I am reminded that sometimes good things happen when you least expect them…Outlander fans

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“Good Lord…no they…yep…they did” was my reaction to the action on Social Media several times this week. Some truly awful stuff has been said in this fandom. I really wish I could figure out an effective way to call people on their shite that didn’t involve then becoming the target of every angry frustrated person anonymously sitting behind a keyboard spewing hate or then finding yourself caught up in a fight you never wanted in the first place!

If you have ever been the target of this mean-spirited “stuff” you know the struggle. Do you strike back or stay silent?  If you strike back how do you stop yourself from sliding down that slippery slope of bad behavior?  You’ve all seen it happen.  One comment leads to two and then three and then the name-calling begins and the next thing you know you’re crawling around in the mud with the others.  Staying silent.  Not sure that solves anything either.  It seems wrong somehow to let some of this outrageousness go unchallenged.  Is silence the same as encouragement?  I’m not sure I know the answer, but I’m trying very hard to follow my own advice.  I’ve always told my children to pick their battles carefully. So, I ask myself how important is this person’s opinion really?  If I can recognize the ludicrous, I’m sure others can too.  Words can hurt, but I try to let it go because holding a grudge or withholding forgiveness always hurts me more.

There is an old saying that “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good” and despite the petty intentions of the name-calling, shaming, and judging ill wind in this fandom something good happened as a result.  This morning I learned that a a fellow fan, a mother who lost her baby to a drunk driver, was moved by listening to other fans talk about forgiveness. The same anonymity that allows others to say vile things they would never say to someone’s face allowed her to ask questions and discuss something she has struggled with for 30 years…forgiveness.  I can just hear someone minimizing and questioning how talking about the trolling and attacking in this fandom could possibly have made a difference.  I don’t know why and quite frankly, I don’t care because this woman was able to share her grief and celebrate her child’s life this morning.

This morning, I’m grateful because the good has out weighed the bad and encouragement, friendship and kindness has won the day.  I learned again that our words do have power and the act of simply allowing folks a safe forum to explore ideas is more valuable than we know.  I was reminded once again that we are all connected by the human experiences we’ve navigated; grief, loneliness, joy, perseverance, and…forgiveness.

God bless Mary and all the women who mourn a child. God bless those folks who are open enough to listen without judging and discuss without condemnation.

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Another interesting Outlander fan…an actor’s perspective on Outlander

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This post is the second in a series of articles written by some of the talented and interesting folks in the Outlander fandom.  I “met” Sara Escobedo when she responded to one of my articles about the acting in Outlander on Starz.  Right away I was intrigued.  As a working actress, her perspective was unique and it offered a lot of insight.  She shared that she watched the first few episodes and was so blown away by the acting and production that she became a fan and joined, as she says, the “Outlander faniverse” and began reading the series (ding! another angel gets their wings!) Her article about season 2 follows and a link to another article of hers I published on the blog.  If you haven’t read Dragon Fly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon turn back now there be spoilers ahead.  Seriously, NOW! You’ll hate yourself if you don’t!

 

Dragonfly in Amber: An Actor Plays the Moment

 

“..apart from serving the script and the director’s vision, an actor’s sole purpose, my sole purpose as an actor, is to feed my opposite actor as much as humanly possible in order for him or her to do their job. That’s it. If I’m doing that for them, and they’re in return doing that for me, then we have a lot of options, and you hopefully have the potential to capture some great drama. Then we’ve done our job.”

