Have you ever wondered what Jamie and Claire Fraser might look like on a Zoom call? Well, now you have your answer, thanks to the 2020 Paleyfest Outlander virtual reunion. The Fraser Zoom call was everything your Droughtlander-loving hearts needed, wanted and more. Paleyfest brought together Caitríona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin, author Diana Gabaldon, and Executive Producers Maril Davis and Matthew B. Roberts for a fun, yet sober Outlander reunion. Usually, this crew throws back some drinks at the Paley panels, but for this virtual one, they were off the sauce.
We learned a lot in this reunion — one character is getting a haircut, one actor never wants to be on another Zoom call again, and two characters have some happy news coming their way. Happy on Outlander? Nuh uh. It will be the shortest scene ever.
The panel kicked off with intros where each person waved. Heughan joked they all felt they had to wave. Balfe added it was their Hollywood Squares open. Only one person fought the urge to wave. Richard Rankin. Way to stay strong, man.
“What other show puts their characters through the ringer this way?” Sam Heughan opened the panel with the question we all have. (Why Diana Gabaldon, why?!) We deserve one full episode of Jamie and Claire just sitting on their couch. And that’s it.
So here are all the things we learned at the Outlander virtual reunion. The first and most important, Season 6 can’t come fast enough. It will be based on Book 6, Breath of Snow & Ashes. This will most likely be the longest Droughtlander in history. That’s right, history.
Why Fans Are So Passionate About Outlander?
Balfe and Heughan both said that Gabaldon created this amazing Outlander world and characters, and they were so lucky that there was a huge fan base from the books already. But what keeps fans coming back for more? Balfe said at the heart of it, there’s this “incredible love story.” Heughan agreed and pointed down to Gabaldon, “It’s all down to the woman below me – in this strange Zoom world.” Who hates Zoom, oh that’s right, Jamie Fraser.
Skelton echoed her on-screen parents’ sentiment, and said the show is about the “beautiful love story of Jamie and Claire,” but also Roger and Brianna’s relationship shows something a little different, more realistic because they are not good at communicating. It’s important to note that Heughan and Balfe look at Skelton like proud parents when she’s talking here.
When asked if he had anything to add, Rankin deadpanned, “No.” Then went on to say joining the show was amazing. “Sophie and I came on and really made it worse.” Skelton quickly agreed saying Balfe and Heughan had already done all the hard work and she and Rankin just “rode their coattails.”
Diana Gabaldon Reveals One Character Was an Accident
Gabaldon confessed that Roger was an accident. “I needed someone to go find something for Claire.” Roger’s basically Claire’s time traveling admin assistant? Rankin looked shocked, “I was an accident?” Heughan quickly and joyfully added, “You’re just an accident.” And Balfe and Skelton looked on at them as if this banter is a typical day on set. As for Brianna, Gabaldon says she was a “hard nut” to crack. With Jamie and Claire, they came easily to Gabaldon and continue to grow more rich with each book and with the actors. Brianna, she had to live with a little more to figure out what she was going to be.
How do they keep Outlander fresh?
Maril Davis revealed that each season is a new challenge. Every year they tell themselves it’s the toughest year and then the next year, they top themselves. But it keeps the actors, crew and fans coming back for more. Balfe said she find Claire’s medical storylines to be, “fascinating and since it’s make believe, it’s fun and you’re not actually going to kill somebody.” (Cue montage of Claire sort of killing numerous people in 5 years. Granted, it was self-defense, most of the time). She can’t help that Claire’s a stone cold killer-doctor.
Murtagh, Roger & the Snake
Heughan reiterated his love for the storyline with Murtagh in Season 5, which was not in the books. He said while Murtagh was Jamie’s silent guardian, Duncan LaCroix was “our best friend, chief entertainer on set, and the man who would be drinking the most whisky when we’re doing one of these.” (Pour one out for when they used to drink whisky and play games at Paleyfest. Sad face). Heughan said the show simply has “great writing, great directors, a great supporting cast – not Roger, the guy who plays Roger is rubbish.” Rankin replied, “I completely agree.”
