As one of those longtime readers and fans, executive producer Maril Davis felt the responsibility keenly as they embarked on the casting process with Emmy-winning casting director Suzanne Smith (Band of Brothers). “I love casting, but, normally, when we go into a project I pretty quickly have a prototype in my head of who some of these characters are,” Davis details. “This is the first time I think I have approached a series where I literally had no idea in my head, because Jamie and Claire had been in my head for so long. That was a little daunting when we started the process.”
Suzanne Smith on the casting process:
“I know the fans have an idea that it has to be a certain set of eyes,” she says, explaining that fans often focus on the physical descriptions provided in the books. “But it is the acting that comes into it and what each of those actors brings to the table.”
Smith adds that often means that a high-profile actor who might seem like a dream casting might not be right for the role, or available, or even interested in a television series. “Sometimes ‘names’ are mentioned,” she says of early casting talks. “Other times I mention names and then bring them in, or sometimes we get show reels for more-prominent actors. The lovely thing about Starz and Sony was I was given the opportunity to cast unknowns, which is wonderful, because casting is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes names take away from a character.”
On casting Tobias as BJR…
…And, no, the violence and incredible darkness of Black Jack Randall’s character was never a concern for either Smith or Menzies, Smith offers. “Starz asked me to ask Tobias and his agent whether he would be uncomfortable playing a sadist.” She smiles. “He laughed and said, ‘Of course not.’ British actors don’t think of it that way, because they want to be stretched. They know when it comes down to it that it will be handled in the right way.”
Maril on casting Claire…
I remember Ron and I were sitting in our office in Scotland and we were literally three weeks away from shooting and we didn’t have Claire yet. We had a couple of female actresses on hold and said, ‘If we don’t get Jamie and Claire right, we might as well not do the series. We will be dead before we start.’”
Toni and Ron on choosing Cait for Claire…
Producer Toni Graphia had seen pictures and video clips of Irish actress Caitriona Balfe online and, intrigued by her potential, flagged her audition tape for a second look. She was asked to do another self-tape, which Smith says made them decide to bring her in for a chemistry read with Heughan. When they first put the two actors together in a room, it was clear that the show had found its Jamie and Claire. Moore says Balfe was committed to her role from the start. “You could see she was in it,” he says, recalling the first day of filming. “Then in the scenes with Frank, there was a charm and fun to it. Then her running to the woods in the white shift. Then her scene with Jack Randall. With Cait, it was very apparent, very quickly, that this was going to work. She’s it,” he enthuses.
On choosing Scotland for filming…
“The show is a love letter to Scotland in a lot of ways,” Moore says. “It’s a specific country with a specific look to it. We talk a lot with the director of photography, Neville Kidd, about the quality of light.”
As a native of the country, Kidd was eager to present his home as one of the main characters of the show. “The good thing about Outlander is that there’s very little of Scotland that has been filmed for U.S. television,” he says. “So I think you generally feel like this is a new world that nobody has filmed or seen before.”
Gary Steele on locations and sets…
As to the specifics of turning a 21st-century location into an 18th-century one, production designer Jon Gary Steele says it encompasses a variety of physical alterations. “We have greensmen work two to three weeks per location covering up all the things that are not period,” he says. “We put our own windows in front of existing windows in every location, because they need to have leaded glass, which looks a little bit pebbly. We add shutters. We add thatched or tile roofs on some things. We add cobbles on some streets. There are truckloads of dressing sometimes that come for locations that will play a day or two. I am blown away how much happens per location,” he says.
Thank you so much for the BTS insights. I love learning how Outlander is made and am continually surprised by the level of detail the make-up department, Jon Gary Steele and Terry Dresbach put into their projects. Of course I love the series, but I appreciate the thoroughness and tenacity to “get it right” that everyone contributes, actors included of course! So thank you for delivering these tidbits to us!
Oh my my my, I have wanted to shadow this casting team ever since I saw Claire looking at those vases in the Inverness shop window…. It has been magic and perfection with every single character!!
How does Sam come to have so very many pictures, advertising, Barbour, parades, ?? I know he is overly popular, but does he have a deal with the production for so much photography, or an agent doing a fabulous job?
Love outlander and everything associated with it. My wish would be that all Diana’s books will be filmed and we will be able to see the story end as well as read about it.
Yes, me too