Tom Hardy interviewed for The AV Club

 

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Award season for television is dying down and soon we will be entering upon Outlander: Season 2 (Dragonfly in Amber). I cannot begin to describe my joy over the last year and the upcoming season. For many, the last 6-9 months were frustrating because of the lack of recognition for these AMAZING actors, writers, directors, and crew members. We saw the final 2 episodes air and everyone felt SOMETHING. Whether it is disgust and repulsion or sadness and empathy, every viewer had an experience. Articles were written praising the tact and honesty of the episode and the performances. Momentum built and there was a surge of publicity concerning all things Outlander. To be brief, many people have been frustrated over the lack of recognition this first season received from the outside. All I can say is, many deserving programs go unnoticed and it can be like high school, where you vote for the people you know and not necessarily “the best”. There is also a tendency to reward the “memory” of a show and not the product itself (Mad Men is a great example, season 4 was its last “great” season). I heard people say “well, that’s too bad for Outlander, they won’t be able to top that stuff.”  While I agree the sexual assault and the ramifications were quite emotionally eviscerating, I don’t think the situation is as dire. When I first read Outlander, I was not nearly as upset by what happened to Jamie until I saw it on screen. Perhaps it was my own mind not fully envisioning what took place or its effects. That being said, I urge everyone to heed what I am about to say……..THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

There will be things in Season 2 that we can mention, but until it plays out, there is no way of fully gauging our reactions. We know these things.  We whisper them to each other….”Faith”,  “BJR appears”, “Fergus”, “Battle of Prestonpans”, “La Dame Blanche”, “Claire goes to Louis” and “the Stones”. I don’t know about you but just the idea of some of these scenes playing out gives me chills. I think that Season 1 had a few VERY powerful moments and we were skillfully led to the final 2 episodes by a creative team that will do the same thing this year, only more and faster! We have so many amazing things coming our way.

You have heard the line “part of acting is reacting”. Actors will go to great lengths to get a scene right and depending on their training, skill, and preferences, this can be quite an ordeal. You will hear me talk about moments a lot. That is fundamentally what acting is…….it is listening and playing the moment that you are in. Staying present and being there for your partner. If you watch the special features on the movie “Trainwreck” you will see the director, Judd Apatow, talking to the actors and background talent about the moment before a funeral scene is starting. He urges them to act naturally and listen to what star Amy Schumer is saying. There will be moments of laughter and lightness, but there are also sad and painful things that she will say and it is okay to be sad there. She is going to “go there” emotionally and she needs the moment to play out as real as possible. THAT is acting….staying present and being your character and if you are in a scene, being there for your fellow actor and helping to create the world.

Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe are REALLY good at this. They have developed a partnership and can trust each other and be there for each other. They will play out moments that we have only ever dared to dream about. Many of these are going to be excruciating, but it will be worth it! I’m looking forward to the whole cast and crew telling us this story and the actor’s showing us what they are made of!

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Claire:

Caitriona Balfe was exquisite last season. She gave us so many moments, that I have a hard time naming them all. DG has given Cait an amazing gift with this upcoming season. An actress dreams all her life of getting play the intrigue that is part of Season 2. There will be soft and tender moments, but the emotional ones are the most hotly anticipated. We will see Claire struggle with a difficult pregnancy and ultimately lose her baby. If that isn’t a heartbreaking moment for an actor to play, then I don’t know what is. There is no real way to describe carrying a child to a person who hasn’t done it. Not only does your body change, but your mindset and priorities. You fear for things that aren’t a problem yet and wonder about what is going on inside you.

This is going to probably be one of the most difficult things we watch in the entire run of the show. I know that it will be handled with dignity and honesty. Even the most seasoned actress would have trouble handling this topic because of the painful nature. When I read the chapters that dealt with Faith’s premature birth and ultimate death, I could hear Cait’s voice in my head and I imagined her anguish. I am VERY curious to see how they handle this, but I know that Caitriona will go to a very painful and raw place to emote everything that Claire internally expresses. That kind of truth and vulnerability are what make Outlander stand apart from the crowd. They don’t sugar-coat life and its challenges. You may be madly in love with your husband, but if he makes you mad…..then God help your neighbors!

Cait will also deal with Mary’s rape and Jamie’s subsequent imprisonment in the Bastille, which also gives rise to her dealings with King Louis XV. I know it may sound naïve, but at the end of the “Trial” between Master Raymond and the Comte, I REALLY thought Claire was “off the hook” so to speak. Then with a chilling elegance, you know what she is going to have to do. Even now, I feel sick and upset thinking about Claire using her body to free her husband. Their reunion will be another “moment” for all of us who love DIA so much.

