Why parts of Outlander were made into a black-and-white silent film
In an inspired move for Outlander, Sunday's episode, titled "Famous Last Words," depicted the more graphic moments from Roger's hanging as an eerie, black and white silent film. Here, executive producer Matthew B. Roberts and Richard Rankin (Roger MacKenzie) explain how the decision was made, and what it took to successfully pull it off.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY The decision to show Roger's hanging through the lens of an old black-and-white film was brilliant. Can you share some of your thought process on this, how you came to this decision?
MATTHEW B. ROBERTS: We are a visual medium. Diana Gabaldon can go directly into the character's minds, but I say ... too often, I'm sure ...we can’t film a thought. We have to find creative ways of getting into the character's head then get them out on screen. So when Dani Berrow, the writer of episode 508, came to me with the silent picture idea, I immediately fell in love with it. One, because I love black-and-white photography. Two, because black-and-white makes you work a bit — makes you use your imagination. Three, it was a visually brilliant way to get into Roger's thoughts. So, as she pitched out the idea, her thought was that Roger is a man whose gift is his voice, but now he's deprived of it — forced into silence… experiencing his trauma psychologically, like a movie playing out in his mind. She cited a description in The Fiery Cross of Roger's body being corpse-like, but covered in colorful bruises — reds, blues, yellows, purples, and greens — and thought there was something fascinating about the idea of this contrast, transforming Roger's very real, living pain into black and white and into silence.
RICHARD RANKIN: That abstract way of telling the story was going to be a much more effective, a much more unsettling way into Roger's psychology. I'm glad that they stuck with it. We shot every scene two ways, just in case the studio, the network, the execs didn't like it. We shot all the scenes normally, acted normally, and then we would go on and do another take while shooting silent-movie style. All that meant to us as the actors was that we had do everything a little bigger, a little more stylized. It wasn't too much of a shift. They shot it at a different frame rate. So in terms of on set, there wasn't a huge difference for us. We just had sort of ham it up a little bit.
ROBERTS: Then we wanted to bring Roger back to reality, back to the love of his family, back to the living, in living color. And then give him his gift back ... in song.