Below are excerpts from several interviews with executive producer Ronald D. Moore following the season finale of Outlander (“To Ransom a Man’s Soul”). The interviews contain spoilers for the episode and there is also some discussion about season two/Dragonfly in Amber.
Deadline: ‘Outlander’ Finale: EP Ronald D. Moore Teases Season Two, Talks “Brutal” Ender & ‘Game Of Thrones’ Rape Controversy
DEADLINE: The finale also saw Claire and Jamie leave Scotland for France, and Claire reveals on the way over to the continent that she is pregnant. That’s very different from how that plays out in the book, why did you go in that direction?
MOORE: I restructured it for television because I wanted to maintain that sense of jeopardy and that sense of they still have to escape, and there’s still a threat there. Also, in this episode, and in Episode 15 we had been using a point of view to see what had had happened to Jamie in real time, whereas the books maintain Claire’s first person narrative all the way until the very end and what she found out about what happened between Jamie and Jack Randall many weeks after the facts from Jamie. So I felt like I wanted to move all that up closer so it was a little bit more immediate. And it gave me a way to end the episode so, after you had spent all this time in this really dark and terrible prison cell for two episodes, you could have a breath of fresh air. At the very end, I wanted viewers to feel this is another tomorrow, there is a little bit of hope in the air and we could end on that note.
DEADLINE: You’ve worked on and led a number of shows, now that the first season is over on this one, how has Outlander been different for you from a creative standpoint?
MOORE: Well, it’s a very different experience, you know? Galactica was something where I took the old show and then decided to revamp it and reinvent it. But it was kind of something that I was making up in the writers room as we went along and I literally didn’t know where it was going season to season. It was a process of invention and discovery all the way along the road right up until the end. This project is different, it’s an adaptation so there is a roadmap – this is where we’re going. The challenges are very different. It’s the first time I’ve done an adaptation like this.
Just from a strictly producing standpoint, it’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. The story aspect and the writing aspect has just been a very different game from what I’ve done before. It’s trying to maintain the spirit of the book, it’s trying to keep these characters, trying to maintain this story and making changes along the way because you have to make changes along the way. It’s trying to get back to that, and hopefully you’re able to serve two masters, the fans of the books and those who’ve discovered the story through the show.
The Hollywood Reporter: ‘Outlander’ Finale: Ron Moore on Boundary-Pushing Rape Scenes, Season 2 Plans
Did you have any concerns in portraying the rape scenes the way that you did?
We knew it was going to be controversial, we knew that some people were going to really object to it and others would not. You try not to think about that too much. You try to just make your call and make an artistic judgment on what you’re trying to achieve and then you hope people like it. You try not to get too outside your head and start thinking about what you’re saying on a sociopolitical context or how this will be interpreted by other people. If you go down that rabbit hole you just won’t come out. We’re telling the story of two men based on everything that occurred before in the season. All along this season we kept laying track to get us to this place and once we got there it was all about following the arc of character, following where the story was going to take us.
A huge amount of credit goes to those two actors. They were fearless in their performances; they were in it. And being on the set was difficult — and we have a very nice, happy set. But this one had a different mood. The [crew] guys gave them a lot of space. But still, they were in that dark, gloomy cell for days and they were willing to go to all these places that are emotionally draining. A lot of the show has a tremendous amount of credit to the two of them.
And it sets things up well for anything to happen in season two.
It’s very different. We’re still following the books for season two, with the second book (Dragonfly in Amber). In the very last scene, they talk about going to France to try and stop the Jacobite Rebellion and that’s what they go do. They go to Paris. So we’re prepping and shooting a completely different show. They’re in one of the most populated cities in the world at this point. It’s French aristocracy, it’s the court of Louis XV, it’s cobblestone streets filled with people — the costumes are completely different, [as are] the sets. It has a whole different mood and palette to it. It’s more about conspiracies, lies and politics. Getting caught up in the corruption and poison that’s happening in Paris at that time, with history is pushing you toward this inevitable cataclysm — the destruction of the Highland culture. Plus Claire’s pregnant and there are the after-effects of everything that happened with Jack Randall — that’s still with Jamie in the second season. It’s a really different show but one of the strengths of doing this series is the evolution of it. One of the things I’m most proud of in season one is the diversity of storytelling and how each episode is different. They’re all little mini movies. I defy anyone to tell me what the cliché Outlanderepisode is because what is that? They’re all so unique and season two is more of that. And if we’re lucky enough to go forward, the third book is different yet again. It’s like there’s a continual evolution and you’re telling a long yarn.
