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”

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The One Where I Talk About Outlander’s Acting and the Actors Using the Five W’s and How

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So, the dust has settled a bit on Episode 15 and folks are girding their loins for 16 because EVIDENTLY those critic/reviewers’ warnings forgot to mention that episode 16 is just as harrowing as 15.  (Way to suck us in with the light at the end) Anyway… ( she says while adjusting the gird loining, which we all know can chafe a bit), what I’m still thinking about today is the performances. Which is what I think most people are still thinking about today…those performances! I was as staggered by the acting as I was by the visceral story that was unfolding on my screen.

I know there is this common belief that a viewer really shouldn’t notice the acting because if you do then somehow your disbelief didn’t get suspended enough.  Maybe that’s true, but I’m pretty sure I bought what they were selling!  My appreciation occurred upon reflection. Like I said before, the dust has settled and I can’t get the performances out of my mind.  And….per usual…it made me curious.

Like,…how did this guy

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BECOME this guy!?

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One my readers commented, “It’s like they swallowed the characters!” I believe my response was, “So, that’s how they do that?!”

I want to know HOW they do that and WHY they do that!  As a teacher, I’ve often instructed my students in the use of the five W’s and How method employed by journalists. I think its use is appropriate for my exploration of acting as it pertains to Outlander on Starz:

WHO:

The Lovely and Talented Caitrionia Balfe

The Lovely and Talented Sam Heughan

The Lovely and Talented Tobias Menzies

WHAT:

Stellar acting performances in Outlander on Starz

HOW:

My lite research lead me to some information that suggests that there are at least eight major ways to learn and approach the craft of acting. No one way seems truly better than another and I was left with the impression that it was all a matter of personal preference. Here are the top eight and brief defintions:

Constantin Stanislavski’s

This method is a blend of spiritual realism, emotional memory, dramatic and self-analysis, and practice.

Lee Strasberg

This method was built on Stanislavski theories and asks actors to magnify and intensify their relationship to the material by using emotional experiences from their own lives.

Stella Adler

Ms. Adler’s method sort of takes a step back from the Strasberg model and emphasizes imagination in addition to recalling personal emotional experiences. In other words, you don’t HAVE to have experienced something to imagine how it feels.

Sanford Meisner

Meisner teaches his students to “live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” This method is all about being in the moment and reacting (this is my guess for what Sam and Tobias used in filming the episode 15 dungeon scenes).

Michael Chekhov

This method focuses on using both the mind and body and encourages actors to be consciously aware of their senses.

Practical Aesthetics

Developed by playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy, this method uses elements from both Stanislavsky and Meisner. It teaches actors to use a four-step process to analyze a scene and focuses on what is actually happening in the scene and what is desired of the other characters (wait…maybe this is the one they all used…?…I’m so confused).

Uta Hagen

This method encourages actors to find the “truth” in a scene and then substitute their own experiences and recall of emotions.

Viola Spolin

This method focuses heavily on improv and teaches actors to live in the moment. They are encouraged to respond quickly and truthfully to the circumstances in which they find themselves.

What ever method was employed, those who were on the set, many veterans of filming difficult scenes, were struck by the actors dedication to their craft. In a recent Zapit interview Chris Hayner noted the scenes and filming was intense,

“… it was interesting to observe Menzies and Heughan during breaks from filming. Even when sitting right next to one another, the two completely ignored each other. “We didn’t talk a lot outside of doing the scenes,” Menzies reasons. “We tried to keep it as fresh as possible.” Taking it one step further, he refrained from interacting with just about anyone, instead keeping his mind trained on the character and scene.”

The entire article can be read here:http://www.zap2it.com/blogs/outlander_wentworth_prison_tobias_menzies_darkest_scenes-2015-05

Whatever method they chose to employ worked because it felt REAL. The actors fade away and it is Jamie, Claire and Black Jack. What I’m sure is a lot of hard work looks like magic to us!

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Outlander 2014

WHY:

I want to know what motivates someone to become an actor or actress. So, I started to do some reading. I read some blogs written by actors and acting teachers, some magazine articles and even some interesting research on the psychology of acting. Some of the most interesting stuff I read came from a trade magazine called BACKSTAGE. 

My reading lead me to a couple of conclusions:

1. If people go into acting for fame, fortune or a need to feel love and acceptance they are liable to be disappointed because these things truly are fleeting.

2.The only real reason to act is because it brings you joy and you will do whatever you need to do for the chance to act and can’t see yourself doing anything else.

I noticed that the same words kept getting repeated when people tried to describe “why” they act. People said they acted because they wanted to create, to express themselves, to have fun, to learn what it means to be human, to meet new people, and to actually discover themselves. A lot of these writers described their satisfaction in creating something that might actually impact people’s lives.

There are actors or actresses out there that are definitely in the limelight and receiving all the benefits that come with fame. You will often see them in one big budget movie after another. However, there are also actors who would welcome fame if it came, but don’t let it drive their career choices. In fact, there are a lot of actors who take roles simply because it gives them the chance to play a character they find challenging or tell a story they find interesting and box office be damned.

Funny, those are the same reasons why I write. I love it. I’ll do whatever I need to do to continue to be able to create because it brings me joy and book deals be damned! (just kidding if anybody wants to give me a job writing, I’m open for a lunch meeting on Thursday..oh hell, who am I kidding…any day…just call me any day)

I’ve been hanging out on social media reading and writing about Outlander since Diana announced the series was a go. In fact, my very first tweet went out to Sam the day he was cast. I think I said something like “Congratulations on becoming the face of Jamie Fraser. Gulp. #afanfromOhio” and, because I know you’re wondering, no, he didn’t answer me. I secretly believe it’s because my tweets look like this to him;

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DirtyButton.com

I remain a Sam #Twirgin.

