A Review in Three Acts: Outlander 3:06 “A. Malcolm”

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Exposition

Prior to the Print Shop episode “A. Malcolm”, Outlander executive producer/writer Matthew B. Roberts, commented on Twitter that he just might go into hiding after the episode aired.

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At the time, I laughed because I understood where he was coming from.  The Print Shop sits on hallowed ground inside the book fan’s hearts.  I laughed at his tweet, but a part of me shivered.  I’ve seen the cast, producers, directors, designers, and the writers eviscerated by fans on Social Media. I was actually concerned for him! And, I wondered, if in part, his decision to take on writing the Print Shop scenes was based on taking one for the team! On the other hand, he got to write the Print Shop.  What a wonderful challenge.  I’ve enjoyed Matt’s adaptations in the past and I know that he “gets” how important this story and its characters are to the fans.  I trust him.  However, as much I trust him, it is difficult for us book fans to objectively watch the show. There is no way to undo what you already know.  There is no way you can completely eliminate how you related to the material or circumvent what you placed importance on. We each read the words on the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, but how we each interpreted them is as varied as we are. I have my own personal version of the print shop, as does every other book fan.

Through the last two seasons, I have come to understand and accept what it means to adapt a book for the screen. Fortunately, for me, I have enough life experience and a mind open enough to recognize when my expectations are unreasonable or just plain unrealistic. After reflection, I usually understand that it is impossible for another person to be able to tell this story putting emphasis on just those things I find important because for them it is a slightly or vastly different story than mine.  Impossible, a part of me knows it is impossible, yet every week I tune in to see how well “they” told “my” story.  I watch with an eye looking for my favorite scenes and an ear waiting to hear the next line of my favorite dialogue. This week was no exception. I know this is a tough concept, but “They” aren’t rewriting Diana’s books, they are telling a visual episodic story based on her books. That is reality. It might be reality, but Matt understands that the reality that he is writing an adaptation won’t mean shite to some fans this week.  They will want to see their version of the print shop on that screen.

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Imagine my surprise when after viewing “A. Malcolm” for the first time, I was the fan looking for matches and straw.

This week it was difficult for me to deal with reality and let go of the strong expectations I had placed on this adaptation. The material in this episode was just too close to my heart and it felt personal. It took me several viewings to see what story I was actually being shown. So, this is the story of my watching episode 3.06 written mostly in real-time from my immediate reactions… if I sound bit beside myself…I was…DON’T JUDGE ME UNTIL THE END…pretty please with sugar on top?

Act I: With Bated Breath

I’m trying to get a grip because after watching A. MALCOLM, Outlander’s Print Shop scene for the first time, I’m in shock and not in a good way.  I have never been so disappointed in an episode in the entire time I have been watching the series. Where is the power, the need?  I’m struggling to understand why the focus went where it went especially when it should have been so clear!!!

Focus for the reunion

  1. A couple who have longed for each other for over 20 years are reunited.
  2. A couple are overcome with emotion, as they would be when someone is “RESURRECTED” from the dead!
  3. A couple spends time in awe, touching and staring at each other as they would because someone they love has been “RESURRECTED” from the dead!
  4. Overcome by seeing his daughter for whom all is sacrificed and having the lost love of your life “RESURRECTED” from the dead and sitting beside you, results in an emotional catharsis that only a great love and a great sacrifice could engender!

Instead…

  1. tender exchange with a madam
  2. Geordie
  3. eyeglasses
  4. business as usual
  5. background boobs
  6. lesser dialogue
  7. just less…

I have defended this show and these writers because I could always see a rationale for what and why they did what they did and if I didn’t understand, I was patient because I knew they had a long-range vision for the story and I would know the reason eventually.  But THIS moment will never come again and there isn’t enough time to rectify it because “that amount of time doesn’t exist”.

ACT II: Taking Off the Book Goggles

It has taken me hours to calm down.  I was nothing short of angry, disillusioned, and sad. I gave myself a little time to reflect and realized that I have felt this way before, maybe not to this degree, but I had felt this before. I forgot to take off my book goggles. So, I’m going in again and going to try to look at what is actually on the screen and not pay attention to the scenes in my head.

Easier said than done.

Alright, so the emotional staring, touching, and shaking was there. Just not in the amount that I expected.  I yearned for that “slobber knocker” scene where they cried and shook in each others arms with “longing of twenty years” streaming down their faces.  What I got was way too short and left me feeling as dissatisfied as finding out there would be no J and C carved into their flesh, a fight in the abbey with Jamie’s demons or my patiently waiting for that final night that was meant to tide them over for a lifetime and finding it had been turned into a quickie.  And, I still can’t even find the words to express my disappointment over the scene with Bree’s pictures. In my mind and heart, it is the most poignant scene in the entire book if not the series. He has just seen Bree…Claire is there….there is closure…his sacrifice wasn’t in vain…so, his reaction is to tell Claire he has another kid? …sigh…WTH?

