‘Outlander’ Post-Episode 508 “Famous Last Words” Interview Round-Up

This week’s post-episode round-up includes interviews with Matthew B. Roberts, Richard Rankin, Sophie Skelton, and Diana Gabaldon. Only excerpts are below, so please click on the links for each article to read them in their entirety.  As always, be aware of spoilers for this episode and upcoming episodes.

EW: Why parts of Outlander were made into a black-and-white silent film

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY The decision to show Roger’s hanging through the lens of an old black-and-white film was brilliant. Can you share some of your thought process on this, how you came to this decision?

MATTHEW B. ROBERTS: We are a visual medium. Diana Gabaldon can go directly into the character’s minds, but I say … too often, I’m sure …we can’t film a thought. We have to find creative ways of getting into the character’s head then get them out on screen. So when Dani Berrow, the writer of episode 508, came to me with the silent picture idea, I immediately fell in love with it. One, because I love black-and-white photography. Two, because black-and-white makes you work a bit — makes you use your imagination. Three, it was a visually brilliant way to get into Roger’s thoughts. So, as she pitched out the idea, her thought was that Roger is a man whose gift is his voice, but now he’s deprived of it — forced into silence… experiencing his trauma psychologically, like a movie playing out in his mind. She cited a description in The Fiery Cross of Roger’s body being corpse-like, but covered in colorful bruises — reds, blues, yellows, purples, and greens — and thought there was something fascinating about the idea of this contrast, transforming Roger’s very real, living pain into black and white and into silence.

RICHARD RANKIN: That abstract way of telling the story was going to be a much more effective, a much more unsettling way into Roger’s psychology. I’m glad that they stuck with it. We shot every scene two ways, just in case the studio, the network, the execs didn’t like it. We shot all the scenes normally, acted normally, and then we would go on and do another take while shooting silent-movie style. All that meant to us as the actors was that we had do everything a little bigger, a little more stylized. It wasn’t too much of a shift. They shot it at a different frame rate. So in terms of on set, there wasn’t a huge difference for us. We just had sort of ham it up a little bit.

Town & Country: Outlander‘s Richard Rankin on Finding Roger’s Voice Again

When did you first become aware of this storyline for Roger?

I’ve been aware of the storyline for a few years now. The casting process for Roger was quite a long one, so I had plenty of opportunity to read ahead and see where the story was going to go. Outlander was going to be a huge commitment, and I wanted to know what I was getting myself into. I think Roger has one of the best story arcs in the books, so that was something I was very excited about when I took the role.

The way this episode handles Roger’s story, with a silent movie-esque treatment is interesting. What did you think of that?

I wasn’t skeptical—I was maybe a bit dubious of it. But always very excited, and on-board with it because I think it’s an abstract way to get into Roger’s mind. It gives the audience an unusual perspective on the story that we’re telling in episode eight, which makes it all the stranger, and all the more sort of unsettling.

I was fighting for it, because I think it’s better to be brave in television. I think your potential is much bigger for a more exciting episode if you don’t just play it safe. The first time I ever saw any of the playback of the silent movie stuff, I was blown away by just how dark it was. I thought it really worked.

ElleOutlander‘s Richard Rankin On Roger’s Life-Altering Trauma

Every character endures some sort of trauma on this series, so this was a clever way to avoid retreading old ground.

They were very aware of that when putting this episode together. There was a lot of expectation on the episode, and [the question of], how do you tell a story when you have a protagonist who can’t talk? I read the episode and I was like, “How am I going to do this?” I have a whole episode based around my character and I have no dialogue. That’s really going to put me to the test as an actor. I’m going to have to perform in a much different way than what I’m used to.

How did you find that damaged version of Roger’s voice?

[Laughs] There were many versions of that. We had various levels of hoarseness and the damage to the voice box. It’s been condensed over a couple of episodes; I don’t have as much time with it as you would have in the book. I wanted to keep it for a little bit longer, even through the rest of the season, [to show] how much of a struggle [it was] for him to speak longer, but they wanted me to start reining it in a little bit earlier so it didn’t detract from later episodes.

It’s such a dark, intense episode, but I have to imagine you were keeping things pretty light behind the scenes?

I like to keep things light and keep spirits high on set. We have such long days, and trying to remain jovial and motivated often helps the people around you have a good time. However, I wasn’t my normal self shooting 508 because it was a tough act to shoot. Roger was always in a dark, tormented place. He’s depressed, he was approaching suicidal, or at least there was a flash of something [in him] that thought that. And so to be in that frame of mind, I was probably less fun to be around. I was probably the least fun I’ve ever been to be around in episode 8. [Laughs] Those scenes between Caitriona [Balfe] and Sophie where they’re looking fed up and sort of exhausted by it all were probably quite true to life. I was like that off camera as much as I was on camera.

ParadeGrief Bonds Roger and Ian on Outlander–Diana Gabaldon Explains Why They No Longer ‘Fit Into Their Own Lives’