15 Surprising Facts About Outlander

Starz
Starz

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.


Ed Miller/Starz - © 2014 Sony Pictures Television Inc.

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.


Neil Davidson/© 2014 Sony Pictures Television/Starz

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.


Ed Miller / Starz - © 2016 Sony Pictures Television Inc.

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.


Aimee Spinks/© 2017 Starz Entertainment, LLC - © 2017 Sony Pictures Television Inc.

“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.


Blackness Castle
AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON/Getty Images

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.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.