Trauma on Outlander
This season they took a few risks style-wise to show the trauma that happens in the finale to Claire and to Roger in episode 8. Roberts revealed they couldn’t use Claire’s voiceover like they had as much in the past. So they wanted to show it visually. Which worked beautifully for the challenging finale. Balfe said they felt an incredible sense of responsibility for this story to handle it carefully.
Roberts noted the fans are great at knowing the source material so well – which is a gift and a curse. Sometimes when they leave something out, fans will say, “Hey where’s that thing I’ve been waiting 20 years to see.” (We don’t blame them!) Side note: Nobody would complain if each episode of Outlander was 4 hours.
Roberts revealed that episode 8 they asked the actors to film it both ways – as actual scenes and then as silent black and white film vignettes. Why? Because the studio and network were concerned about the silent picture aspect. Asked what it was like to film the hanging, Rankin said, “I didn’t do it, the stuntman did.” To which Davis replied, “You’re not supposed to tell people!” Btw, Rankin is funny, maybe Roger can do stand up at the Ridge in Season 6.
“Safe” – Sam Heughan on Jamie’s Responsibility to Claire
Heughan revealed that they thought a lot about how Jamie would react to what happened to Claire in the finale. Specifically, physical touch and when Jamie felt he could actually touch her. The most important thing was for Jamie to respond to what Claire needed. Even though Jamie went through trauma himself in Season 1, it was different. In the finale, you’ll notice Jamie doesn’t touch Claire until the scene where they hold hands.
“Yes, they have each other, but they’re about to probably face even bigger challenges in subsequent seasons when Matt starts writing them,” Heughan joked. He then quickly added, “He’s already written them!” Why does Season 6 sound super stressful now? Also subsequent seasons? Plural? Sam Heughan said “seasons.” We heard it. Hello, Starz?
What Does Brianna Want in Season 6?
Skelton said it was great that Brianna finally has her family together. Even though it’s in a time that’s been dangerous for them, she feels Brianna is emotionally safer being with her parents. And the finale revealed that both Roger and Brianna view Fraser’s Ridge as their home, when their time machine went kaput and sent them nowhere. Skelton also addresses the criticism that people say “Oh, with Outlander, there’s a lot of rape, there’s a lot of X, Y, Zed…“ (We interrupt this serious sentence to point out Sophie Skelton is an adorable British grandma). Skelton went on to say it’s unfortunately reflective of that time period (and all-time periods), and that Jamie, Claire and Brianna have each dealt with sexual assault differently.
What’s Coming in Season 6 & What the Writers Fight About
As Roberts began to answer what he can hint about season 6, Balfe leaned into the screen, with a smile. Not in a Sheryl Sandberg way, but in a GIVE ME ALL THE INFO MATT B. ROBERTS way.
Roberts said that the Frasers always put themselves out there – from Culloden to helping people, and they suffer as a result. And in book 6 that happens again! “There’s going to be joys… there’s going to be suffering, there’s going to be tears.” Cool. Can’t wait.
He also confessed that in the writers’ room, they fight over what scenes they want, because they want to fit all of them in. He said Davis has read all the books multiple times and has her favorite scenes. “I never get my way,” Davis interjected. Roberts added, “At first! Then she gets her way later.” Roberts added, “It’s such an amazing thing to have 6 seasons on any TV series, knock on wood that we get more!” Did the executive producer of Outlander just knock on wood for more seasons? Yes, we support that. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Starz. I’ll leave it at that.
Why Book 6 Is Maril Davis’s Second Favorite
Davis revealed that her favorite book in the series is the original, Outlander, but the sixth book is her second favorite. “I love this book because there’s so much for everyone. Jamie and Claire their love deepens.” How is that even possible?! “Roger and Brianna – something fun and new happens with them.” (Spoiler alert: Skelton hinted to us back in May that a pregnancy announcement for Brianna was originally in the finale script but then poof it was gone). Davis also said there’s a great storyline for Lizzy in Season 6. Will Lizzy ever make up for her spreading of vast misinformation in Season 4? Time will tell. Davis ended by saying, “We’re just excited to get back to work, because… we are truly a family. We have our ups and downs, we fight, we bicker, but we laugh, and we’re excited to see each other’s faces.”
