From “Harry Potter” to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” there’s few things more valuable to the entertainment industry than a fiercely beloved book series. There’s also few things more daunting for a producer than the prospect of letting down the protective fans of a fiercely beloved book series, and “Outlander” fans have been obsessing about Claire Randall for more than two decades now.
Ronald D. Moore is no stranger to fan expectations. As a writer and producer for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (among other “Star Trek” titles), and the executive producer and showrunner of the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot, he learned that it’s impossible to please everyone with every creative decision. At Wednesday night’s New York screening of the mid-season premiere of “Outlander” — an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s popular historical romance series which began airing its first half of season one on Starz in August — the show’s producer and showrunner Moore told Variety that it helps to remember that impassioned fans always mean well.
“I started my career in “Star Trek,” then “Battlestar” and now this, and you have to understand it’s all coming from a place of love,” he said. “They are fans because they love this material and all they want is for you to not screw it up, and they have lots of opinions about what equals screwing it up, but they all come from this extraordinarily positive place.”
“So I always take it in that vein and say, ‘I’m trying to give you something you’re going to like,'” Moore continued. “It’s not a democracy. You can’t vote on what scenes we’re going to do, but our intention is to deliver to fans of these books a story they love in a way they can enjoy it, so they can say ‘yeah, that’s the “Outlander” that I know.'”
Moore told Variety he was inspired to adapt Gabaldon’s series because “it just kept changing and evolving, and that was really appealing to me” — and that the second part of the first season, which returns to Starz this Saturday, will start to gather momentum after picking up on plot points set up in the first half. Fans of the book, he said, should be pleased with how the first season wraps up, as he and his team endeavored to be true to what was on the page.
“The (first) book ends in a very dark, disturbing, harrowing place, and we went for that,” he said. “I think we pulled it off, and I’m very curious to see how people react.”
At the end of last night’s screening, which took place at New York’s Ziegfeld Theatre, E!’s Alicia Quarles held a brief question and answer with Moore about “Outlander,” in which Graham McTavish, who plays Dougal MacKenzie, said that his most interesting encounter with a dedicated fan was when one “had a bit of a lie down” in front of him in an effort to look under his kilt. “It could have happened to anyone,” he said with a laugh.
Though “Outlander” is ultimately a fantasy show that features time travel and no shortage of bodice ripping, Moore strives to be as historically accurate as possible, from the material of the costumes to speech patterns. Unlike some of the actors, Lotte Verbeek, who plays Geillis Duncan, didn’t have to learn Gaelic for the role, but she did have to develop a Scottish accent. “And I’m Dutch,” she said, “so there was a bit of a double translation for me.”
Verbeek wasn’t familiar with the book or its fans, or how divisive her character is to the “Outlander” fanbase, before she auditioned for the role, but has grown to appreciate their support.
“There’s a lot of female fans. They really like the boys,” she said after a quick smile. “They really like the details of everything. They ask you about the sets, the costumes, even the Gaelic. They’re so interested in everything.”
“I try to take the support of the fans, but don’t take that as a pressure on my shoulder,” she went on. “And it’s amazing that way, you can just go with a lot of love of the fans and their anticipation.”
(Pictured: Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Lotte Verbeek and Starz CEO Chris Albrecht at the “Outlander” Mid-Season New York Premiere after-party at The Oak Room)