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‘Outlander’ Cast and Crew Reveal What Makes Season 2 So Magical

The stars and creative minds behind "Outlander" divulge their favorite costumes and locations, as well as why attention to detail matters so much.

“I’m so used to holding back; you usually want to make sure that the costumes don’t push in front of the story, and Ron was like, ‘Push em! Go!'”

Getty Images for Paley Center

Time travel is nothing new to fans of Starz’s popular drama “Outlander,” and they now have the opportunity to transport themselves to 18th century France, thanks to the new “Artistry of Outlander” exhibit at the Paley Center for Media. In association with Sony Pictures and Starz Media, the Paley Center hosted a special preview of the exhibit on Monday, along with a panel featuring the major cast and creatives of “Outlander.” Series leads Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, executive producers Ronald D. Moore and Maril Davis, costume designer Terry Dresbach and production designer Jon Gary Steele were all in attendance to celebrate the show’s iconic costumes and sets.

"I think it's a big challenge with

“It’s a big challenge with 18th century costumes, to convince everybody just how sexy it is.” -Terry Dresbach

Starz

The exhibit and panel gave the cast and crew an opportunity to celebrate the various creative details that make “Outlander” so unique: though the series is known as much for its sex scenes as for its less raunchy features, this isn’t your mother’s low-budget bodice-ripper. According to Steele, it’s the creative aspects that make their show what it is, and what separates them from everything else on television. “I think we’re just trying to do our look, and we all want our show to look different. It’s not that we’re special — but we are,” he laughed. “We want our show to have its own look.”

Costumes

"I knew Sam was going to freak out if we put him in lavender silk- I was like don’t worry, we’re not going to do that." -Terry Dresbach

“I knew Sam was going to freak out if we put him in lavender silk — I was like, ‘Don’t worry, we’re not going to do that.'” -Terry Dresbach

Getty Images for Paley Center

It took a lot for Dresbach to sign on as costume designer, even though it was Moore, who is also her husband, doing the asking. “He asked me to do the costumes and I turned him down at least five times,” she said, laughing as she led the preliminary tour of the exhibit.

Of the 10,000 garments that were created for the second season, the exhibit includes the most intricate and jaw-dropping of the bunch. From embroidered buttons to hand-painted flowers, no detail was overlooked. “Whether you’re going to see all of this on camera… maybe you will, maybe you won’t, but it doesn’t matter,” Dresbach said. “The actor knows it’s there, we know it’s there. It’s done properly.”

READ MORE: Review: ‘Outlander’ Witnesses Worlds and Wars Collide

Despite the amount of care and dedication that went into each garment, Dresbach’s team of 72 originally contained very few people with any costume design experience. “It’s quite a testimony to this team of people, a lot of whom were straight out of art school and are sculptors or painters, who were all of a sudden figuring out how to do 18th century embroidery.”

She continued, “It was like, ‘Who here has ever made a fan before? Ok, no one? Somebody go on YouTube and see if you can find a video on how to make fans.'”

"When the actors are wearing these sorts of costumes, they feel it. They put it on, and they’re there." -Terry Dresbach

“When the actors are wearing these sorts of costumes, they feel it. They put it on, and they’re there.” -Terry Dresbach

Getty Images for Paley Center

Dresbach’s favorite costume? Claire’s “Dior Bar Suit,” one of the only designs featured that isn’t actually hers. “It’s the signature piece for the whole show,” she said. “As I started working on her costumes, I realized costumes like [Louise’s gown] didn’t fit. They were too fussy, too hyper-feminine. She’s running around in suits in the forties, this is a woman who was in the military! And Claire is from the same period of time that Christian Dior came from in the 1940’s. We took the exact Dior bar suit, reproduced it to the letter, and just made it longer.”

Later, Dresbach came close to tears discussing her inspiration for the gown. “The Dior is not my design, but for me it defines what costume design really is. It’s not about me, it’s about the character and the story, and that’s our holy grail. So even if it wasn’t mine, it was right for the story. Above all, I’m a storyteller. And that costume served that purpose to perfection.”

"Well I was nervous about the beginning of season two, because I wanted Jamie to not be as good- to be a shadow of himself, to be not as in control. And his relationship with Claire is troubled and he’s physically injured and he’s not one hundred percent. So I was nervous that that might not come across, or it might come across as not quite right. But it’s great to get the payoff when we do episodes nine and ten where we get to see him sort of flourish and become the leader of men that he’s supposed to be, and it’s rewarding." -Sam Heughan

“In France, he’s buttoned up, he’s hiding himself, he’s being someone else. He’s used to being just a guy in a kilt, very relaxed. And he goes back to that as the season goes on and he comes back into himself.” -Sam Heughan

Starz

Making every single costume, including those for extras, is a huge undertaking for Dresbach and her team (“I don’t know how we did it, I really don’t. I look back and it’s like this big hallucination”), but the rest of the cast and crew agree that her work was essential to the success of Season 2.

Heughan said that seeing the costumes in person was a completely different experience for him, rather than actually wearing them. “Looking in there really took me back, because you’re used to seeing these costumes, but also you’re always engaging with the actor wearing them. You’re aware of the costume, but you’re engaging with that character. And then to actually see them individually, you become so aware of how much craftsmanship has gone into them and the backstory that each one gives you.”

