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Outlander author Diana Gabaldon talks “new touches and twists” in TV adaptation

Outlander, the new Starz television show based on the book of the same name, will premiere this Saturday, Aug. 9. The show is already garnering a lot of promising buzz, thanks in large part to an impressive Comic Con panel in San Diego this year.

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Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series and consultant for the television show, has been traveling with the cast of the series to talk about the show. While it’s been busy, Gabaldon is excited to be a part of it all.

“It’s my first time out, you might say, with a TV show or something like that,” Gabaldon told us when we spoke with her about the series.

Gabaldon says Outlander works well as a TV show, “because of the size.” She explained, “People have been trying to make a two-hour feature film of Outlander for years and years and years. And I’ve seen a number of scripts, most of them written by very respectable screenwriters whose names you’d recognize were I indiscreet enough to mention them. When Ron [series writer Ronald D. Moore] showed me his pilot script, I said, ‘This is great!’ I said, ‘This is the first thing I’ve ever read based on my books that did not make me either turn white or burst into flames.’ But, no, you just can’t squash that material structured the way it is.”

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Gabaldon continued, “Having a 16-hour TV show is just an unspeakable blessing.

“To begin with, Ron [Moore] and his partner, Maril [executive producer Maril Davis], came out to my house and spent two days with me talking over characters and story lines and backstory and discussing their ideas for adaptation, which I thought was very, very smart of them, as well as very generous.

“They show me scripts. They show me footage from the show. They ask my opinion. They’re not obliged to take it, mind you, but they do ask. And I try to be diplomatically sparring in my opinion.”

Gabaldon realized that, together, she and the executive producers were very much on the same wavelength as far as story. It was then that Moore asked if she would consider writing an episode. Gabaldon’s response: “Well, I think not.”

She said there were a variety of reasons why she didn’t think she was up for the task, the first being, “I’m not a team player. I’m used to having total control over everything I do. And I’m well aware that’s not how script writing works.” Another very important reason she said was, “I don’t want to be responsible for screwing up this very important first season by writing a script or anything. So, if you get a second season, I’ll maybe consider it.” She was also finishing up the eighth book in the Outlander series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, which was released in June.

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In fact, Gabaldon very much trusted the production and put the story, including casting decisions, in their hands.

The author said she didn’t have any specific ideas about casting. “What they look like doesn’t really matter very much beyond rough physical parameters, in general. I understand what it is that actors do. They embody someone that they aren’t.”

Gabaldon has seen the first eight episodes of the series and says the show is very faithful to the books. “Essentially, you’re looking at about 85 to 90 percent original material.”

While she said the whole series is amazing, “There are a couple of truly great scenes. There’s one in Episode 6 and, it’s sort of a long sequence, well, pretty much all of 106 is pretty cool.” She called these scenes “particularly vivid.”

“While you certainly will recognize Outlander if you’ve been reading the books,” Gabaldon explained, “there’s also this wonderful sense of novelty and discovery about it, because of all the little new touches and twists. I watch it in utter fascination waiting to see what will happen.”

You can watch the Outlander pilot now online at Starz before it premieres Saturday.

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