Another personal favorite for me will be getting to know young Fergus, who will have his own “moment” this season, that I know will be treated respectfully. (Side note): Even if you HATE the character Frank Randall or Black Jack Randall, can we all respect Tobias Menzies for just ALWAYS putting it out there (*cue bad pun) and giving us dimensions and strength to VERY difficult characters. I mean come on….really BJR? With that, it will be interesting to see the “reunion” of Jamie and Black Jack. I think those actors will make it a very satisfying moment.

Claire (AGAIN) will have another difficult moment to deal with during the battle. His death…..you know who. Don’t pretend that Grant O’Rourke dying isn’t going to be one of the WORST moments in the show. Grant has created an AMAZING character and this is just going to hurt all over. There is no way that I can escape imagining the outstanding Graham McTavish leaning over Grant, while Cait holds his hand (if this is played like the books) and we have that good bye to reckon with.

<Sara has to take a moment to get that dust out of her eye that is making it well up with tears….not all these images taking over her brain>

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Jamie:

This man has some STUFF to work out still. This whole season will be riddled with strife for Jamie and Sam is VERY good at taking internal struggle and personifying it. He will be playing many parts within the same character this season. Savvy businessman, soft & loving husband, strong leader, vengeful victim, and tortured love.  Is there anyone who has looked at pictures of Jamie in Season 2 and not KNOWN what was happening? He is dealing with so much and still manages to keep fighting for his people, his family, and heart.

The fight between BJR and Jamie will be incredible. It is going to just rivet us and consequently break another part of him. He then STILL has to deal with that “man” throughout the remainder of the season. This tension and anger will be an interesting mixture for Sam to play. You cannot play rage. That isn’t really a “thing” but you can express rage through some other action. This will be Sam’s greatest acting challenge for this season. He will slowly build, explode a bit, then have more emotional ground to cover.

Much of Jamie’s action in Dragonfly in Amber is played off-screen, so I will be curious to see how much of it we get to go on with him. Like, the first book, DIA is told through Claire’s perspective, but Ron Moore has acknowledged that Claire and Jamie are their own entity and will continue to face things together that are difficult and exciting.

Here’s the gut ripper….I will call this the future clip. This one will be played before their award win is announced and it will be the one that echoes this season. Claire and Jamie’s last moments together will do emotional damage to viewers. When I first read this chapter I could sense that something bad was happening. Jamie had just made the bargain to set Claire off safely and to go back to fighting and ultimate death. (Besides he had JUST killed his Uncle, so something bad was going to be happening to him). Jamie’s revelation to Claire about her new pregnancy and the danger to her and the baby will be hard enough, but the actual moment will be tremendous. They cling, claw, and grasp at one another, trying to make the moments last a lifetime. Cait and Sam will devastate us all in that moment and I just can’t wait. Can you imagine….how do you say that goodbye? Jamie is (for all intents and purposes) assuring his wife and child’s life, but they both know Jamie’s death is inevitable. How does an actor express that knowledge? I know how I would, but having seen Claire say goodbye at Wentworth, we know Caitriona will do it justice. Sam, as ever, will leave us broken with just a look.

When I first read this chapter, by the time it had ended, I couldn’t see. My eyes were pouring out tears and I couldn’t breathe. I had the actor’s faces in my head as this played out and I knew that if nothing else THIS would slay everyone. I contacted some friends when I got to Part 7 and between tears slamming down my face still and gulping back sobs, I told them that I didn’t know if this was even going to be possible. This scene is what actors dream about and writers live off of. This kind of truth and pain resonates in ALL OF US….no matter who you are or where you come from. We are born with the natural instinct to love and be loved and that is what this scene will be. It will be two people who emotionally trust each other, playing off of instinct and emotion. We will not be able to stop watching them through tears.

