PaleyFest: Six Things We Learned from the Outlander Panel

Rob Latour for Paley Center for Media

Hundreds of fans–some even dressed in kilts!–packed the seats of Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Thursday night to celebrate the Starz hit drama Outlander. Stars Caitriona Balfe (Claire), Sam Heughan (Jamie) and Tobias Menzies (Frank/Black Jack) greeted the adoring crowd alongside executive producer Ronald D. Moore and author Diana Gabaldon, who penned the bestselling book series that inspired the show. The audience was treated to an advanced screening of the April 4 midseason premiere, and afterwards, the creative team shared a few tidbits and stories from the first season’s remaining five episodes.

1. The cast can hold their liquor.
The evening kicked off with moderator Kristin Dos Santos presenting the panelists with glasses full of Outlander branded whiskey for a drinking game of “Never Have I Ever.” Situations ranged from “cried at something a fan said to me or sent me” and “screwed up a scene while laughing.” “They should do all panels like this,” Menzies quipped between swigs. The crowd erupted with Balfe and Heughan clinked their glasses together and finished off their whiskey when asked about getting the giggles during a sex scene.

2. Sam and Cat had instant chemistry.
When Heughan was up for the role of Jamie, Gabaldon says she was “astonished” when she met him. “He doesn’t look anything like his photos,” she said. “He looks much better!” Both Heughan and Balfe admitted that their chemistry was instantaneous, but there was one moment while filming where Heughan thought he crossed a line. “I put you in a bear hug and I think you were pissed at me,” he admitted.

3. The upcoming episodes will be darker.
What’s in store for the remainder of the season? “It does go to some harrowing places,” Moore revealed. “If you haven’t read the book, you’ll be surprised by the direction it takes and where it goes in the finale. It’s a very unusual place to take your characters.” Moore would not go into further details, but since the PaleyFest audience was comprised of mostly book fans, he hinted at a resolution similar to the first novel. “The finale is a satisfying ending, there’s a sense of completion to what we’re doing, so fill in the double entendre here,” he said to laughs. “It’s a great finale and it will take you places you weren’t expecting to go.”

Rob Latour for Paley Center for Media

4. Tobias didn’t know what he was getting into.
Menzies admits he was not familiar with the books before agreeing to star as Frank and Black Jack. “This has been all quite a journey and I probably wouldn’t have signed up if I would have known,” he joked. Menzies also revealed that Frank will not return during the second half of the first season, but he will be back in Season 2.

5. Cat’s father approves.
When asked about their family’s reactions to the graphic nature of the show, Balfe admitted, “I didn’t know if my father had seen them or not because I heard nothing.” “He’d seen them,” Heughan replied. Balfe noted her father used to be a policeman, so his introduction to the male members of the cast was quite intimidating. “He has a handshake that will crush any hand, he’s a big man,” she said. “But apparently through my sister I heard he’s enjoying [the show].”

Rob Latour for Paley Center for Media

6. The books rule.
As the series continues to grow and expand, Moore made of point of emphasizing the importance of the source material to the longevity of the show. “The plan is always to stick as close as possible to the book,” he said. “I can’t really tell you I have a master plan for what Season 5, 6 and 7 are, we’ll just see how it develops. But the intent is to continue to stay as true to the story as we can.”

PaleyFest continues Friday night with a celebration of Glee‘s final season.