IT has already won over millions of fans around the world. But the stars of Scotland’s new time-travel fantasy show say they can breathe a sigh of relief after it finally made it to the nation’s TV screens.
Eighteen months after starting work on Outlander, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe are finally able to satisfy the demands of fans in the country where the show is set and lavishly filmed.
And the pair revealed they hope to keep making the show for years to come at its vast studio complex in Lanarkshire, as well as at the “terrific” locations which have Scottish tourism chiefs already hailing Outlander as the industry’s next big thing.
Heughan spoke of his pride that the show had led to the creation of Scotland’s first film studio - and hopes that Outlander will begin a flood of other major productions into the country.
The pair spent the best part of a year making an initial 16-part series, only half of which has been shown to date.
Dumfriesshire-born Heughan and Balfe, a former model-turned-actress from Dublin, were speaking to The Scotsman as the show finally got a UK premiere in London - and a special screening in Glasgow, where fans were able to watch and participate in a live Q&A session.
Outlander is based on the best-selling novels of American author Diana Gabaldon and has been made by entertainment giants Sony and American cable channel Starz. Although it premiered in the US in August, a deal to allow it to be shown in the UK was only recently agreed. It will finally make its debut on Amazon’s streaming service this Thursday.
Heughan joked: “I’ve actually been making a fortune in illegal copies of the show before now!
“It feels really important and I am so pleased that the show is finally going to be aired in Scotland.
“It feels wonderful that things are going in the right direction now and it’s great that people will be able to watch the show on any device.”
“It really showcases Scotland so well, especially all the location and the people who who have worked so hard on set to make Outlander. We went to some terrific places and parts of Scotland that I didn’t even know existed.”
Balfe added: “We started filming a year and a half ago, so it seems like a very long time since we started on it and so much has happened in the meantime.
“It was such a shame that they were so far behind, but at least now people can get to see the first episodes in bulk and then catch up with the rest of the world and see the show along with everyone else.”
The show follows the adventures of married nurse Claire and her entanglements with Jamie after she is mysteriously propelled through time from the Second World War to the time of the Jacobite rebellion.
Locations on the £50 million show have include Doune Castle in Perthshire, Falkland and Culross in Fife, Blackness Castle in West Lothian and Rothiemurcus in the Highlands.
Ronald Moore, the show’s writer and producer, told the audience at the premiere: “Right from the beginning, the books and the show have felt like a love letter to Scotland.
“It’s been great to shoot it there and use so many people from Scotland on the show. It’s a great country and the people are lovely, but it’s just so cold!”
Much of the filming is done behind closed doors inside a coverted warehouse complex in Cumbernauld. The Wardpark Industrial Estate, next to the M80 motorway, is now said to be the site favoured by the Scottish Government for a permanent studio facility.
Heughan added: “Scotland hasn’t had a dedicated film studio and yet they’ve managed to create one here for the show.
“There are now four sound stages and there are whole teams of people working on the show, building the sets and weaponry, there are hundreds of costumes and it feels really industrious. It feels really exciting that we have brought this to Scotland.
“I don’t really know the politics of it, but it feels like there maybe hasn’t been the support there in the past or a vision for it, but we’ve managed to do that now and hopefully Outlander will be there for a long time to come.
“There are now incentives for people to come and film in Scotland, but we just need more productions here. At the moment, we’ve got a wonderful show which looks absolutely fantastic, but we could do with others as well.
“We’d absolutely love to keep doing Outlander. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to do something for that period of time. The characters and their relationships are always changing.”
Balfe added: “I think we would both feel very fortunate if it kept going.
“Diana has already written eight books and is now working on her ninth.
“We’re lucky that Starz is really behind the show and hopefully if the second series goes well we will get a third one.
“I hope audiences here will connect with it as they have done in the US. We have so many amazing British actors on the show, a real wealth of talent. Even though the source material is written by an American woman, it’s very much set in Scotland. We’ve tried to make it authentic as possible and keep it grounded in true Scottishness.
“When I got cast and came over to Scotland to start filming I wasn’t really aware of the magnitude of the fanbase and how passionate they are.
They’ve been amazingly supportive of Sam and I and the charitities we support. I’ve even got my own registered and whisky.
“Before I was cast, I’d spent quite a bit of time Edinburgh and had only been to Glasgow once or twice. but I’d never really been outside the two cities. It is just so beautiful - dare I say it, it’s even on a par with Ireland!”
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