With the Season 5 premiere of Outlander a month away, STARZ kicked off the show’s official press cycle by bringing executive producers, Ron D. Moore and Maril Davis, along with cast members Caitriona Balfe (Claire), Sam Heughan (Jamie), Sophie Skelton (Brianna), and Richard Rankin (Roger) to the network’s Television Critic’s Association presentation today.
Before the series’ official panel, STARZ president and CEO, Jeffrey Hirsch, shared that Outlander remains one of their top three original programs amongst women, and that Season 4 of the series gained 28% in viewership from premiere to finale. He also lauded the upcoming season as the best of the show to date.
The network also dropped a new inside look at the upcoming season:
With production on Season 6 slated for early this summer, and no announcement yet for a pickup for additional seasons, the question came up if Starz and Sony were considering a limited series around popular Outlander book character Lord John Grey (played by David Berry in the series).
“We think there is a lot of opportunity for story extensions and continue to look at that, and the various character and story extensions,” Hirsch commented, “We think there’s a lot of opportunity in the Outlander universe to have story extensions, spin-offs or sequels, we continue to look at that and talk with our partners at Sony. Hopefully we’ll find something that feels great and that we can continue to tell that story.”
During the actual Outlander panel itself, the cast confirmed that the season begins with the Fraser clan living a very fulfilling life on Fraser’s Ridge... for now.
“[Jamie] has his extended family, a home and the woman he loves,” Heughan said of Jamie’s place in life. “On the surface, it’s looking good. But we all know the history he’s fighting against.” In particular, it’s the impending American Revolution, of which Jamie is already feeling the pinch, as he’s beholden to the Crown for his land, while his beloved godfather, Murtagh, is a Regulator rebel actively fomenting dissension.
“It’s interesting that Murtagh was always on Jamie’s side, and now we see two different sides with their politics,” Heughan teased. “This is a storyline that isn’t in the books, and the biggest deviation. But I think it brilliantly plays out. It’s my favorite storyline for me, and my character, to play out. Murtagh has always been this father figure so for Jamie so to break that bond, and put Murtagh at a distance to protect him is very hard. It’s a great storyline and a wonderful piece of writing.”
Another emotional shock the actor cites is seeing Jamie in a Red Coat uniform later this season. It’s a moment that will deeply impact everything.
“I thought it was a strong visual, but it goes against everything Jamie stands for. From his father’s death to [Black Jack] Randall, the Red Coats suppressed the Scots. So for him to wear it isn’t so much in the book, but the writers dig into it. It’s for the good of the people he’s trying to protect. And seeing him in that coat, for me, is full circle.”
On the positive side, Balfe also listed Claire’s happiness with home and community. “She has Jamie and Brianna and Roger and Jemmie, and the extended family. Her life feels full and she has her surgery so she fulfills the professional side, along with being the lover and the wife. All sides feel attended to this season. But as the season goes on, it gets quite rough for them.”
And for fans of the epic Fraser romance, Balfe and Heughan assure that bond will get plenty of moments. “The circumstances of the season let us invest in the intimacy and passion of Claire and Jamie,” Balfe teased. “The luxury of them being in the same place at the same time, let’s us show how they work together as a couple. It’s lovely to see them converse as a couple.”
Hueghan added, “They have different lives with her surgery and his political life, but they always come back and connect. It’s touching and it’s fun to play them, see them need each other.”
Outlander returns to Starz on Feb. 16.