In part 2 of my chat with Maril Davis, Maril discusses “the Jamie problem” – the difference in how Jamie is perceived in the books vs. the show. We also discuss whether she can watch the show as a fan, and her plans – or lack of plans – to hire a personal assistant!
ERIN: There’s been a lot of praise for the show – I’m speaking for the fandom and not as a critic.There’s been praise for the show, people love it, but there’s also been some disagreement, shall we say, with some of the attitude and tone the show has taken, particularly with Jamie. Diana’s husband even said (and I’m paraphrasing) that Diana wrote it as “the Jamie and Claire show,” but the show sees it as “the Claire show.” Can you talk about that?
MARIL: I’m surprised that Doug, Diana’s husband, came out and said that, but I love it, he’s not normally someone you get to hear from. But at least to me, in my mind, it’s the Jamie and Claire show, I think that’s the thing that appeals to me personally about the show. I love Jamie, I love Claire, but the thing for me is the partnership. That is a relationship I personally ascribe to in my personal life, that you’re with someone who sees you as an equal, and you are part of a team, and especially being a woman from Claire’s time, and then going back 200 years, the fact that Jamie sees her as an equal partner is amazing and something that attracted me to the book. I think if people think we’re pro-Claire or pro-Jamie, that’s not true. Certainly in Outlander, even Diana would have to say it is told from Claire’s perspective. Certainly the writers and creators, it was difficult in the first season to figure out how we get this information from Claire when everything is in voiceover, she has no one to talk to, she can’t really share. So it’s not wrong to think that in the first season anyway it was more leaning towards Claire because it is told from her perspective. And I think in the second season, the difficulty we had, and I know Ron has talked about this, Dragonfly in Amber is a much more difficult book than Outlander.
You want to keep the balance between Jamie and Claire, but much of Dragonfly is pulled away from Claire’s perspective. You’re still always in Claire’s POV, but Jamie goes away and has a meeting with the Prince, and he comes back and tells Claire about it, while that works in book form, it does not work on screen. You don’t normally have one of your protagonists – it’s not as exciting dramatically to hear what happens, you want to see what happens. So I think that has been a struggle and a balance. You don’t want to be out with Jamie all the time and Claire sitting at home, so you want to do a balance of being with Claire, she’s doing something, and Jamie’s doing something, and they come and they do something together, so it’s not just a lot of recounting of what they’ve seen and heard. I understand there has been some criticism on Jamie, like he’s not the Jamie from the books, and there are moments I do think I’d like to see Jamie be a little more confident in who he is. But I think we needed that, we felt like we started with Jamie as a young man, and his marriage to Claire made him a man. He’s a young 20 something virgin and his marriage to her brought him into manhood.
But we wanted to see a little of that, his coming into his own, and I think we did in the first season. I know people felt he was a little petulant at Lallybroch when he went back, and you know, I understand that, but sometimes telling things in a visual medium, you’re trying to tell a story visually and sometimes the way that works in the books, and you hear voiceovers and someone’s thoughts, and sometimes we need to find a way to tell that visually as well. I understand that, but I think the writers are trying to find a way to get to the same place. And also for people who haven’t read the books, we’re always trying to find a way to straddle that line.
ERIN: To me, in the last couple of episodes, there have been a couple of examples of that, that easily could have gone one way or another. When Claire exhibited surprise that Jamie had actually come up with a good plan in using Fergus to steal the letters, and his surprise that she was complimenting him, and then in this last episode (205), where she says “I’ve got things in my case that can simulate smallpox,” in the book, that was his idea. Both of those could have gone the other way – of course, we don’t know how you’re using those down the road.