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Whew! I’m not even CLOSE to touching on all that we will see in Season 2, but you can see what I mean with all the rich story-lines coming to us. Without speculating as to how they will incorporate the 20TH century, JUST the “meat & bones” of the 18th century will give viewers a treasure trove of riches to experience. These actors are on a meteoric rise and with such stunning material and crew masterfully weaving this tale; we will be thrilled with the end product. No matter what, THAT is what is most important. I look forward to all the moments that make up this immersive story and as an actor I can wait to be enthralled by their choices and moved to tears again.

Another article by Sara: https://sassypants25.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/the-pain-the-pathos-the-emmys/

About the Author

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Sara Escobedo is new to the Outlander Faniverse, but not fangirling. She is an avid fan of “The X-files”, movies and pop culture.  Graduate of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (AMDA) in NYC, after a brief stint in regional theater, she returned to New Mexico and graduated with a B.A. in Theater Acting from the University of New Mexico (UNM). She regularly teaches an “Intro to Film” and a “Fundamentals of Auditioning” class at the local community college and the Albuquerque Little Theater.  She has spent the last ten years working in theater, independent and big budget films shot in NM.  Her favorite screen work includes: Suspect Zero, Observe & Report, Breaking Bad, Manhattan, Wildfire, Preacher, Merry Maids of Madness, Pizza Girl Massacre, Crazy Heart, Terminator: Salvation, Kate & Leopold, After Party, Smash & Thrill, Songstress, Two-Timers, and Better Call Saul. “In most of the recognized titles, if you can spot me straight away on it, I didn’t do my job! #background #stand-in”

SPOILERS FOR SURE! Anticipating Jamie and Bree Favorite Moments in Outlander

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My new post on Outlander Online! BREEEEEEEE!

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WE HAVE BREE!  Starz announced the casting of one of Outlander’s most important roles today! Sophie Skelton is going to play Brianna Randall Fraser the daughter of Jamie and Claire Fraser.  She is described as a newcomer and I have to say I’m glad to not have a lot of other roles competing with her portrayal of Bree. I read her IMBD and was tickled to find she has older brothers named Sam and Roger. LOL, it’s kismet! I was impressed with the fact that academically she could have chosen any course of study and chose to act.  I think that bodes well for us fans and for her suitability to play Bree.  It was exciting to put Sophie’s picture side by side with Rik Rakin who plays Roger Wakefield MacKenzie.  We’ve waited a long time to see them together!

Read the rest of the article after jump!

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Outlander fan survives the Zombie Apoclypse…or not

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I have a love hate relationship with social media. I love that I’ve “met” so many wonderful people from all over the world. I hate the time suck. I love that I can get different people’s perspectives at the drop of an @. I hate the power anonymity gives some people to be mean.  I love some of the fun and unusual topics we discuss like…today.  I was strolling through my feed this morning and was alarmed to see that Terry Dresbach was stuck in traffic in Scotland because of flooding.  Local fans were quick to give her information about possible redirection and to keep her company while she and Cuilean waited.

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I occasionally checked to see how things were progressing and to add my two cents to the convo.

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I crack myself up! *giggle snort*

During my lunch, I was relieved to see that Terry had made it home and she and the puppy were getting prepared to snuggle up with some cocoa and a warm blanket and watch and I quote “a good old-fashion disaster movie

This began a convo about the attraction to disaster movies.

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For some reasons, Terry and others believed I would be and I quote “one of those tenacious apocalypse survivors”.

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See?

They couldn’t be more wrong.  Please let me explain why I’d probably be the first to go.

1. I can’t run and I have no athletic prowess.  Not even if my life depended on it, so…yeah…I’m zombie food.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE THAT SUPPORTS MY HYPOTHESIS: On our third date, ( note the 3, the 3rd, thrice time) he had been in my presence, my future husband took me to an amusement park.  As we were pulling into the parking lot he said and I quote, “try not to trip today”. To which I replied “I’ll try” knowing full well there was no way I could remain vertical for more than two hours straight.  He married me anyway which just goes to prove that love is blind and maybe even slightly stupid.