The New York Times: The ‘Outlander’ Show Runner, Ron Moore, on That Harrowing Season Finale
What was the atmosphere on the set like when you were shooting the assault?
It was intense. We carved out extra rehearsal time for the actors and the directors to work out the scene. Then we built this set that was really horrible. It was dark and had no windows. So the set itself had a weight and heaviness and a literal and metaphorical dark quality to it. It wasn’t a set where people were joking around a lot. The crew gave them space and left the actors in their own world. It took a while. There were days of shooting in that place, and it was psychologically heavy. It was hard material to work through. It was emotionally draining for everyone.
How will moving the action to France change the show?
It’s a completely different look. Suddenly you’re going to an urban space and one of the most populated cities in the world at that point, Paris. It’s different fabrics, high society, aristocracy, the court of Louis XV, politics, salons and parties. It’s a lot more glitz, gilt work, finery and money. These characters have left Scotland and gone to an alien planet for a good half of Season 2.
Vanity Fair: What to Expect from Outlander Season 2
Richard Lawson: I haven’t read Outlander, so I am curious if there is anything major in the final two episodes in particular that deviated from the books in a significant way, or was it pretty faithful to what was written?
Ronald D. Moore: There’s definitely a scene the fans are going to miss of the book that took place in a spring underneath the monastery in France. It was the two of them in the water, and it culminates in making love. It was a much more, almost surreal scene, with Claire taking the place of Jack in Jamie’s mind and the two of them . . . It’s this beautiful, lyrical scene that we just could not figure out how we could possibly literally shoot it. It’s a difference with reading it. The author can take you on a journey that’s surreal, and a lot of emotion and description of very internal things are happening, and metaphor, but to literalize it and to film it . . . we just couldn’t. That just wasn’t something we could figure out for us.
Variety: ‘Outlander’ Finale Q&A: Ron Moore on Claire and Jamie’s Journey, Season 2 Challenges
Can you talk a little more about what you’ve observed of Sam and Tobias’ differing methods, from an outsider’s perspective?
It is just an outsider’s perspective, but I would say that right off the bat Tobias tries a lot of different things within a scene from different takes, and he’s always experimenting — not so much with the words, because he comes out of theater. We’ll have discussions ahead of time about dialogue and character and all that, and we would do some polishes and rewrites and worked with him a lot and Sam in the early days as well. But once the script was a script, Tobias is always giving you choices. He’s always trying something different in the performance take to take and scene to scene, so there’s a lot of experimentation.
And I think Sam is more into that moment and into that character — he is Jamie and he wants to maintain that focus of where Jamie is and where he is.
I loved the scene where she’s confessing to Father Anselm — the catharsis of being able to say everything to a complete outsider, and to just be able to finally let go of some of the stuff she’s been holding onto, probably things that she couldn’t even tell Jamie, to a certain extent.
It was interesting, because that’s a scene that actually went in and out of the script and in and out of the cut several times, because I kept struggling with it in terms of “why is it in the show?” And I wasn’t sure that it was giving us that piece, because she had told Jamie that she was from the future, and it didn’t feel like confessing then changed her, it didn’t put her on a different path.
So, there were times I took it out and times I put it back. Then ultimately, Diana Gabaldon herself really fought for it and said, “Look, I feel like this is really important; it’s a key part of the book; it matters a lot to me.” And I went “OK, I’m going to listen to that, let me find a way to make this work,” and I’m glad it did because I think it is a nice part of the episode.
