Spoiler Alert! Don’t read unless you’ve watched the season 4 premiere of Outlander on Starz.
Welcome to America, Frasers! We asked Executive Producer Matthew B. Roberts to break down the first episode and explain why it seemed appropriate to score the final scene with a 20th Century tune.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY Before we get into the episode, I have to say: listening to the opening titles made me sentimental for Scotland!
MATTHEW B. ROBERTS Yeah. That is true. Scotland is a stand-in for North Carolina. We have always had Scotland as a character. To tell you the truth it was a struggle this year to have a character kind of die on you. But I will say this, we try to keep Scotland alive in the series, and you’ll see that later.
So a majority of the season will take place in America?
The show jumps right into Wilmington after the shipwreck without really explaining how they got there. Why did you do that?
We tried to stay close to the source material, especially when it comes to opening a season. To tell how they journeyed from the shipwreck to Wilmington would have felt a little bit like shoe leather. We wanted to just get them to Wilmington. They’ve already kind of acclimated to the new world, and setting their sights on getting back to Scotland. To do the shoe leather of getting there felt like a little extra work that we didn’t need.
You showed the construction of the standing stones in North Carolina. Who supposedly built those, and is that a question you’ll answer this season?
We don’t answer who built the standing stones in Scotland or in North America.
And will you come back to those particular stones later in the season?
They look like they are made of some sort of brick.
Those were cairns. They are building kind of a cairn, but the main monolith is carved out of a big piece of granite.
Why did you include those in the first episode?
I’m not going to spoil it! So many things will happen even after episode six that will give it away. I think the idea was to put it in early. If it comes back, you will bring that scene back in your head to finish the story.
The song the men sing in the pub. What is it and why didn’t you subtitle it?
It’s an old lament about sending off one of your loved ones to the great beyond. The way we play languages is that if Claire doesn’t know the words then we don’t subtitle. But if Claire does speak the language, then we subtitle. If Claire and Jamie understand it, then the audience should.
Wasn’t Rollo originally in this scene? I was on set that day and he was definitely there.
It’s funny, Rollo in the course of the season got much better. I was actually in South Africa and flew back to Scotland to pick out the puppy. We had to get Rollo going, so to speak. But when we started filming, he was very young. And it was hard to get Rollo to do the things that Rollo does in the books. We did have to pull him out of a couple of scenes because it wasn’t working. We just had to work through it. Over the course of the season, though, he started to get so much better at hitting his marks and cues. And then he and John Bell got really close, and that helped, too.
How did the decision come about to use Ray Charles’s rendition of America the Beautiful?
Toni Graphia and I wrote the premiere. We wrote that into the script. The title of the episode is America the Beautiful. When Toni and I were writing it we thought it would be a great juxtaposition of this gorgeous song being played over this horrific moment in their lives. It kind of sets up the season. You have this big, expansive, beautiful place, and all the hardships that go along with trying to make it a home.
Want more on Outlander? Make sure to tune in at 1 p.m. ET on Monday, Nov. 5, for the first installment of Outlander Live! on EW Radio. Find us at Sirius XM 105. Diana Gabaldon will be our first guest!
Outlander airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.
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