MARIL: I will say that first one, I think people are reading into it too much. That scene quite honestly was more that Jamie and Claire had this big row, they’re still upset at each other, they’re small things that without saying “I’m sorry,” you do, that you’re trying to bridge that gap in some ways, and Claire says grudgingly, that was a good plan. It’s not that she’s surprised that Jamie has a good idea, it’s kind of by way of apology and coming back together. And then the second one, about the smallpox, I think that decision was made quite honestly just because Claire is the healer and it seems odd that Jamie would suggest something to do with herbs and how they work when Claire was the one who has that medical knowledge. Some things we make just because of that. We’re big huge Jamie fans and I love Jamie, I love Sam, I hope the fans don’t think, “oh we have to give everything from Sam to Claire,” we have to create and craft a story. And sometimes it’s weighted toward one character more than the other. But it’s not malicious. But sometimes I do feel truly that this season, I’m very proud of where the character Jamie, and obviously Sam, gets to by the end of the series (season). You see a real growth in him as a character, and certainly through the back half. I feel like you’ll see him come into his own, and I know that people will think it’s too late, and why didn’t we see him this way from the beginning, but I’m very proud of this whole season and Sam’s work in particular.
ERIN: I think Sam is terrific. From the moment we saw him turn around in the cottage, I said “there is Jamie,” and I was totally… I haven’t had a minute of doubt since then, but…
MARIL: No, and to be quite honest, it’s to his credit – I kiddingly said to Ron, “it’s going to be the Fedex guy,” how are we possibly going to find Jamie? He’s the perfect man, how are we going to find him, he’s going to be the Fedex guy in Scotland. And the fact that we found him so quickly, I think, really speaks to Sam’s abilities, and he’s such a good guy, he’s so talented, and we’re very lucky.
ERIN: You as a fan of the books – can you watch as a fan and enjoy it from that perspective, or does your work on the show kind of put you in a different category?
MARIL: It’s hard for me as a fan to fully enjoy it because whenever I watch I see some missed opportunities, or think of things I really wanted to do, or put in for the fans, which didn’t just work out, that’s hard for me. I’ve said it so many times over the last two years, but it’s very difficult for me, on this project in particular, and I’ve never dealt with that on any other project, I feel so emotionally connected to it, and I’m so passionate about it, and it bothers me when we can’t do a moment that I know the fans and myself as a fan would really have loved. That’s why I pushed so hard for that “blade of grass” scene to be in. And fortunately, Toni (Graphia) found an an amazing way to get it in. I was really upset that we didn’t include it in the first season.
There are lots of things that I’m upset about that we didn’t include. I’ve really had to learn, and it’s hard because I’d like to sit every fan down and walk them through our process so they can understand. It’s hard sometimes because you want these little moments, and the quiet Claire and Jamie moments that we all love as fans, and sometimes that’s hard to put in a 60-minute piece. We also have the studio and networks that are all weighing in, and we are making the show for the fans first and foremost, but also for people who have never heard of these before and might be enjoying the tale. We have to be conscious and sensitive to the fact that we’re trying to make the show for both sets of people, and that not every moment that we love makes it in. The thing that’s interesting to me in the room – my favorite moments sometimes aren’t someone else’s favorite moments, and their favorite moments aren’t my favorite moments. You’re taking 6 people in a room and trying to get a consensus. We try to do all the temple moments, but then how do you get all the quiet moments, or the Easter eggs for the fans. And sometimes you don’t get to do that. So I think as a fan, it’s hard for me to watch the show and not notice things that I wish we could do.
Having said that though, I’m immensely proud of this job we’re doing, I think the writers obviously get criticized for things, people see what they want to, but these are difficult, and I’m very proud of the job we’re doing. Certainly how he writers have handled it.
ERIN: I think it’s fabulous. I’m happy to tell people that I don’t have the talent, money or connections to do any of this, so I’m glad that people who do are doing it so well. As a reviewer, I have my own critique, but it doesn’t mean I would ever stop watching.
One thing that really struck me in New York, listening to the New York University panel, the Emmy panel, was how you all know each other. What does it mean for the production that you and Ron and Terry and Gary Steele have all known each other and have worked together for so long?