But, I digress. The point I was trying to make was that I’ve had a chance to watch these actors from the beginning. I’ve read their interviews and tweets and…seen the choices they’ve made in their acting careers.  I’m proud to say “Our Actors” appear to fall into the group who aren’t letting the desire for fame guide their career choices.

Caitrionia Balfe has said she has always wanted to act. She thinks she knew what she wanted to do even when she was a precocious child in Ireland. At 30, she figured if she wanted to act it was probably now or never.  She moved to LA and started taking acting classes. In a recent interview, she described her acting ambitions.

“I got to a point in my life when I thought if I don’t try it now I might not get the opportunity to do it again. There was a feeling amongst my friends and industry people whom I came into contact with that ‘oh it’s tough for women and it’s tougher again for women of your age’ and all of these things. But I’d never been interested in being a starlet; the people I’ve admired had long careers and it shouldn’t matter how old you are for those things.”

The entire interview can be read here: http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/television/tv-news/im-still-waiting-for-the-flood-of-male-adoration-caitriona-balfes-difficult-road-to-acting-stardom-31228831.html

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I know that she admires Patrica Arquette’s independent career choices and didn’t find being a super-model very satisfying. I wonder if she knows what a fantastic role model she is? (and knowing her penchant for self-deprecation, she would probably laugh if she read that)

Sam Heughan, went to university to be an actor (he actually had an instructor tell him he couldn’t act! I KNOW! shocking!). Before Outlander, he was going about his career playing a variety of roles ranging from a drug dealer to Batman to a Prince that some lucky girl got for Christmas.  He was acting, but had remained pretty well under the radar, so to speak. When he was cast as Jamie, some of the descriptors thrown around about him included the term “unknown” actor.  He definitely is getting some attention now and if Outlander fans have anything to vote about it it’ll stay that way!

During the drought, you know what drought I’m talking about, Sam did an independent film called When the Starlight Ends.  I found these comments by Adam Sigal, its writer and director, (Starlight was his first film) to be very revealing of Sam’s character and love of acting. The following is in answer to a question asked of Mr. Sigel in an exclusive interview by @SamCaitLife

I actually met Sam long before Outlander–I want to say about 5 years ago. At the time, he was a semi-struggling actor in Los Angeles for pilot season. He got hold of Starlight from a casting director friend, and he really loved the script. At the time he wanted to do it, but I was dealing with producers who really wanted massive stars in the lead roles. About a year or so later, Sam messaged me on Facebook and mentioned he’d just booked a new show he, “thought might be a big deal”. He didn’t tell me too much more, but when I saw a bunch of my friends posting about him on social media, I knew he really had! I reached back out to him, asked if he still wanted to do Starlight, and he said absolutely! Pitching the project with him on board made it easier to find money for it. I’m still in awe of the fact that Sam stuck with me and still agreed to do the film, even after booking Outlander, and with the fact that he’s on his way to becoming a megastar.

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The entire interview can be read here:

https://samcaitlife.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/exclusive-qa-with-adam-sigal-the-director-of-when-the-starlight-ends/

Recently, when asked if he thought playing Jamie was his most challenging role, he responded by saying not really because “each role comes with its own challenges”.

Tobias Menzies is probably the most “famous” of our troupe.  He’s played characters on several big budget series like Rome and Game of Thrones. After the showing of Episode 15, Tobias was interviewed… a lot…and as a result, there are a lot of really great interviews out there this week and not one asked him if he would wear a kilt (thank God)!  If you want to get a good idea of why Tobias acts read some of those interviews.  I was struck by the cerebral and scholarly way in which he discussed acting. He has a real passion for what he does.

Despite having some amount of fame and an “impressive” resume, Tobias actively seeks out challenging roles that don’t nessecarily come with a big paycheck or a big stage.  One his more recent ventures had him acting on a bed in a hotel room in a play called Fever at the Mayfair hotel.  He performed a monologue to a maximum capacity audience of…28.

The Fever at the May Fair Hotel

In an interview about a a recent role, he was asked if he would like the kind of fame his co-star Kira Knightley enjoys. His response? “Would I want that? Absolutely not. Then again, do you want recognition that allows you to do the work you want to do? Of course.”

The entire article can be read here:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1376878/In-taxi–actor-Tobias-Menzies.html#ixzz3aaARtDGb

On Saturday night while we were all glued to our TV sets drinking whiskey and hiding behind stuffed animals or significant others, our trio were not.  They were out and about watching Grant O’Rourke, an Outlander comrade, perform a play. I know it’s silly, but that makes me so proud.

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WHEN AND WHERE:

Well, that’s easy to answer, on Starz of course!  They’ll be playing a marathon this weekend so you have a chance to see all the fantastic performances again. Plus,it’s another great excuse to drink whiskey. The finale is scheduled for 9:00 EST on May 30th. And then the l o n g e s t  drought ever recorded in fandom history begins.  You remember all the craziness of the last drought? Yeah, well…lots more fans…and time ….

AND, OH WHAT THE HELL, LETS THROW IN AN OPINION PIECE:

I don’t pretend to know anything about what kind of performance would earn an actor an Emmy, but damn….I gotta think these would be in the running. Outlander and its actors have continued to be brave about enacting difficult or controversial scenes. In fact, their efforts have been nothing short of ground-breaking. So, I’ll be doing my part in the fan-dom’s efforts to get these actors an Emmy…because that would be nice and might help them get the chance to do what they love some more. #EmmysforOutlander