EXCLUSIVE: On the eve of the Golden Globe nominations being announced, tonight’s sweeping, sultry and almost human sacrificing Season 3 finale of Outlander has brought Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser to 18th century America.
After a viewership-high hitting season that played out the reunion of the Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan-portrayed lovers over time and space, the Ronald D. Moore-developed Starz series based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels is set to plant a flag on a very different landscape than before. With a move to Sunday nights and a fall premiere this season starting on September 10, the 2015 Golden Globe-nominated Best Drama Series saw double-digit increases overall and a multi-platform average audience of 5.7 million for its 13-episode run.
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“We saw evidence of people going back and discovering the show for the first time, and it’s just great, says EP Moore of the success that Outlander experienced this season. “It’s that perfect sort of alignment of all the various gears that make a successful television show go, finally catching fire with each other and moving forward, the former Battlestar Galactica EP added.
With that, Moore chatted with me about the big canvas end of Season 3, what to expect for Season 4 and when a fifth season renewal is coming. Additionally, the EP unveiled if Tobias Menzies would be back for Season 4 now that his Frank Randall character is dead and what it was like producing and writing for Amazon’s upcoming Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams. He also revealed why he thinks Season 3 of Outlander succeedes and what the show’s Golden Globe chances look like to him this year.
DEADLINE: So, Outlander has truly come to America with Claire and Jamie washed up on the shores of what will be Georgia – what does that mean for the series going forward into Season 4?
MOORE: Well, it shifts the whole foundation of the show. Outlander has always been perceived as a show about Scotland and about the UK. And with this shift, it really does shift the whole foundation of the show to the American colonies. That will be sort of the primary story going forward for the rest of the show because that’s where the rest of the books took place.
The show’s always going to have a foot in Scotland. It’s not going to completely abandon like Lallybroch and Inverness and some of the stories back there, but you know the balance of the story and the weight of the story is definitely going to be in America from now on.
DEADLINE: Speaking of the books, following the trajectory of past seasons, Season 4 will obviously draw a lot from Drums of Autumn. How much of a shift away or tweaks from the book can we expect to see in next year’s Season 4 — which you teased at the end of the Season 3 finale?
MOORE: I’ll say, we’ve continued to do that. You know we always start with the book structure and order of scenes and then figure out what works best for the dramatic series. We continue to do that in Season 4 for sure.
There [are] departures from the book, and we embroidered certain storylines in different ways. We’ve probably re-sequenced the order of certain events in that book, changed some storylines here and there. I wouldn’t say it’s anything radical, you know. I think readers of the book who still love the book will definitely recognize the story and the characters, and the general shape of the season is definitely the shape of the book as well.
DEADLINE: Are we going to see Diana write any episodes in season four?
MOORE: Nope. Not this season. She’s been pretty busy writing her ninth book. So she’s doing a lot of writing, but just not for us.
DEADLINE: What about a Season 5 renewal? You got a Season 3 and Season 4 pick-up at the same time last time, so should we expect the same soon here?
MOORE: (laughs) I hope so. Yeah, there’s definitely talks between Sony and Starz. You know, there’s always a lot of negotiations around various renewals, but yeah, I feel pretty confident we’re going to get it. I don’t know when it would be official, or you know what their order pattern is, or any of that kind of stuff. But yeah, I’m not sweating it. Just put it that way.
DEADLINE: This season saw Outlander now perched on the premium night of Sunday after previous seasons on Saturday. You hit some viewership highs, but without seeming pedantic, what effect do you think that had on the reception this year and where is Outlander at for you at the end of a third season moving into more?
MOORE: Oh it’s been really great for all of us on the show. I think we’ve felt creatively internally on the show that we’ve really hit our stride. That the third season was probably our strongest season, you know, overall and it just felt like then the audience was responding, and we got a great time slot.
You just sort of felt all the pieces falling together in that the show can really run now. I don’t know if it was being on Sundays, but people were really talking about it and telling their friends about it. We saw evidence of people going back and discovering the show for the first time, and it’s just great. It’s that perfect sort of alignment of all the various gears that make a successful television show go — finally catching fire with each other and moving forward.
DEADLINE: The viewership growth is one metric but how has the reception changed otherwise?
MOORE: I mean, I’ve definitely seen the change in the way the audience responds when I’ve gone to fan events.
MOORE: At the beginning, it was all book fans, clearly. Even before the show was even on the air we were doing outreach to the fan community of the books and that was tremendous, and people were excited. But over the last three years, we’ve definitely seen a growth beyond the books that now there’s lots and lots of our audience that has never read the books. In fact, some of those fans are being turned on to the books for the first time It’s a much more diverse audience than we had Season 1.