MARIL: It makes it a little more familial. You have a shorthand with people, which I think is great. In general, Ron and I do tend to work with people we know quite often; in fact, I’ve recently started saying to Ron that maybe we should broaden our horizons a little with writers and department heads, only because we just need to expand our stable of people because we do tend to go back to people we know and love. I think life is short, and production is not easy, it’s not always fun and the hours are long, and if you’re going to be spending more time with people you work with than even people you date or are married to, you want to enjoy those people. So I think you can see in a lot of the crews and the writing rooms that we put together, that we like to be around people we enjoy, and not only creatively, but that you’d want to go out to dinner with. That’s really important because everyone works, obviously you spend a lot of time there, and so you want to enjoy yourself. I think we’d all like to win the lottery, and not have to work, but that’s not realistic. I think quite honestly we’re very lucky. I said to Ron when we were doing Battlestar, I said, we’re so lucky, we look around and I felt like this was a perfect moment to be proud of, let’s enjoy it because we probably won’t have this again. So I think we’re surprised to find we’re having the same experience on Outlander. It’s like the right time, right place, right group of people, we found Sam and Caitriona and Tobias and everyone else and to find Gary and Terry and all the writers and everyone else, and to be working on something we feel so passionate about,and also special – it’s a very lucky feeling.
ERIN: I put out in a couple of fan groups that I was going to be talking to you, and asked them what they wanted to ask. And first they wanted me to tell you that they all love you…
MARIL: Thank you!
ERIN: that they love seeing you, you’re active on Twitter, you chat with people, they love seeing a woman like you heading up a big production that they love. So take that for what it’s worth. The next question that kept coming up was, do you need a personal assistant?
MARIL: I do need a personal assistant, but probably won’t … actually Ron and I share an assistant, and he’s great, so we have an assistant already. But I do tend to handle quite a few things myself, I like that personal touch. But thank you, I do need a personal assistant, but it’s someone to take care of my dog, more than anything else. I’m sure that people would line up to do that, but … no but thank you. I’m flattered that people think they’d like to work for me.
ERIN: I told everybody that if you were looking for one, I was going to put myself at the top of the list, and they could all come afterwards. And then another question that came up, do you have any plans of doing a cameo like Ron and Diana did?
MARIL: I get that a lot. No, I haven’t done one, it takes so much time. I don’t think people realize how much time. I don’t think Diana knew how much time it would take, going back to when she did a cameo. The problem is, it would be fun to do, I guess, although it would be all day or a multiple day thing, but I think my job is so busy already that it’s hard to imagine taking a full day to do that. If the time is right – I’m not in Season 2, spoiler alert, but I don’t know, but maybe if I’m bored I’ll do something, I don’t know. I don’t have any plans to do one at the moment.
ERIN: So we shouldn’t look with eagle eyes in every episode.
MARIL: No, you will not see me in Season 2, I’m afraid. I’m not Jack Randall’s evil sister. Sadly, they don’t have an evil sister, but I’m not in this season.
ERIN: One of the big angles that I’ve been writing about all year, or for a year and a half now, is the merchandising, all of the licensed stuff that’s come out. Do you have any of the stuff that’s come out? Are you a collector?
MARIL: I am, but I’ll be honest. Sometimes it’s funny on these shows, certainly Ron and I are…Sony is kind enough to involve us in some of the merchandising stuff… I do have some stuff, Sony has given me several things luckily, I have a tote bag, I have a pocket Jamie and a pocket Claire. I’ve got all the Funko dolls, at first I was like, I don’t know, Funko dolls? But now I get it and I’m so glad I have them, I love those. So yes, I definitely have some stuff, and in fact, I bought Funko dolls for all of my family for Hannukah this year.
ERIN: I have mine, they’re all staring at me right now. They’re all happy I’m talking to you.
From Scotland to Paris: The Television Academy Panel (mentioned above)
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