When it comes to favorite costumes, Balfe agreed with Dresbach on the Dior bar suit, but Heughan prefers the classic Scottish costumes to the “frills and lace” that Jamie is forced into in Paris. “I love the French costumes, they’re beautiful, but for me the character of Jamie is his kilt. Ultimately that’s what’s underneath it all, is this Scotsman. And that’s where he feels most comfortable, so that would be what I’d take home. I’d probably have to wash it first, though,” he said.

Sets

"Gary’s sets are out of this world. Especially when we were in Paris- well not especially, because every time I walk onto a new set of his I’m just floored." -Caitriona Balfe

“Gary’s sets are out of this world. Especially when we were in Paris — well, not especially, because every time I walk onto a new set of his, I’m just floored.” -Caitriona Balfe

Getty Images for Paley Center

“Last year, the carpenters and painters started calling the show ‘Brownlander’ because everything was brown. This year, it’s gold. Lots of gold!”

Steele’s enthusiasm for his Parisian sets was tangible as he led groups through the production design side of the exhibit. “We didn’t shoot at Versailles, god knows I wanted to… but we always want to build. It’s so much more fun.” Show locations including the Apothecary’s shop, the brothel and the Parisian apartment were all designed and built from the ground up on soundstages by Steele and his team.

"They like watching for the details, so whether they are watching for it or not, we will put the detail in there. That’s what we do, that’s our job, is to make it amazing." -Jon Gary Steele

“They like watching for the details, so whether they are watching for it or not, we will put the detail in there. That’s what we do, that’s our job, is to make it amazing.” -Jon Gary Steele

Starz

Steele’s personal favorite? The King’s Star Chamber, which was the only set that included any modern, fantastical aspects. Despite their usual strict devotion to complete historical accuracy, the show-runners allowed fantasy over fact for Steele’s ambitious undertaking. “Rob said, ‘It’s crazy, but I love it. Build it!'” Steele said, laughing. “It’s magic. We’re trying to make magic here.”

Balfe agreed. “Both he and Terry — they’re artists, and they’ve done such an amazing job. I don’t understand how they magic it all up, but they do.” Regarding Steele’s apothecary set, she said that “I’m always inspecting all of the details. It’s such a vivid place. It smelled like an old apothecary, it looked like it… it’s just a magical place. Claire walks in and she’s sort of dazzled by it all, and that was totally me!”

“This is a show that spent more than half of it’s season in 18th century France, and not a single frame was actually shot in France.” -Maureen Ryan, panel moderator

“This is a show that spent more than half of its season in 18th century France, and not a single frame was actually shot in France.” — Variety’s Maureen Ryan

Getty Images for Paley Center

While most of the sets are built by Steele’s team, then either repurposed or decimated, “Outlander” does occasionally shoot on location. Steele mentioned that the house used to shoot the Lallybroch scenes has become a hot spot for tourists — so much so that they’re installing a parking garage near the property.

Why Historical Accuracy Matters

"It's beautiful enough as it is, and I don't want people running around in leather pants, and gel in their hair, and all that crap." -Ronald D. Moore

“It’s beautiful enough as it is, and I don’t want people running around in leather pants, and gel in their hair, and all that crap.” -Ronald D. Moore

Starz

“I think the commitment to making it as truthful as possible was something that was really important to me from the beginning,” Moore said. “We’re not going to go back and recreate the 18th century and make it cool and hip, because it’s bizarre enough as it is.” (One particularly risqué dress from Episode 2 comes to mind.)

He continued, “We had to make it as completely authentic as we possibly could, day to day. We felt that when you’re asking the audience to accept something as crazy and fantastical as time travel, the more real you can make it and the more plausible it is to the audience, the more willing they are to say okay, I buy it. And if they buy it, then they will emotionally invest in the drama.”

While Dresbach and Steele played with the historical accuracy of pieces like the Dior dress and the Star Chamber, they admitted that in order to be able to break the rules, first you have to follow them. “We research and we make sure that we get it right, and then from there we can do something like riff on Claire. You have to have that basis of authenticity if you’re going to play with the boundaries like we do,” Dresbach said. “All of her costumes are very 1940’s, and the world around her is spot on period correct. Because otherwise the message just doesn’t sell.”

"The great thing about the 18th century is that it was just a lot of rock and roll." -Terry Dresbach

“The great thing about the 18th century is that it was just a lot of rock and roll.” -Terry Dresbach

Getty Images for Paley Center

While Claire is allowed more modern clothing, that’s as far as Dresbach’s rule-breaking goes. A costume for just one extra can take months to create. “We dress them accurately from the skin out. Our extras wear corsets. There’s no zippers, there’s no velcro.” It may seem like overkill, but Davis insists that it’s worth the extra effort. “Authenticity is so important to us. That’s what’s so amazing about doing this event and being able to see this stuff up close. I don’t think you realize the detail that goes into it all. Across the board, we just care so much.”

The free exhibit will open to the public beginning Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. The exhibit hours are Wednesday to Sunday from 12:00 – 5:00pm. “Outlander” Season 2 airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz.

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