Claire bothers me. Has her time with Frank beaten her down this much?  Has all her self-confidence been eroded?  I don’t recognize this mouse. What the hell is THIS Claire feeling?  I want the Claire who puts her chin up and goes after what she wants. Feeling scared and a bit insecure is one thing, but if she was that frightened and sure he had made a life without her, why did she make the decision to go? I want to see that she has “…the devil’s own courage.”

Okay, I felt the scene in the brothel was very well done. Walking through that parlor, hearing the noises through the walls increased the anxiety and doubts for both of them. They have had no time to really talk and it was a great way to show us Claire is worried that Jamie is too different and Jamie worried he is too changed. I felt a lot of key dialogue was kept here and like the idea that they spent time talking over dinner, filling in details about their lives apart and seducing each other with hands that break bread and mouthes that burst grapes. It was condensed and I realize that was needed, but I’m still grieving over the lost scenes in the print shop. Because, without them this beautiful sex scene just doesn’t have the same depth of meaning. Those folks who have been waiting for sex between these two will be satisfied, but I wanted no doubt left that these two have burned with a need for each other that went beyond lust. This sex should be the final piece in the puzzle that brings them all the way home to each other.

ACT III: When Living in the Boonies is a Boon

And, sometimes the universe intervenes.  I watched it a third time on my computer. My internet is so slow that it was buffering about every 30 seconds. It forced me to slow down and really look. What I saw in between the buffers was mesmerizing.

I teared up.

How could I have missed so much?  Was I so invested in MY story that I couldn’t see THE story being told?  I was transferring my expectations onto this episode and missed all the nuance. The power and need I longed for was there, but made all the more powerful for the carefully tender way it was presented. I thought there wasn’t any chemistry between these two actors? What a laugh. I’m not sure my husband of 41+ years and I are more in tune with each other than these two. I couldn’t have been more wrong about this episode, so let me revisit my first points again…

Focus for the reunion

  1. A couple who have longed for each other for over 20 years are reunited. 
  2. A couple are overcome with emotion, as they would be when someone is resurrected from the dead. What I saw this time was the wonder. Claire reaching out to touch him, but stopping herself, but then having to reassure herself that he is there in the flesh. The catch in her voice when she tells him she thought he was dead. Jamie staring and whispering her name reaching out for her. 
  3. A couple spends time in awe, touching and staring at each other as they would because someone they love has been resurrected from the dead.  Jamie’s words about seeing her smiling with her hair curling about her face were some of the most heartbreakingly intimate lines I’ve ever seen delivered. “But, you never touched me”, and she says, “I can touch you now”.  It seems as if the world should stop, but it still turns, life goes on despite what has just happened. Instead of angels tears, we got spilled ale and wet pants and a gentle bit of comic relief that reminds us that this whole situation is bizarre.  Jamie forgot she was still his wife until Claire poses the question with her heart and her hope in her eyes. They have been apart a lifetime. We see the conflicting emotions on his face and the audience knows something is wrong. We see Claire follow him to the back room and look around at his world, the life he has made without her and we feel her fear that she will see something that will dash all her hopes. She walks as if she is unsure of her footing, doesn’t know what to do with her hands or what to do next, but her smiles say it all.  She cannot hold them back, but they are tremulous. Their eyes are quick to tears and their voices thick with all their suppressed emotion. They are strangers with familiar faces. A beloved memory become flesh. 
  4. Overcome by seeing his daughter for whom all is sacrificed and having the lost love of your life resurrected from the dead and sitting beside you, results in an emotional catharsis that only a great love and a great sacrifice could engender.  He tries to hold it together, but is overwhelmed, closes his eyes and asks for her name.  When he hears it, he takes in a breath as if he is breathing her to life. She has a name. He has a child named Brianna. We see a tender moment when he remembers their first-born Faith and we know he has never forgotten. Claire is moved by their shared grief and we recognize with her the depth with which this man loves. I still miss him slowly falling apart in her arms allowing himself to finally express the weight of all that has happened, but what I saw instead was moving. What I once saw as an odd reaction to seeing Brianna’s pictures now makes more sense. He has another child he has lost. He shares Willie with Claire. He shares, his shame, guilt, sorrow, and joy with …Claire, the only person with whom he can share such a thing because she is his home, his sanctuary, the only place where he need not “guard his words or hide his feelings”. Claire will love Willie because he is Jamie’s. We start to see the unconditional love and trust that still exists between them. Moment by moment, word by word, we see them draw closer. 

