Spoilers ahead for the season finale of Outlander.
Now that season one has wrapped, Outlander showrunner Ronald D. Moore is in the thick of scripting, casting, and scouting locations for season two, which will be based on Diana Gabaldon’s second book in the series, Dragonfly in Amber. (The author is currently writing book nine). Moore spoke with Vulture about male nudity, keeping promises, and why, even if Jamie and Claire are heading to France, the actors who portray them won’t be. (Read more about the backstory on Jamie’s rape and recovery plotline in the season finale here.)
Let’s get the nudity out of the way first. At a time when people have been clamoring for more male full frontal, Outlander is giving it to them, but not in the way folks thought they might get it.
Tobias Menzies is a fearless, fearless actor, and he went for it. We were like, “Okay! We don’t normally see that!” And there we are. You do see quite a bit, but I find where if you literally show their genitals at certain moments, inevitably, it’s a distraction. You’re not paying attention anymore. So I’m not shying away from it, but as soon as I use it, I know nobody’s really watching what’s happening. Everyone’s going, “Look! It’s right there!” And it pulls you out of the scene. So there’s a point to nudity, and there are genitals on display, but it wasn’t going to become all about that.
It’s kind of like the hubbub Ben Affleck got for showing his penis in Gone Girl …
He did? I don’t remember that! It reminds me of Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. She had a line that was like, “The female body is a beautiful work of art. The male body is simian and functional, and who wants to look at that?” And I kind of agree, actually.
Black Jack Randall thinks the male body is a beautiful work of art, but only if he’s flogged it or branded it. How tricky was the branding and all it involved?
You start obsessing about, How does it look? Do you have enough smoke, the impact, when it hits the flesh? Is the red too red? It’s stupid, but it still drives me insane, but the little piece of flesh Jamie cuts out of him, the brand, and puts it in the fire? We re-shot that stupid fire thing I don’t know how many times! [Laughs.] We kept throwing stuff in the fire, and we’d watch it and go, “But that doesn’t look like flesh! Come on!” And then you’d do it again. Now it doesn’t look right. Okay, bring in the CG guys. We’ll do it in CG. Now that sucks. It was just one of those maddening things where you spend an inordinate amount of time on this really annoying, completely technical thing that is divorced from the emotion of it, because it’s all about whether it looks like a piece of human flesh, or a piece of pepperoni! [Laughs.]
Some people might wonder why Jamie willingly brands himself, let alone subjects himself to repeated rape and torture, all because he gave his word he would submit …
A lot of it is dependent on the 18th-century concept of their word. There are two contracts in the show. The first one is when Jack comes in, in episode 15, and says, “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll give you a quicker, cleaner death, in exchange for what I want.” We and Jamie have to believe he really means that, because later, the second contract is Jamie’s: “If you let her go, I will let you have me, and I will offer no resistance.” And in order for that second contract to work, both parties have to absolutely believe that his word is his bond, that he’s not going to resist. Because otherwise, there’s no reason to think Jack ain’t walking out that door and killing Claire anyway. Or that Jamie’s not going to grab the fire brazier and smash him over the head with it. Both men have to believe that verbal contract is ironclad, and so that colors all the scenes, because there are many opportunities for Jamie to fight back, or to yank that branding thing away from him and stick it in his eye! You have to invest in that idea that his contract binds him to his soul. Promises mean something to them in a way that is hard for us to understand because we don’t think of them in quite that same way. In some ways, it would be nice if we did. But it does have its downside …
Because you restructured the events of the end of the book, we get to end on a lighter note …
It allows you to literally sail off into the sunset, to be on that great big beautiful ship, which is a real ship, have your leads take each other in their arms, and after this really dark, harrowing journey, you can actually feel hopeful again. You can actually feel joy again. And then fade to black. That’s a great way to leave the audience on the series.
What are your plans for season two?
It’s more complex. The full first half of the season takes place in Paris, and we’re going to build some sets in Cumbernauld, Scotland, and we’re scouting other locations. We’ve been scouting the south of England, looking for some interiors and some buildings that might look French. We’ve been looking at Prague, to look at some streets that still look 18th century, because Paris doesn’t look like that anymore. It’s going to have to be pieced together from a lot of different places, ultimately, to convey 18th-century Paris. And we’ll have the whole 1960s stuff to play with, from book two. We don’t have the problem they have on Game of Thrones, at all! We’re not catching up to the books anytime soon. Diana’s created such a vast world and mythology, it’s just like, “Wow.” I think generally speaking, we’ve talked about doing a book per season, but we’ve also said some of these books are quite big, and one book might have to be two seasons.
Especially if you continue to open up the world to show other perspectives. Will we get more of Frank next season?
It’s interesting to open up the show like that, because it does create its own reality. The show’s characters start to diverge, and you kind of have to keep going in that direction. Our Frank is now a little different than book Frank, and we’re now obligated to keep telling the story of that Frank, and try not to lose touch with where Diana had him, keep the spirit of that alive, but we can’t pretend that he didn’t have that conversation with Mrs. Graham. We can’t pretend he didn’t go to Crag na Dun, almost hear, and then walk away. Those things are a part of who he is. Next time we see Frank, he still has to be a person who experienced those things.