“Sam [Heughan] and I fought to keep the [pregnant] belly bump in — because why don’t you see that in a sex scene? Why should that be a taboo? You see so many boobs all over the bloody TV.”
What have the reactions been like?
I think the initial reaction to my casting was like “Well, she’s too tall, and she’s too skinny, she doesn’t have brown eyes and her hair’s not curly!” The thing is, everyone has a subjective vision of what these characters are supposed to look like. When you’re casting anything, hopefully they’re looking for people who embody the character in an essence way rather than just the physical. But once the show aired, the fans have have really transferred their love over from the book series to our show, which is fantastic.
Outlander has been called “feminist Game of Thrones” in that it has as much, if not more, violence and nudity, but avoids being exploitative even at its most brutal or unflinching — what do you make of that characterization?
I think our shows are very different, but I don’t think we would have gotten a place on the air if hadn’t been for that series opening the doors for genre shows and fantasy shows like ours. So in that context, thank you very much, Game of Thrones!
We never made a conscious decision to go out there and make a feminist show. But our source material is written by a woman, who is so accomplished and so feisty. Half of our writing room is female, and we try to get female directors when we can. And our heroine, the woman at the center of it all, Claire, she’s quite a feisty woman too. So I think almost by default we have a feminist viewpoint. Ron [D. Moore, the show’s creator] was adamant from our very first meeting that Claire is a sexual woman and that’s a big part of her character — it’s not something she shies away from. But if we’re going to have sex on the show or violence, it’s going to tell a story. It’s going to be there for a reason. And we all fight very hard to make sure that it’s kept that way.
It’s a great example of the impact a diverse staff can have on the quality and depth of the final product.
What you get is this great, balanced view of relationships, instead of a male-centric experience and viewpoint, where the female characters are just so thinly drawn and two-dimensional. So you never really get an honest look at what a male-female relationship is like on those shows. With Season Two, I think some people are like, “Where’s all the sex?!” And it’s like, well, we’re telling a different story. We’re not telling the story of two people falling in love and the lust of new passion — this is now a marriage.
What did you make of the episode where Jamie beats Claire for disobeying him?
In some ways, my job was easier – just the idea of a man beating Claire to punish her brings up such anger and indignation. So it was easy to channel what Claire feels. But Sam [Heughan, who plays Jamie] had to play this guy who just feels that he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. It’s only when he sees how psychically wounded Claire is by his actions that he realizes that he needs to change his ideas and his opinions. You see that emotional evolution, how smart and emotionally intelligent he is — he’s able to step outside the norms of his time and evolve.