What we got instead was the best thing I never knew I needed…

  1. We got to see a tender dance between two people trying to find each other again that felt believable.
  2. We got to see that despite his “unsavory” occupation and living in a “kittle hoosie”, Jamie has maintained his values and beliefs; he is concerned she left Frank to be with him and even though it hurts he wants to know if she was loved, shocked she would think him a customer of the Madam, guilty over Geneva, continues to take care of his responsibilities even when Claire is suddenly there because people depend on him, and he still fights for justice, this time with words. He is still the man she loved at his core.
  3. We saw a woman on the edge of no return. She really was afraid because she really had risked it all. She had no plan B. She was vulnerable, anxiously looking for proof, for evidence that she wasn’t wrong and …found it.  “What was once true is true again”. It has always been forever for him. He has loved no one but her.
  4. We saw two starving people make love and revel in the miracle of what it was between them that they could not name, but was still there. As predicted, Jamie “breaks through” the layers of deprivation and defense and then they delight in each other, slowly exploring and letting their bodies express what it means to each to be together again.
  5. We got to believe in love.

Denouement: Where the Author Ties It All Together

The show cannot win, it is literally impossible for them to please everyone. And, so they only have one choice, to do what they think best tells the story and hope that it plays well on the screen. If my personal investment in and reaction to this episode is any indication, “A. Malcolm” might generate some feelings and maybe Matthew B. Roberts, was right to believe he needs to go into hiding! Not because he didn’t do a good job, but because of the books in our heads. He might have wanted to show my “slobber knocker” and “gently fell to pieces” moments, but for whatever reason it didn’t work or maybe they just decided to go a different way.  Either way, I had to let go and just watch what story I was being told not the one I thought I should be told. At this point, it is hard for me to believe I could have ever been upset. It is a beautiful story, beautifully told. I tried to think of an image that would encapsulate this episode and what came to mind was Jamie and Claire, as a red rose bud with petals tightly layered, a thing of potential beauty.  Moment by moment, word by word, touch by touch, their souls are nourished and in the end…they bloom. The episode addressed important emotional beats and once again walked that fine line between honoring the source material and staying true to themselves and the story they are telling. Our beloved books will always be there and we can visit our print shops anytime we want, but I’m hoping that other fans who forgot to take off their book goggles like me will have the faith to take them off and watch this print shop twice or thrice. It is everything the Print Shop was meant to be and more.

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P.S. I know I haven’t said much, other’s have and done much better than I could have, but how wonderful were the costumes and sets?! They continue to add so much to my understanding of these characters and this story. The neckcloth is bringing sexy back! And, the thought Terry put into Claire making her own outfit!  I’m so grateful for what she shares with fans. The research Jon Gary must have done to give us the print shop! It all feels so real and has to impact these performances! What a quality production, so detailed and lovingly created.  And, the new characters?! I’m pretty sure Geordie is every sarcastic passive aggressive person I’ve ever worked with! LOL!  Young Ian and Fergus…how perfectly perfect they are …sigh…makes me excited for the future.

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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”

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! 

 

Jamie and Sam the literary connection

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I love my readers!  So many of you take the time to engage in what are truly interesting conversations about the books and show.  I especially like it when someone from the film industry adds their unique prospective.  Recently, I got a response to my article on Hollywood and women. http://wp.me/p4mtBT-1af Jacki Lippman, one of those rare women who Is actually getting to make a film, shared her thoughts on the issue and went on to say that although she loves Claire she believed that Jamie was one of the  best fictional male characters out there.  In fact, she’s been studying him and the reaction book readers and now series watchers have to him.  The following is an article she wrote about when the fans helped Sam Heughan (Jamie) win The Radio Times “TV Champion”.  I loved her thoughts about how this character and Sam’s portrayal of him has resulted in such fan devotion.  I agree. One great literary character + One great actor + One great performance = a pretty amazing fan base.  The clan is busy voting again and who knows what they’ll accomplish this time.  Thank you to Jacki for letting me share her great words. Congrats to Diana, Sam and the whole Outlander team!  You’ve truly created something that inspires!

 

Sam Heughan and the poem “In That Year”

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Recently, Sam Heughan posted a poem he admired written by Kim Moore.  I love that he gives us these little looks into his life. In fact, I felt this little peek was very revealing.  There isn’t anything more personal than a poem.  And even though we all bring our own thoughts, feelings, and experience to a reading, I felt I could take a pretty good guess at why this particular poem spoke to Sam. I thought of what his life might have been like before Outlander.

I haven’t been chasing after an acting career, but I couldn’t help but relate to the feelings expressed in this poem. I think we have all had a year like this. It takes courage to chase dreams because as the words suggest sometimes it feels like catching your dream is well…just a dream.

And in that year my body was a pillar of smoke and 

even his hands could not hold me.

Haven’t we all felt as insubstantial as smoke? Haven’t we all felt ourselves to be the illusion of substance? The fire is there, but we feel like smoke. When we chase our dreams we doubt our choices, our abilities. We are strong in our resolve and yet, our security, surety, and sanity feel as if they could be blown away with the slightest breeze even if we have strong and loving people in our lives to help us hold it all together.

