Of the shows currently on the air, none have blended period drama, passionate romance, sweeping battle sequences, and some of the most explicit (and explicitly feminist) sex scenes on television like Starz’s “Outlander” — a potent combination that has helped create a rabid fanbase.
And it’s a fanbase that’s had to deal with some major bumps in the road, as the time travel epic delivered some major twists last year. In Season 2, we saw Claire return to the year 1948 after Jamie sent her away prior to the Battle of Culloden, where they knew Jamie would likely die. But after 20 years in the 20th century, a now-50-year-old Claire discovered that Jamie was not killed in action, and that there was a chance he was alive. “If that’s true, then I have to go back,” she said in the final moments of the season finale, but what that means for Season 3 wasn’t exactly clear.
At the Television Critics Association press tour on Friday, key members of the show’s cast and crew will take the stage to tease what they can about the upcoming new season. Don’t anticipate too many spoilers, but showrunner Ronald D. Moore, executive producer Maril Davis, Caitriona Balfe (Claire Randall Fraser), Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser), Tobias Menzies (Frank/Black Jack Randall), Sophie Skelton (Brianna Randall), and Richard Rankin (Roger Wakefield) will hopefully be able to reveal just what to expect from the show’s return.
3:45 p.m. The panel begins a little late with the Season 3 trailer, including a glimpse of the infamous print shop. Heughan will eventually be here via satellite, FYI.
Davis said that the journey of the characters necessitated the emotional weight of each episode.
“It was the nature of the book so we transferred that to the story of the screen,” Moore added. “You focus on the major moments of the drama when you navigate the chronology.”
3:50 p.m. “It’s a weird headspace to get into,” Menzies said about the experience of playing the sadist Black Jack Randall. “It’s certainly why I like acting, why I relish those opportunities — and the opportunities in this show have been quite extensive.”
There are no plans to add any new Randalls to the world of “Outlander,” Moore said, though “it’s a time travel show” so there’s a chance that Menzies might appear again in some form.
3:55 p.m. “I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re the sexiest?” Skelton said about the relationship between Brianna and Roger, in comparison to Claire and Jamie.
“They have a very strong romantic relationship,” Rankin said, “but it’s a different dynamic.”
“However, it is a female fanbase so if anyone’s going to be a sex symbol it’s this one,” Skelton joked about Rankin.
“We’ve made all of our characters fully formed and they have great depth — that’s why so many people relate to it and connect to it,” she added.
Balfe has read all of the books: “It gives you an overview of where it’s going to go.”
“I’ve read one and a half of the books,” Menzies admitted.
Skelton has read four of the books, in order to “get a sense of who Brianna is.”
“I only read to get a perception of Roger and who fans think Roger is,” Rankin said. “But I only read to get a flavor of it — I try not to take too much from it.”
“I’m waiting for the graphic novel,” Moore joked.
4:00 p.m. Moore revealed that the first five episodes focus on what Claire and Jamie have been doing over a 20 year period, given that Jamie’s story can be broken down into five parts. Then it became a matter of coming up with a parallel storyline for Claire.
This means the third season sticks pretty closely to the story told in the third book, “Voyager.” “Sometimes sheer page count in the novel doesn’t translate to page count for the scenes,” Moore noted. “Each season we approach fresh with fresh eyes.”
4:05 p.m. Heughan finally appeared via satellite, while the producer revealed that the production relocated from Scotland to South Africa for some key sections of Season 3. “Scotland can pass for a lot of things, but Jamaica is not one of them,” Davis said.
Fun fact: “Outlander” actually used the “Black Sails” facilities, including their ships.
When asked about going beyond the established novels (there are eight of them), Moore said that “I cannot imagine a situation where we catch up with Diana Gabaldon… She’ll tell us what our ending is.”
That said, the producers said they would be happy to keep going with the series for eight seasons or more.
4:09 p.m. “It’s constantly moving, it’s constantly changing, it’s not all set in one studio,” Heughan said about the experience of playing Jamie. “I’m enjoying growing up with him over these last four years. We’ll see how much further he can go.”
“The gift of doing a season like this is that you’re given the gift to explore your character,” Balfe said. The experience of getting to create this women over a period of time was really interesting, especially because the loss of Jamie means that she’s shelved a part of herself. I loved getting to play that. And then when she gets reunited with her love, how do you unravel all that?”
4:15 p.m. In answer to the last question, Balfe explained that in order to play a character who ages 20 years, she would watch an early film from a certain actress, followed by a later film. “We all approached this from a place of how does time change you… You don’t change that much but it does change you,” she said.
She also noted that older people gain a certain gravitas with age. “Someone like Claire who’s become a surgeon, it would add this authority to her, rather than crows’ feet or a monobrow.”
Check out the below featurette from Starz, which offers a glimpse at the parallel lives Jamie and Claire have been living in different centuries.
“Outlander” Season 3 premieres Sunday, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. on Starz.