The stars of a popular time-traveling TV series are the talk of television. Scotland … a land of mists and magic and myth, is the perfect setting for a romantic, historical, adventure series — with some time travel thrown in. It’s called “Outlander,” a surprise hit for Starz TV, now coming to the end of its second season.
Caitriona Balfe plays Claire, a English battlefield nurse who travels to Scotland with her husband, Frank, at the end of World War II.
She happens upon a mystical portal, and finds herself hurled 200 years into the past — 1743, to be exact — with Scottish clans plotting rebellion against the British. “Claire is, in a way, the audience,” said Balfe. “She is the eyes that they see the rest of the story through.”
Compelled for her own safety to marry a handsome young Scot, Claire finds herself falling in love. When you meet Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser, it’s not hard to see why she falls hard.
“They don’t always see eye-to-eye,” he said. “He is from the past. He has his own moral code. She’s from the future, and certainly thinks a different way. So they’re constantly banging heads when they come to these moments. But they have love for each other, and they discuss it. And eventually work out that that takes the relationship forward, and makes them ultimately, closer.”
“It’s such a beautiful story,” said Balfe. “Not only do you have this incredible love story at the heart of it, but there’s an awful lot about what home means to people — being displaced. How does that change your life? How do you find home within a new land? I mean, I think that’s something that people today can really relate to.”
Another thing to relate to: the 18th century costumes, designed by Terry Dresbach.
Dresbach showed Miller an example of metal embroidery typical of the period. “This is done with actual silver plate, and it’s a technique in embroidery that hasn’t been used in over 100 years.”
Another of Balfe’s dresses featured shaved sheets of mica to catch light. “I think it was about 69 pounds — I couldn’t move too much in the dress,” Balfe laughed, “but it was really beautiful.”
And then there is the “pretend sex,” as Balfe refers to it. “Oh, if only you knew all the crew that were standing in the room at the same time,” she laughed.
Writer Diana Gabaldon, who lives, not in Scotland, but in Scottsdale, Arizona, is writing her ninth book in the best selling “Outlander” series. There have been 26 million copies sold, in 42 countries, translated into 38 languages.
“This is a love story,” Gabaldon said, about “the power of love, what love can accomplish.”
She published the first 25 years ago. “I’m telling what it takes to be married for 50 years, ’cause I’ve never seen anybody do that before,” Gabaldon said.
Jamie and Claire’s love story will range the world over, but its roots are in Scotland, Jamie Fraser’s home.
“It’s been great to come back to Scotland and rediscover the country [where] I grew up. And understand what it is I love about it,” Heughan said. “And I realize that a great deal of it is the landscape and the culture and the people, [which] seem to be closer to our ancestors than maybe other cultures. It’s just fascinating.”
Doune Castle, just outside of Edinburgh, sits in for the fictional Castle Leoch.
Gary Lewis plays Colum MacKenzie, powerful head of the MacKenzie clan — shrewd, well-read, and hobbled by a rare disease.
“He studies history as much as he can,” Lewis said, “and he tries to learn the lessons — lessons which have taught him that, without outside help, we cannot defeat a stronger power.”
And yet the small, rugged band of hardy Scots will fight bravely against overwhelming odds.
Heughan showed Miller the show’s armory (“This is my favorite spot!” he laughed), filled with dirks and daggers, swords and muskets.
But at the center of it all is the time-traveling Claire, a modern woman, struggling with the painful knowledge that the Scottish rebellion is doomed.
One thing we do know: Jamie and Claire’s love story is far from over.