And in that year my mind was an empty table

and he laid his thoughts down like dishes of plenty.

I thought of the years of struggle chasing a dream like acting would require. How mentally exhausting.  Haven’t we all run out of ideas? Haven’t we all tired of trying to figure things out? Haven’t we all experienced not knowing what the next step should be?  I wondered what the role of Jamie looked like to an aspiring actor. My guess would be “plenty”.

And in that year my heart was the old monument, 

the folly, and no use could be found for it.

The heart wants what the heart wants. But, sometimes when your dreams seem so far away, your hearts’ desires can seem foolish, rash, futile, ludicrous.

And in that year my tongue spoke the language 

of insects and not even my father knew me.

Haven’t we all had the experience of becoming so altered and consumed by our dreams that those we know and love hardly recognize us and most certainly don’t understand us.

And in that year I waited for the horses

but they only shifted their feet in the darkness.

We wait for the moment that our hard work and efforts are sure to bring.  We convince ourselves that any moment now our career will take off.  At any moment, we will be stampeded with offers and opportunities. So, we wait in the darkness for the horses.

And in that year I imagined a vain thing

I believed that the world would come for me.

Dreamers hope against hope. We believe in the face of doubt.

And in that year I gave up on all things

I was promised and left my self to sadness.

And yet, we are human and sometimes the journey seems too long and way too rough. Our dreams seem unobtainable and we grieve. That big break hasn’t come and just when we are about to make peace with ourselves and move on…

And then that year laid down like a path

and I walked it, I walked it, I walk it.

I, for one, am glad that Sam’s path led him to Outlander and Jamie.  I smile when I hear of him landing a new role, filming a new movie,… because the world is coming for him.

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P.S. After publishing, I was reading about the poem’s author Kim Moore.  This poem was part of a series on domestic violence.

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!

Outlander 2014

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

I’m going with cuz he’s Adorkable…my answer to the Sam Heughan question

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I was sitting down with my Sunday morning cuppa and opened my Twitter feed ( my usual morning coffee routine) and checked out what Diana Gabaldon was talking about this morning (usually pretty entertaining or informative cuz she’s pretty witty and smart).  This morning someone who recently found Outlander was concerned she might be too old to be a fangirl. Loved Diana’s response.

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This started some speculation as to why Sam Heughan, our Jamie, is so appealing.  So, now my curiosity is piqued and my coffee is getting cold because I’m theorizing ( is that a word? ).  Why, I asked myself, is he so appealing?

LET’S LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE SHALL WE?

HIS LOOKS

Sam is definitely a beautiful man.

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Some say it is the smile.

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Some say it’s the voice.

http://youtu.be/qOR_8tLUMTo

Some say the way he bites his lip.

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Some say it’s the twinkle in his eye.

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Some say it’s his collarbones ( yes @1hawtchica I’m talking about you)

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Some say it is his bum.

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( you thought I was gonna show a pic didn’t you?) Haha made you look!

The fact that he has big shoulders, big hands, he’s tall, and has that little scar, and….I’ll stop now….is it me or is it getting hot in here?

Here’s the thing.  There are lots of beautiful men in film. So, even though he is pretty to look at, I don’t think it’s his looks alone that make him so appealing.

HIS PERSONALITY

Obviously, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Sam or spent time with him, so anything I know about his personality must be gleaned from trusted sources like Cait, Graham, Diana, etc..  Here are some adjectives and phrases I’ve heard in regards to Sam.

“He is a genuinely nice person”

“He has a great sense of humor”

“He is such a gentleman”

“What a great guy”

“He has a quick wit”

“I think they had Sam in mind when they invented the word sweetheart”

I love his teasing tweets with Diana, the Outlander driving guys, his co stars, and his fans.

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HIS CHARITABLE NATURE

He gives of his time and uses his popularity for good.  I’ll bet his momma is proud!  I would be!

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HIS ACTING

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that a big part of his appeal to Outlander fans is the fact that he has so embodied our Jamie!  Sigh….  I have gone from “who are they ever going to get to play our Jamie?” To “he is Jamie”.  My appreciation for his acting skills continues to grow as I watch (and re-re-watch Season1 Episodes)

Outlander 2014

Outlander 2014

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HIS ADORKABLENESS

He’s Adorkable.  Anybody remember when he shared this video?  Or posted this pic? Yep….Adorkable.  I love Adorkable.

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http://youtu.be/jW3XtKBlTz0

Despite, these valid reasons Sam appeals to me (cuz I might be old, but I ain’t dead) and evidently a lot of other women of all ages, there is just some element of intangiblity  isn’t there?  For whatever reason, when I hear him speak, he makes me smile, he makes me sigh, and he makes me proud to be his “fangirl”.