Outlander showrunner reveals why the Fraser house is so big
Now that’s a home for the ages!
In the Outlander season 5 premiere, Roger (Richard Rankin) and Bree (Sophie Skelton) exchange vows on the front lawn of the Fraser “big house” — and boy does it live up to its name. Outlander book readers who imagined a far cozier (see: small) abode for Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) were not doubt caught off guard by how large the producers ended up making the house.
“I’ve seen a few people on Twitter saying, ‘Hey, that looks like a big house,’” admits executive producer Matthew B. Roberts. “If we built it to the actual size, we could get the actors in there but we couldn’t get any cameras or crew.”
Below, Roberts talks about their decision to expand the Fraser digs, as well as how they went about staging the Bree-Roger nuptials and why Jamie felt it necessary to announce his presence of authority before the wedding began.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What were you just most concerned about getting right?
MATTHEW B. ROBERTS: When you’re doing these big moments, you just want to make sure every detail is right. You want to show everybody’s reactions, you want to make sure the coverage is there. We filmed the whole ceremony and then we cut it down. We got all the coverage, which was so important because every time you put hundreds of extras in there, it’s like herding cats.
What was the weather like that day?
It was so warm, a lot of the crew were wearing T-shirts. We went out there for a whole week and filmed, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous for us and cooperated both day and night.
Was the wedding true to the book?
It’s true they get married! But it doesn’t happen in the same way and it doesn’t happen at the same time. We made a conscious decision to do it in an Outlander television show way, making it big and grander and cinematic. In the book, Diana [Gabaldon] has this beautiful way of describing things and then you get to create that in your head. But to translate that to screen… sometimes the descriptions and the adjectives in the book are unfilmable. So we have to create our own themes and that’s always a challenge because, as we know, there are 30 million fans who create 30 million different images of things and you can’t ever do it 30 million ways. So we have to kind of pick the way and go for it.
It must be really annoying to constantly get that question, how it compares to the book.
It’s been happening for five years and I don’t think it’s going to stop, but what we always say is, we tried to be true to the material. We keep the plot of the books, but we cannot recreate individual scenes because those are, and I say this a lot in different interviews, the reader of the book is the casting director, is the director of photography, the director. They are the editor. They get to do all of it. We are doing that for them on the show, and that’s where you get that little [feeling of] “Oh, that’s not how I imagined it.” We’re getting that already. When Jon Gary Steele designed the big Fraser house, I saw some that were like, “Oh, that’s not what the way I pictured it.” I’ve fallen in love with the big house. And I think when looking at images of the time, of the period and what houses looked like, you hope people respond like, “Okay, yeah, I can see this.” The house has to look good on camera, and it also has a function. If we built it to the actual size, we could get the actors in there but we couldn’t get any cameras or crew. So anytime you see a scene where it’s just Jamie and Claire, there’s another 15 people standing just opposite them with two cameras, directors, supervisors… a lot of people. I think Gary and his team did a fantastic job of creating something that’s very functional but also looks fantastic on camera.
Are you saying that some book readers will say, “Dang, that’s a big-ass house”?
Well, it is a big-ass house. They built the big house. I’ve seen a few people on Twitter saying, “Hey, that looks like a big house.”
When Jamie yells out, “Frasers on the ridge!” is that from the book? What is the purpose of that?
Yeah, it’s from the book and it’s a traditional call. One of the things we wanted to do this season was kind of bring back the Scottishness of the show. In season 4, we’re in America, we were showing the American colonies, and we tried to make it feel very American. In season 5, you will see more of Scotland in the series. That’s what we tried to do with the premiere, with the games and the gathering… to make it feel like a little section of Scotland is here in North Carolina.
EW has lots of content planned for the fifth season of Outlander. Besides our weekly recaps and postmortem interviews with executive producer Matthew B. Roberts and the stars, we’ll continue to do our weekly recap show for SiriusXM. And you don’t have to tune in live to catch it! Outlander… On Demand! will go live on the SiriusXM app every Sunday night. In the meantime, make sure to follow @lynetterice on Twitter for all the latest news from Fraser’s Ridge.
Outlander airs Sundays on Starz.