DEADLINE: Interesting to hear that…
MOORE: Yeah, where Season 1 was really driven by people that knew and loved the books already and were coming to the project knowing exactly what to expect, now you’re seeing that the audience has broadened out. I mean, we still have our core base of the people who started with the books, but a lot of people have come to the party because they’ve heard the good word of mouth. They’ve gotten excited by people who had read the books that told them about it or they just read critics reviews and, you know, these things have a certain momentum in and of themself and that’s what we started to witness now.
— Outlander (@Outlander_STARZ) December 11, 2017
DEADLINE: The Golden Globe nominations are being announced on Monday morning, how are you thinking Outlander’s chances look this year? Think we could see a repeat of the Best Drama of 2015?
MOORE: You know, we’re always hopeful. You never know and a lot of it has to do with timing. Now we’re on in the fall and we’ve been on at different other times of year before. So, I think that has a lot to do with what people are voting for what show, what happens to be on the air at that moment.
DEADLINE: Awards season can be like old school retail, location, location …
MOORE: Yes, and so I’m curious to know how deeply the time slot affects that sort of thing now in this era. You know, we keep seeing such shifting dynamics in terms of how important the day and the time slot is because there’s so much time shifting and viewership. So I don’t know how that, how Sunday night particularly, affects awards consideration. Certainly, like you said, that there’s a perception that, that night is a prestige night, so we’re in that category. So maybe that helps you with people that are making those kinds of voting decisions, but it’ll be interesting to see how it all works out.
DEADLINE: Talking of working out, back at Comic-Con this summer, you told me that you saw this year very much as a transitional season for Outlander. With the action-packed and storm-swept finale, did it succeed in that role for you?
MOORE: Oh yeah, I think it definitely succeeded in the transition. I think when you watch Season 3 overall you have a sense of travel and journey, and that you’re not going back. Whereas, you know, say in Season 2 when the show went to Paris, but then midway through the season, you return to Scotland. You’re returning to that cast of characters and familiar locations like Lallybroch and so on, and you just felt a sense [that] Paris was sort of a little side trip, and now we’re back and this is really what the show is.
In Season 3, they go across the ocean and then they’re swept to the shores of Georgia at the end. Even though we don’t state it explicitly, I think that overall you feel like something fundamental has changed in the show. As I said, the show isn’t going to return to the Scottish castles and it’s not really going to be that series anymore. So I think that was a big shift and I think we did do that successfully.
DEADLINE: On that topic of not going back, early in Season 3, Tobias Menzies’ Frank Randall character, the slightly nicer one of his two roles on the show, died in a car crash. Is that really the end for the 2015 Golden Globes Best Supporting Actor nominee on Outlander or is Tobias coming back somehow for Season 4?
MOORE: (laughs) I think there’s a strong possibility we’re going to do that. We’ve been talking about doing some way of getting Tobias back in the show in Season 4, at least for some flashbacks, or some other kinds of sequences. So nothing’s been committed yet, but yeah that’s on the table.
DEADLINE: You also are executive producing and writing for Amazon’s Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, which debuts on January 12. We chatted about it at New York Comic-Con, but now it is all ready to go, what was that duel experience like?
MOORE: It was really fun and it was really complicated. You know I’ve never done — in fact — none of us on it had ever done an anthology show so it was all new. The daunting challenge to producing something like that is because each episode is unique – with unique directors, and cast, and locations, and setting. Each of the episodes is so different. Producing them all was a huge challenge especially since they were shot in London and Chicago.
But, at least for me, we were really pushing the envelope in different ways. Each writer and director that came aboard had completely different takes on the material, and that was really exciting. So yeah, it was a really fun and interesting project.
DEADLINE: There was an epic sense to the Outlander Season 3 finale, so I wonder – are “fun” and “interesting” the terms you’d use to describe it in retrospective and how does it rate for you among all the season finales you’ve done over the years?
MOORE: No two ways about it, this was a very difficult one. It was one we had to plan well in advance because we knew there was so much crammed into it. It does cover a lot of ground. The hurricane sequence alone was months in the planning and execution.
We had to do it in South Africa, which was very far away from our base of operations. Doing stuff with water is always tricky and ships — and they were the Black Sails’ sets. So overall, just logistically, it was probably one of the most difficult finales I’ve probably ever done because it was covering so many different bases. There’s an emotional piece, an action piece, some mysteries, and big mythology, and then arrivals in a completely new location and all that.
Matt Roberts, who directed the episode, did a tremendous job of pulling all those pieces together. You know, Matt’s been one of our brighter producers on the show since the very beginning — he’s one of us. He’s in the family. He’s been thinking about this. Let’s have him direct this because he could really shorthand a lot of things with crew. He could be thinking about it literally months before a normal director would have ever come on board. For me, I think that was one of the key reasons why the show turned out so well.
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