Vulture: Outlander Showrunner Ronald D. Moore on the First Season Finale, Male Nudity, and Season Two
Some people might wonder why Jamie willingly brands himself, let alone subjects himself to repeated rape and torture, all because he gave his word he would submit …
A lot of it is dependent on the 18th-century concept of their word. There are two contracts in the show. The first one is when Jack comes in, in episode 15, and says, “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll give you a quicker, cleaner death, in exchange for what I want.” We and Jamie have to believe he really means that, because later, the second contract is Jamie’s: “If you let her go, I will let you have me, and I will offer no resistance.” And in order for that second contract to work, both parties have to absolutely believe that his word is his bond, that he’s not going to resist. Because otherwise, there’s no reason to think Jack ain’t walking out that door and killing Claire anyway. Or that Jamie’s not going to grab the fire brazier and smash him over the head with it. Both men have to believe that verbal contract is ironclad, and so that colors all the scenes, because there are many opportunities for Jamie to fight back, or to yank that branding thing away from him and stick it in his eye! You have to invest in that idea that his contract binds him to his soul. Promises mean something to them in a way that is hard for us to understand because we don’t think of them in quite that same way. In some ways, it would be nice if we did. But it does have its downside …
What are your plans for season two?
It’s more complex. The full first half of the season takes place in Paris, and we’re going to build some sets in Cumbernauld, Scotland, and we’re scouting other locations. We’ve been scouting the south of England, looking for some interiors and some buildings that might look French. We’ve been looking at Prague, to look at some streets that still look 18th century, because Paris doesn’t look like that anymore. It’s going to have to be pieced together from a lot of different places, ultimately, to convey 18th-century Paris. And we’ll have the whole 1960s stuff to play with, from book two. We don’t have the problem they have on Game of Thrones, at all! We’re not catching up to the books anytime soon. Diana’s created such a vast world and mythology, it’s just like, “Wow.” I think generally speaking, we’ve talked about doing a book per season, but we’ve also said some of these books are quite big, and one book might have to be two seasons.
The Wall Street Journal: ‘Outlander’ Postmortem: Showrunner Ronald D. Moore on Tackling That Dark Season Finale
Because these episodes are so different from the rest of the season, how did you prepare for them in comparison to the others?
We set it up so the cast and the director (Anna Foerster) had extra time to rehearse, just off by themselves, which was not a normal part of the process – because we wanted them to have that time. So Tobias and Sam and Anna would work alone on all of the scenes from both episodes, really work through the material. And then, once we got to shooting, we set up the production in such a way that the scenes would be shot chronologically, instead of doing them out of sequence, which is what you do typically in film and TV.
It was a closed set; the set was very dark. We built the prison cell, which was not a pleasant place to be, even when the lights were on – it was just a dark, heavy, nasty little place. You didn’t like spending time there. And the crew gave [the actors] all space, kind of stayed away from them. We have a very light and happy set, normally, a lot of bantering, a lot of joking – no jokes on that set. It was very quiet. There was this weight to everything that we were doing, so, you just created this space to really give the cast an opportunity to go as far as they possibly could, and to push themselves to push each other. And when it was over there was this great sense of relief. We were all happy to be done with that part of the story. It’s like, we did it, and thank God we don’t have to do it again.
Much has been written about the creative decision to have a female directorial perspective on episodes like “The Wedding” (directed by Foerster, who helmed the penultimate and the finale). Did you feel the same way when it came to having Anna direct these two pivotal episodes?
Yeah, it was based in large part on the work she did on “The Wedding” episode. She clicked so well with the cast, and there was such a good dynamic, that, when we were looking ahead to who was going to direct the finale, you needed someone who could really connect with the actors – that was the most important priority. I thought, “Well, you got these two men doing this,” and there was something interesting about having a woman as the director that was going to introduce a different element that I thought would help.
Zap2It: ‘Outlander’ star Sam Heughan says finale rape scenes were ‘a gift’
“It’s a gift for an actor to play. It’s something I relished, and I know Tobias did as well,” Heughan says. “Honestly it’s some of the most challenging, rewarding yet intense work I’ve ever done. I’m so proud of what we’ve done.”
Heughan describes shooting those scenes as “intense,” as he had to take that deeply psychological journey with Jamie. For the two weeks of filming, prosthetics would be applied to him for four hours starting at 4 a.m. each day, and then they would shoot 12 to 14 hour days. He’d end the day with an hour of clean up, then sleep, and start over again the next morning.
“It all sort of fed into this kind of weird world,” he recalls. “We were in this one tiny damp cell and it was intense and a real test of my character, but also of our characters. I think we brought a lot of that to filming it. I’m excited for people to see it.”