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It’s been almost four months since STARZ aired the Season 2 finale of Outlander, so you may be suffering from Droughtlander. But never fear, your fix is here with the release of The Making of Outlander in bookstores nationwide.
You can revisit Seasons 1 and 2 in depth as author Tara Bennett goes exclusively behind the scenes for conversations with stars Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Tobias Menzies, and author Diana Gabaldon.
But there’s more! Bennett also spoke with the writers, producers, musicians, costume designers, set decorators, and technicians, who share stories about making this romantic saga come alive on screen.
“Everybody has cumulatively come to Scotland work on this project, whether it was from British television or European television; they really have created their own family up there,” Bennett tells Parade.com in this exclusive interview. “They are really, really wonderful. They really believe in what they are doing. Their attention to detail is just wonderful.”
Also wonderful, are the copious amounts of exclusive, never-before-seen photos from Season 1 and 2, spotlighting the stars in costume and up-close personal portraits.
In this interview, Bennett shares her thoughts on Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Diana Gabaldon and more.
Parade: What was your introduction to Outlander? Were you a reader before the series started?
Tara Bennett: My cousin Denise actually got me a signed copy of Diana’s Voyager when she was doing the book tour for that book. Denise had fallen in love with the books, so she got me that as a present. She said you need to go read the first two. I went and grabbed them. We both loved them. We’d go back and forth and talk about it all the time. That was really my introduction to Diana’s world for Outlander.
Parade: Do you remember your first conversation with Diana? What was that like?
TB: That was wonderful. As you know, I cover TV shows for magazines. For SFX Magazine, Outlander was my beat. I initially met Diana from doing interviews with her in reference to the first season. At Comic-Con in 2015, I reintroduced myself to her letting her know that I would be doing this book. From then on, we just got on the phone and had a really nice long conversation about the process of seeing it turn into an actual TV show.
Also more interesting, we talked about her getting to write an episode for Season 2, which was really fascinating for her and for me to hear what her process was after being a narrative writer to go through the process of writing a script. Then being out there. She went to Scotland to actually produce her episode, which provided a lot of cool stories, too.
Parade: And then there’s Sam Heughan…
TB: Sam is wonderful. I talked to him a lot in coverage for the show. I always just find him so gracious. What was really fun about this book interview with him in particular was we did multiple interviews because he wasn’t finished with the season the first time I talked to him. Obviously, a lot of big things happened in the last couple of episodes. We wanted to make sure that we got his entire perspective of Seasons 1 and 2. He’s just really thoughtful. Of course, he’s a really beautiful looking man.
I think the thing that was really wonderful about our conversation was talking about his choices, and how to humanize Jamie. Because I think Jamie, on the page sometimes, can come off as the perfect man, which is why everybody loves him. Sam really wanted to make sure that Jamie was a fallible character, who isn’t perfect. He wanted to make sure that some of that was really put into the character in the series. It was really fascinating to hear the process of how he made him feel more human as he’s playing him.
Sam really dug in and talked about a lot of the difficult stuff, like Season 1’s Wentworth prison scenes that he did with Tobias, which were really difficult. He told me about his process and how he did that. That was really fascinating. He really gave me some totally frank and candid things about that, which I really appreciated.
Parade: In the book, you write that Sam was cast immediately, but they had a hard time finding Claire. What did Caitriona share about why she thinks she was right for the role?
TB: Caitriona was one of the last hired. She really only had like a two week turnaround after she got the part, before heading out, and this changed her whole life. I think she really understood Claire. She has a family member that had been in the war and was a nurse. She knew her stories. She had a lot of contextual ideas about who Claire was as this woman who had lived in the war. She was a gritty character who was independent. Caitriona really connected with Claire.
It was really interesting because, obviously, an entire series was on her shoulders. She had never been the lead in a series before. The show has definitely been a trial by fire in terms of when you’re No. 1 on the call-sheet as the person that’s in almost every scene of the whole show, you are there all the time in the muck, and in the cold, and in the long dresses. She’s really not a complainer.
She’s just as gritty as Claire is and just as dedicated. She really takes being the person that sets the tone on the show very seriously. Especially through all the difficult things that they have to do to make that show come to life. She’s just very admirable, very graceful and very much a class act.
Parade: Another reason that people have to buy the book is that there are so many photos in there that I have never seen before.
TB: Yes. Season 1 they didn’t shoot as much photography as they did for Season 2. I think once the show became a tremendous success, they had a unit photographer more available for Season 2. We had 4,000 pictures for every episode for Season 2 to go through, which was very daunting, but hello, what a great embarrassment of riches to go through. My editor, Anne Speyer, and I dug through all of the contact sheets that STARZ and Sony provided to us and tried to find things that we felt were illuminative about the production. There are some fun pictures of some extras that are in blue smocks in between scenes to protect the costumes that Terry [Dresbach] created. They’ve got all the detailed work for a lot of the costumes that you see that go by in the frame really quick, that you don’t really get a chance to see unless you’re obsessive and pausing on things. You also get to look at some of the handiwork that the production design does.
Also, in one of my editorial passes, I went through and cross-compared everything that was on the STARZ web site to what we had selected for some of the initial layouts in the book and tagged anything that was a repeat. As you know, people can get really wonderful coverage of Outlander online. STARZ provided all of that photography. It was really important for me and for my editors that when you buy the book, you see things that you’ve never seen before so that you do feel like you’re getting your money’s worth with the interviews and with what the visual content is. It was really important to us to make sure that, as much as we could, we diversified and tried not to repeat what you could get somewhere else.
Parade: What was your experience like when you were talking to the behind-the-scenes production staff? Did you find them to be truly dedicated to making this show as authentic as possible?
TB: Absolutely. [Executive producer] Ron [Moore] and [co-executive producer] Maril [Davis] have also made sure that they’ve hired people that really can bring authenticity. Whether it’s the chapter about armory or the horses that they use; whether it’s Terry and her beautiful costuming work, or [production designer] Jon Gary Steele’s attention to detail with all of the periods, whether it was Paris or whether it’s just the castles that they’ve used and redressed for the periods. They have really gone to town on making sure that it’s as accurate as possible, that they’re getting aesthetics, but they’re also really trying to rebuild the world. You can really get a taste of what it would feel like to live where Claire is walking.
They are lovely people. Every single one of the interviews I did in total, whether it was repeat interviews or just one-shot interviews — I did in excess of 70 interviews for the book; honestly, every single one of them from the directors down to the make-up people were generous with time and really had great stories. They’re working every day 14 hours a day. They’ve got a wealth of really cool stories that could be its own other book. There could be a volume two to this. There are so many cool stories. I was just really appreciative to get to live in their world for a couple of months, just immersing myself in their shoots.
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