2. I’m gullible. I have an alarming lack of suspicious nature.  I truly want to believe in the goodness of mankind. My car broke down and I need to use your telephone. Sure come on in.  No, really sardines are great! Okay, give me a double portion. I promise I’ll be able to stop.  Meet your daughter.

VIDEO SIMULATION THAT REPRESENTS MY GULLIBILITY AND STRENGTHENS MY ARGUMENT:  Candygram? I would soooo open the door.

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http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/landshark/2832305

3. I’m too empathetic. From the little bit I’ve seen and heard, empathy doesn’t seem to have a real place in disaster survival.  Someone needs help? Oh well, says the survivor of the Titanic.   I. couldn’t. do. that. Just not in my nature.

ANOTHER REAL LIFE EXAMPLE OF MY UNSUITABILITY FOR SURVIVAL:  I took a college religion and ethics class taught by a priest.  About the third day of class, a young man asked to speak to the padre.  As the two talked at his desk in the front of the room things began to get heated. The next thing I knew the young man was pushing the father and threatening him.  I jumped up and got between them and started to try and drag the young man from the room.  What I learned very quickly was that it had all been pretense, an experiment to show how people were afraid to get involved.  The father said he didn’t think anyone would help (his teaching methods are a topic for another day’s discussion).

4. I’m no McGyver.

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I don’t want you to believe that I have no skills that could help in a survival situation.  I’ve gone camping.  I can bait my own hook.  But, I’d be the first to admit that my skills set runs more toward the… academic.  I’m great at making do, but building, planning for an invasion, figuring out multiple uses for chewing gum, can openers or shaving cream is not my forte.  If there is ever a disaster that requires someone to read 10 books pull out all the most important information and then write a twenty page paper then I’m your girl!

5. Even if I was prepared…it wouldn’t make a difference.  Once upon a time, I worked in a prison with drug and alcohol addicted felons.  Part of the training for this job included spending two-weeks at a police academy learning about prison culture, laws, being able to shoot a gun and learning self-defense.  I graduated at the top of the class. Really! I did!  I have the graduation pin to prove it!  I was excited to come home and show my husband I could take care of myself!  To demonstrate my newly learned skills, I asked my son if he would pretend to be a prisoner and attack me.  I had this little dream scenario where my 6ft. athletic son would be on his knees helpless under my pressure point applied move.  Yeah…not so much. I did everything I’d been taught and yet, I was the one on my knees in pain.  I said and I quote “I’m dead”. Which I believe is the point I was originally trying to make!

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Should a blockbuster movie disaster come my way, I’d try to survive, but I really wouldn’t bet on it if I were you.

 

Outlander’s acting…How do they do that with a camera in their face?

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I’m amazed.  I’m amazed every time I see a behind the scenes photograph of the actors of Outlander. It amazes me because the reality of filming seems so intrusive.  I am amazed that actors who have microphones hanging over their heads and cameras in their faces can manage to make a scene feel real and intimate.  My understanding of the challenges an actor faces has increased and so has my respect for their skills. You’ve heard me say before that I’m curious and that I am often inspired to look a bit deeper.  Today that inspiration came from this picture. 

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It is a simple scene and yet for me it helped clarify what is actually happening during filming and it is far from intimate.  In fact, it appears to take a village to raise a film. Movies take years to plan, months to shoot and thousands of people to create. On average the top films of the past two decades have each had 3.5 writers, 7 producers, 55 people in the art department, 32 in sound, 55 in camera / electrical and 156 in visual effects. There are 19 people listed for hair and makeup alone and 37 in the camera electrical department for Outlander on IMBD. The list of folks working on the show is pretty impressive and worth a look. Suffice it to say, there is a crowd surrounding these actors most of the time.

