An adaptation of author Diana Gabaldon’s popular historical novels, the 16-episode series follows the passion and adventure that awaits a time-traveling nurse named Claire Randall played by Caitriona Balfe.
“It was the great Scarlett O’Hara search to find Claire,” exec producer Ronald Moore told the audience following the screening of the premiere episode, “Sassenach.”
“At the onset of the project, I said, because I’m an idiot, that we are going to cast Claire first and (her love interest) Jamie Fraser is going to be the one we cast at the last minute. Because in the books Jamie is the “King of Men,” so I thought well, that’s going to take forever, but of course it’s exactly the opposite of what happened.”
Producers found actor Sam Heughan almost immediately, but after seeing “a lot of really good, really talented actresses” Moore explained it was just before production began that they found Balfe to play the married World War II combat nurse who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743. Upon her arrival, she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened and her loyalties are tested.
“I believe that they (threw me in at the last minute) intentionally just to make it seem like it was happening to me for real,” Balfe joked.
Gabaldon explained that after 23 years of trying to make the books into a two-hour feature film, producers decided against it.
“I was so relieved,” Gabaldon said.
Moore admitted that it took him about five years to convince series rights holder, Jim Kohlberg, that the books should be a television series and not a film.
“We agreed to disagree for a while,” Moore said. “But every year we would call and ask ‘how’s that feature coming along?’ Then finally two years ago he said, ‘You know. Maybe it is a television series.’”
When the project landed at Starz, Moore said that CEO Chris Albrecht told him “the greatest thing you can hear from an executive.”
“He said make the show for the fans and trust that anyone who is not a fan will get sucked into the story.”
If the audience at the 92nd Street Y is any indication, the series is off to a glowing start.
(Pictured: Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe Tobias Menzies at the “Outlander” screening in New York)