'The Making of Outlander': Maril Davis talks 5 exclusive photos from behind-the-scenes book
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Outlander, the Starz adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling novels, is about to come alive in the pages of its own adaptation of sorts. In The Making of Outlander, a deep dive out Oct. 18 into the series’ first two seasons, author Tara Bennett — with an assist from Gabaldon herself, who writes the introduction — takes readers through the writing and filming of every episode, offers never-before-seen images, and delivers exclusive interviews with the cast and crew.
Below, EW has five exclusive behind-the-scenes shots from the book, as well as insight from executive producer Maril Davis, who says the book is “a love letter to the cast and crew” that gives fans an intimate look into the production of the epic, sweeping love story between Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe). “Most fans do want to know how the sausage is made, they’re interested in the filmmaking process,” Davis says. “People don’t really understand the steps we take.” She walks EW through some of the steps for the five shots below.
This sunny shot comes from the pilot, which saw Claire go through the stones and journey into the past. Though the giant stones of Craigh na Dun were constructed out of foam with hard coating to help preserve the ground, the rest of the scene didn’t require special effects — which Davis says everyone took as a positive sign. “I have such a fabulous memory of this specific scene,” Davis says. “It was so ethereal up there. We didn’t use the wind machine, because every time she went to go do [the scene], the wind picked up. It was so weird for everyone there that day.”
“It was just like a meant-to-be moment,” she adds. “We had really beautiful weather, which is unusual for Scotland, so I think we were all tricked into thinking that [the rest of filming would be easy]… There’s just a look of pure joy on Caitriona’s face there. It was a magical setup for what would become a really magical shoot.” Then again, not everything was picture perfect. “We had a really difficult time finding the blue flowers that Diana had described in the books,” she recalls.
Season 2 brought the Frasers to France. For a visit to Versailles, Claire donned a memorable, cleavage-baring red dress — and shared an intimate moment with Jamie before heading out. The shot shows just a bit of the crew surrounding them in the bottom left corner, which Davis says is a common sight for the Balfe and Heughan, especially in their closest scenes. “It’s like Jamie, Claire, and 20 other people,” she laughs. “From the start, [Caitriona and Sam] had this amazing relationship. They get along so well. If they didn’t, we’d be in trouble.”
Aside from getting the costumes right for the world-traveling second season, Davis remembers the production focusing on two key sets: Master Raymond’s (Dominique Pinon) apothecary and the king’s Star Chamber, which was only featured in one, grisly sequence. “It’s one thing to see the pictures, but when you walk on set it’s like being there,” she says. “It helps the actors. They walk on and part of their job is done. They have to act, but they’re not distracted.”
Blue ponchos are ubiquitous on the Outlander set. “The Scottish weather and landscape is rough. It rains all the time, we have to work in the mud and the dirt,” she says. “The mountain of umbrellas and ponchos we have is just kind of a constant… It’s become second nature [to see extras like this].”
Davis remembers a first-season scene that had been so muddy, “people were slipping down the hill.” “It’s always a logistical nightmare,” she says of outdoor shoots far from civilization. “It’s difficult to bring our big production footprint and lay things out. I’m sure that’s why everyone has great memories of the bathroom situation at all these locations.”
This shot comes during the episode in which Claire flashes back to her time in World War II, experiencing PTSD on top of her grief over losing Faith and abandoning her life in Paris. “When we were breaking this episode, [writer] Matthew B. Roberts realized that Claire didn’t have a lot to do during those chapters,” Davis explains. “Matt came up with the idea of the PTSD moment, because we felt like she never talks about her experience in war that much, and it seemed likely that at that point, she would be dealing with the effect of being in war.” Focusing on Claire’s difficult headspace, though, did ironically give them some levity. “It gave us a fun little moment where we could show the origin for the line, ‘Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,’ which she says a lot,” Davis says. “That was a fun Easter egg moment for fans.”
Davis also shared another piece of humorous trivia from the episode: The scene in which Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish) leads a mock Highland charge — a surprise tactic used on the battlefield — in order to pull the rug out from under Jamie, was originally imagined not as shirtless, but as pants-less. Because of a costume issue, they had to ditch the idea, and even toyed with having the men go completely clothing-free. “I think we were like, ‘should we do it naked?'” she recalls. “All the guys were up to it, but it was true to the time that the Highland charge was just guys coming in with long shirts on because the plaid wrappings would sometimes get in the way of fighting.”
Shooting battles is never easy, and for the Battle of Prestonpans, production had to also deal with — yes, again — uncooperative Scottish weather. “The true battle happened in quite a bit of fog, and we wanted to recapture that, but we discovered very quickly that with the wind, we couldn’t capture the fog with a smoke machine,” Davis says. Instead, the team constructed a marquee tent, filled it with smoke, and then filmed the entire battle inside. “It was a pretty ingenious idea that saved us in the end, but I mean, it got pretty disgusting with the blood and horses and mud and everything.”
Luckily, no one got injured in the process — Davis says only Romann Berrux, who played Fergus, got harmlessly knocked over accidentally in a shot they wound up keeping — and doing the episode only prepped the crew for their next big challenge: the Battle of Culloden, in season 3. “The Battle of Culloden was by far the biggest set piece we’ve ever done, but we’re so thrilled with how it’s turning out,” Davis says. “This season is very challenging. We’re showing parallel storylines with Jamie and Claire, and you’re looking at multiple time jumps within those parallel lines.”
The Making of Outlander hits shelves October 18 and can be preordered now.