You are probably aware that the author of the Outlander series of books, Diana Gabaldon, was asked to write scripts for Season 2 and had the experience of filming those episodes.  I was entertained by her less than glamorous pictures of traipsing through mud and her Scottish weather uniform including her pink boots. ( btw, I found a great blog about a typical day on a set. https://www.friendsinfilm.com/typical-day-on-set )

Quite frankly, it looked cold, uncomfortable and sounded like a study in patience when she explained that the same scenes were often filmed over and over. Her day started early and ended late with her falling across her bed sometimes too tired to eat. For the actors who have to get into makeup (I’ve read it takes somewhere near 4 hours to put the prosthetic on Sam’s back) and costume, I can imagine it might even be more time consuming and more exhausting. Despite all this they must be ready to be in character and stay in character on demand and get up and do it all again the next day. Ron Moore talked about the stamina it took for Cait to be in almost every scene, I’m starting to really appreciate what he meant and why Sam and Cait appreciate having a co-star that is a friend.

I’ve  written a bit about how costuming and set design can affect an actor’s performance http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Zo ,  http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Yx . I’ve even written about different schools of thought on acting and a bit about why someone might want to act http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Pd .  I can see how certain acting techniques could work, especially as a stage actor performing the same material night after night, but this acting for a film series seems to be a different animal.  For instance, how does filming out of sequence affect your performance?  I would think that you would need to act in some sort of chronological order to build upon what happens to the character.  The only response I ever got to that question was from Terry Dresbach, Outlander’s costume designer, who told me she has never been part of a production that was any other way.  After following this show’s production for the last couple of years, I’ve come to understand the “why” of filming out of sequence, but I still don’t know how it doesn’t negatively impact actor’s performances.  The fact that Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe and all the others are able to get inside their characters’ heads on cue continues to baffle and as I said….amaze.  How do they tune it all out? How do they make us believe those emotions are real?

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Outlander has gained a reputation for portraying its story in an honest manner.  The scenes feel like what might actually happen between real people including the sex.  I’m astonished to realize that what appears to us as romantic and passionate and intimate was created in a room with directors, camera people, sound guys, etc.  I found it amusing when Ron Moore said they wanted to give the characters some privacy and so they made the crew skeletal! Skeletal there’s a relative term! LOL!

Yeah, we got to get it right. But the subject matter — Caitrna [Balfe] and I have never done anything like this before, so it was a bit of a learning curve. We were lucky that the director, Anna Foerster, was good. We did a lot of rehearsals. We discussed how we wanted it to work. When you watch the episode there is a progression in the way that Jamie and Claire get to know each other. Their relationship grows quite quickly so by the end of the episode, you can see that they’re basically making love, it’s not just consummating the marriage.    Sam Heughan http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/outlander-sam-heughan-jamie-claires-732878

I’m sorry, but if I’m wearing nothing but a modesty patch simulating sex with an equally naked co-star and people are filming and giving me instructions like hold him here, touch her there, I’m going to have tough time not being embarrassed! Get it right?! Yeah, they got it so right I felt slightly voyeuristic watching!

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I found some great insight in an article in the Atlantic.  It took a look at the emerging interest in the psychology of acting and how it could give us insight into the science of why people do the things they do. The article asserts that acting is just a different way of looking at human behavior.  What I discovered is that becoming a character isn’t easy and not without cost, especially when playing scenes like episode 15 and 16.

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http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/how-actors-create-emotions-a-problematic-psychology/284291/

I found myself getting a little worried about our actors while reading this article, but I’m happy to say that it ended by concluding that good acting may be less about becoming your character and more about simply concentrating.

“Intensity gets misinterpreted. Not all acting is necessarily extremely intense. But it is concentrated and very much about being here, now.”

The toll of at least temporarily living in a character and world you’ve created is emotionally consuming and an actor needs to cultivate ways to disengage from their work of acting.  I’m happy to say that our actors appear to be aware of the need of self-care and I love that they share that they laugh on set, eat healthy, hike Munros, drink the occasional whiskey, and spend time with family and friends who know who they were before they played Jamie, Claire or Black Jack.  I still don’t understand how they do it, but wow, they are good at it and this fan is grateful!