we’re going to watch think on camera a lot. You’re going to be in her head because she’s talking to you in voiceover. So she has to be somebody really smart. And that to me defines what I found appealing to the character in the book pages, and we had to find an actress who conveyed that idea as well.
Describe the process of casting Caitriona Balfe and what you think she brings to Claire. I recall it being a lengthy search to find someone for the role.
It was a very long search. We saw a lot of really great, talented actresses and you just kept looking for that special quality and depth and performance and intelligence and wit and warmth. You’re asking a lot. Plus we’re doing a first person point of view; she’s every scene, every day on this show.
And Caitriona… it’s remarkable. It’s hard to say enough good things about Caitriona, in all honesty. And I’ve worked with a lot of actresses who I love and adore. But Caitriona, she just never fails to answer the bell. She’s there every scene, she’s always in the story, she’s always the character. And this is a grueling shoot on her. We’re shooting on location in Scotland and she’s in every scene, every day. I think it’s easy to say she works harder than probably any other member of this entire production because she’s also, on her days off, doing voiceover work. She’s learning lines. She’s doing ADR. She’s doing publicity on the weekends. It’s an enormous well of stamina this woman has. And she’s pleasant and she’s funny on the set. The crew will be dying and exhausted and standing in three inches of mud and the rain is pouring down and it’s two o’clock in the morning in the winter in Scotland and everyone’s dying, and Caitriona is cracking jokes and making people laugh. It’s amazing. I can keep singing her praises for the next hour. It’s just really something.