'Outlander's' Ron Moore Will Adapt But Stay Loyal to the Book Series

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser - H 2013

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser - H 2013

Outlander showrunner Ron Moore vowed that he will adapt but ultimately remain loyal to the best-selling book series. The producer told reporters Friday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.

The drama revolves around Fraser (Sam Heughan), who ignites a passionate affair with Caitriona Balfe's Claire, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743 and thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. Claire is pulled between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. The series is based on the epic book series by Diana Gabaldon, who also serves as an executive producer.

"My job is to interpret and develop it for another audience," Battlestar Galactica alum Moore said. "My role is not reinventing but adapting it. … There is an audience for it and a dedicated fan base who have read these for years. … I take that obligation seriously. I want to give them their story, but I have to translate it and tell a story."

Moore noted that the writers start with the specific events in the book and then determine which scenes they can pull from. They examine what does and doesn't play and look at what needs to be changed and what could have happened but isn't included in the books. Ultimately though, Moore said the production takes "great pains to get back to where the book is because that's our job."

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The showrunner noted that the plan so far is to do one book per season, though he's taking a wait-and-see approach to how things pan out. After Moore read the books, he looked into acquiring the rights and found that there was an attempt to bring Outlander to the big screen. "I read it, and my immediate take was it's a TV show. I didn't understand what the two-hour version of this was," he said. "When we sought out the rights, they were trying to develop a feature but couldn't make it work … it's too big. [Outlander is] about the world and taking your time with the story, and you could only do that with a series."

For her part, Gabaldon said she's had a great experience working with Moore, who discovered the books after both his producing partner and wife read them and suggested he take a look. "TV is different, and to do a literal translation wouldn't be a good TV show," she noted. "Ron and his partner came out to talk to me and spent an entire weekend with me talking through storylines, characters, and he asked me for material and outtakes."

While Gabaldon is shown scripts and serves as a sounding board for producers, she doesn't write or direct episodes. But she will have a special role with the series beyond executive producer. "I get two lines in one scene as a cameo; that's the extent of my personal involvement," she revealed.

Co-star Heughan, who with Moore sported a kilt for the panel, said the fan response to the TV series has been really exciting. "We've filmed four episodes so far, and we feel like we're right on the edge of this rollercoaster. It's been a thrill to be a part of," he said.

Added Balfe: "I don't think I was aware of the magnitude of the fans and how enthusiastic they are. It's a dream job."

Outlander will premiere in the summer on Starz.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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