What Caitriona Balfe & Sam Heughan Are Most Excited About for Season 6
Balfe was up next, and Davis joked she was most excited about the food. (Balfe did not deny this). But she added she was most excited to see the crew, and felt sad no one was able to go to work. Then quickly added, “Maybe I’ll get a haircut this season.” And everyone joked about Claire getting a lighter wig. Roberts threw in, “Very light.” Hmmm, does Claire go bald? Does she?! Balfe added, “I’ll let Sam do it.” To which he quickly replied, “I’m game.” Okay so in Season 6, Jamie gives Claire a small haircut. You read it here first. And then they sit on the couch and nothing bad happens.
Other than Claire’s haircut, Heughan said he’s most excited that there will be no more Zoom calls, and everyone quickly agreed. As for Jamie, Heughan loves that they have 7 years of doing this, and have material in the books they haven’t covered and can always go back to. “As actors, we have each other, we know how each other works, and we enjoy, most of the time, working with each other,” he joked. “It’s brilliant, I can’t wait to go back to work honestly.”
Skelton added she’s excited for next season, since every episode in Season 5 was like a mini movie, and she thinks Season 6 will be another packed season. But like Balfe and Heughan, she misses her co-stars the most. “Will be nice to all be back together, see the crew, we really are a little family up in Scotland, will be good to get everyone together, if you all can come into the country that is!” (Oh yes, the pandemic, ruining everything).
And Rankin said Roger is so ready for the Revolutionary War, but not as ready as Rankin himself is to get back to set. “I’m desperate to get back on set… It will be lovely.” Agreed, totally. Get that cast back together. Rankin also confessed he hasn’t yet read Book 6, and Balfe promptly jokingly shaded him, and said, “You’ve had 4 months!” (Seems like Rankin is not in Balfe’s book club). But Rankin said he’s been busy growing his hair out. Heughan said they were thankfully saving money on Roger’s wig for Season 6. And how does Rankin feel about his long hair? “I hate it.” Heughan assured him, “You look great.” Aww, what a cute little bromance hairmance. I hope in Season 6 Jamie still shades Roger occasionally, even though they’re buddies now.
What Diana Gabaldon Can Tell Us About Book 6
Asked whether Rankin should read Book 6, Gabaldon said, “You’ve got a long time between now and filming, so yes.” Ooh, are they not going back for a while?! Tell us everything. Give us a date. Gabaldon also quoted Mark Twain: “Chase your characters up a tree and throw rocks at them. There’s a big one coming your way.” I think she was talking to Rankin, but it could be any of them, or all of them. Eek. Run Roger. Gabaldon said she’s most excited about seeing the first dailies, since it’s such a thrill to see what they make. Because their take on it is “fabulous.” In particular, the actors. “These guys are magic.”
Why Richard Rankin Needs to Read Book 6
So we have a lot to look forward to. Sam Heughan giving Claire a haircut. Sounds like Roger might need Claire’s haircut to be honest. Jamie shaved Roger last season, a barber visit to his father-in-law seems like a logical next step. What we do know about Season 6 is that the Revolutionary War is coming. And if there’s one thing that does not go well for Jamie and Claire Fraser, it’s war.
As Roberts said about the upcoming season, “There’s going to be joy, drama, suffering and tears.” Ha, that’s 2020. And also Outlander in a nutshell. And we can’t wait. But we have to wait, possibly forever?
Since they’re not officially back filming yet, and it might be a while, maybe the Outlander crew will get together for another Zoom reunion soon. Sorry, Sam! Maybe when Rankin finishes Book 6? Seems fair. It’s a very large book. And for the next one, we’ll need games and whisky. It’s 2020. We. Need. Drinks. People. Slainté!
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Before you go, click here for the all-time best ‘Outlander’ episodes you need to watch.