In 2014, Starz debuted Outlander, a historical drama that defies easy categorization. (Unless historical time travel romantic drama is indeed already a genre.) Based on Diana Gabaldon’s beloved book series, the show is centered on Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married military nurse who takes a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies), following the end of World War II … only to be transported back to the mid-1700s, where she meets—and marries—Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). With Outlander now officially back for its third season (so long, #Droughtlander), we’ve uncovered some fascinating facts about the origins of the hit series.
1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY DOCTOR WHO.
Unlikely as it may seem, unless you consider its sci-fi aspects (read: time travel), the initial creative spark for what would become the Outlander book series came to Diana Gabaldon while she was watching an old episode of Doctor Who. More specifically: seeing the character Jamie McCrimmon, played by Frazer Hines, in a kilt.
"I was thinking a historical novel might be the easiest kind of book to write for practice when I happened to see a really old Doctor Who re-run," Gabaldon told Scotland Now. “Jamie struck me with his attitude and male gallantry and I thought the kilt was rather fetching.”
2. IT WAS ALMOST A KATHERINE HEIGL MOVIE.
Before it was developed as a television series, Outlander was going to be a feature-length movie. And that movie’s producers believed they had found their Claire in Katherine Heigl. In 2010, The New York Times ran a profile on the former Grey’s Anatomy star in which she hinted that she was leaning toward Outlander as her next project. “Scotland? 2012? What do you think?” Heigl asked. (Don’t answer that.)
3. LIAM NEESON AND SEAN CONNERY WERE CONSIDERED FOR THE ROLE OF JAMIE.
“This was years ago when I was first approached about adapting Outlander, when it was a feature film,” Gabaldan explained to E! News. “But Liam Neeson and Sean Connery were the first contenders for Jamie.”
4. DIANA GABALDON PUSHED RONALD MOORE TO DEVELOP THE SHOW.
Outlander, the first book in the series, was published in 1991. So its transformation to the small screen was not an overnight endeavor. Ultimately, it was Gabaldon who convinced executive producer Ronald D. Moore that he was indeed the best person to make the series work. “I told him, ‘This is the first thing I’ve ever read based on my work that didn’t make me turn white or burst into flames,’” Gabaldon said of Moore’s pilot script for the show.
5. THE ACTORS AREN’T WEARING ANYTHING UNDERNEATH THOSE KILTS.
In true Scottish fashion, the actors aren’t wearing anything underneath their kilts. “I’m a true Scotsman, and it’s one of the joys of working on the show is wearing the kilt,” Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie, admitted. “It can actually be very comfortable.”
6. CLAIRE WAS CAST JUST A FEW WEEKS BEFORE FILMING BEGAN.
Though she’s the central figure in the series, it was only a few weeks before filming began that Caitriona Balfe was offered the role of Claire.
"At the outset, I told everyone that we would find Claire first and then Jamie would be the last one cast, and of course it was exactly the opposite,” Moore told E! News. “It was really hard to find Claire. Sam came in really early in the process and he was literally the first one we cast. We saw the tape and we were like, 'Oh my god, there he is. Let's snatch him up now.' And then Claire just took a long time. A lot of actresses, a lot of tape, looking for really ineffable qualities. She had to be smart, she had to have a strength of character, and really, she had to be someone that you could watch think on camera. But then suddenly Caitriona's tape came in and we had that same light-bulb moment.”
7. THE SONY HACK REVEALED THAT FORMER U.K. PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON WANTED THE SERIES TO BE DELAYED.
Among the many Hollywood secrets that were made public in the wake of the Sony hack was the fact that former Prime Minister David Cameron met with Sony to request that they delay the series’ premiere in the U.K. His reason for the request? The U.K. was just weeks away from an historic vote to determine whether Scotland should remain part of the U.K. or become its own independent country, and he thought it would be better if a series about Scottish rebels wasn't airing at the same time. Sony granted him the delayed release date.
8. THE COSTUMES MAKE THE CHARACTERS.
Though they may not always be comfortable, what with those corsets and whatnot, many of the series’ main actors have claimed that it’s the costumes that help them find their characters. “Once you’re sucked into these corsets, you realize just how repressed women were,” Balfe told The New York Times. “Your ability to emote, vocalize, and be physical is so restricted, purely because of the clothes.”
9. THE COSTUMES ARE GIVEN A CULINARY MAKEOVER.
In order to give the show’s costumes the worn-in look they need for authenticity, the crew resorts to all sorts of unique tricks—some of them the kinds of things you’d learn in culinary school. Cheese graters, blowtorches, sandpaper, and pumice stones are just a few tools the costuming department utilizes to give the show’s clothing a lived-in look. Some of the clothes are tied up and baked, while others are burned with blowtorches.
10. SAM HEUGHAN SPENDS THE MOST TIME IN THE MAKEUP CHAIR.
Of all the actors, Heughan spends the most amount of time in the makeup chair, mainly to create the beaten and scarred look required for his character's back. "It's ridiculous,” Heughan said. “I'll get into makeup at 4 a.m. and be there until 8 or 9 a.m. And you have to be standing for most of it."
11. CLAIRE’S MODERNITY IS WHAT ATTRACTED CAITRIONA BALFE TO THE ROLE.
“She felt like a very modern woman,” Balfe told ELLE Magazine. “She's very intelligent, very strong, and has found herself in a place where she constantly has to fight to be who she is. It's such a crazy concept for her not to stand up and fight for what she believes is right and just. She never sees herself as a victim and uses whatever she has at her disposal to get through adverse times.”
12. HALF OF THE SHOW’S AUDIENCE IS MALE.
Heughan told ELLE that “something like 50 percent of our audience in the U.S. are men. And that's interesting. And the show wasn't made specifically for women, you know. It just happens to have a female lead character. I think there's something in there for every guy. There's a lot more graphic scenes, but not just intimate scenes. There's violence.”
13. HEUGHAN LIKES THE SHOW’S EGALITARIAN PHILOSOPHY.
Heughan discussed how his character, Jamie, “has reversed the traditional roles of men and women, in a sense, but I think the show portrays that actually they're equals. They're both intelligent, and hopefully it's a balanced relationship. He learns a lot from her, but she also learns from him about how to conduct herself in a society that she isn't used to. They complement each other.”
14. YOU CAN VISIT MANY OF THE SHOW’S KEY LOCATIONS IN REAL LIFE.
In order to capitalize on the show’s success, VisitScotland has assembled a map to some of Outlander’s real-life locations, like Doune Castle, near Stirling, which portrays Castle Leoch. Blackness Castle in West Lothian plays the part of Fort William. Craigh na Dun, the prehistoric stone circle that sends Claire back in time, doesn’t exist—but you can pay a visit to Kinloch Rannoch to see the area for yourself.
15. CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER MARIL DAVIS TWEETS OUT INSIDER INFO.
Can’t wait until next week’s episode to get your Outlander fix? Follow the show’s co-executive producer, Maril Davis, on Twitter, and she’ll give you all sorts of fascinating tidbits.