photo by Sam Kraupner

Talking with Maril Davis on Outlander’s 9th Anniversary

There are few things I enjoy more as a show reviewer than talking with the people behind my favorite shows, and yesterday, I had a great opportunity to talk with Outlander‘s Executive Producer Maril Davis! This was the 9th anniversary of the day the first episode of Outlander aired on Starz, in 2014. Maril was one of the original “dream team” that put the show together, along with her producing partner Ron Moore, writer Matt Roberts, Ron’s costume designer wife Terry Dresbach, and set designer Gary Steele. We chatted a bit about what Maril has done over the last decade, what she’s learned, and what’s coming up, both for Outlander and for her personally.

Congratulations, Maril! Today’s the anniversary of the first time we saw Outlander on Starz!
I know, it’s so crazy, I can’t believe it.

And for you it’s been a lot longer than that. This is just about the 10th anniversary of when I started writing about the show. How early did you start the whole planning process?
For me, it started as early as 2012, 2011, because the origin story of this is that Matt Roberts gave me the books to read because I was looking for a project to work on with Ron, I loved them and was just like we have to make this, it’s amazing, and we set up a meeting with the rights holders. And it went great, but they wanted to do films, and we walked out of the meeting and I said to Ron, it can’t be a film, it has to be a TV show. So we walked away, and I kept checking back to see if they’d be interested, and one of the times, they were. It’s been a long time.

So this has been more than a decade for you, 11 or 12 years. What have been the good things about being on such a long-term show – have you learned things about yourself and working on a show for this long?
Well, listen, we’re so lucky because as you know, there are few shows that go this long , I’ve been lucky enough to work on Star Trek that also went long, but I’ve learned a lot about myself, some good, some bad, some things I’d do differently on the show. But we all grew up together in a lot of ways, we had all done other things before the show, but this was the first time I felt like this was really my baby, that I felt like I had boots on the ground, and I just love this material so much, I felt very connected. But in ways, I felt too close to it, certainly, and made a lot of decisions with my heart versus my head.

As a woman in this industry, I felt certainly boots on the ground early that I had to be, not loud, but kind of come up swinging instead of maybe a nuanced approach to things, and I think looking back I would change some of those things. But as a whole, it’s been such a tremendous experience. Scotland has welcomed us with open arms, it truly is a family, and it’s such a pleasure and privilege to be working on this show. And I love the fact that it’s so beloved, I think there are very few shows you work on that people say, oh my God, you work on Outlander, I love that show. It’s a really nice feeling. We’re not curing cancer, but we’re still getting people together, bringing people pleasure. I love talking about Outlander, I could talk about it all day long. That part of it isn’t work at all.


Maril with Executive Producer Matt Roberts at S5 premiere. Photo by Sam Kraupner

The last time you and I talked, it was 2016, and we were waiting for renewal of Season 3. So in this long stretch of time, there have a lot of challenges. I’m sure there were challenges for you personally – you’ve had to go back and forth to Scotland, and Covid, and Caitriona’s baby, and now the writer’s strike… What has that taught you about a work/life balance? That’s a big issue these days, having to do with long hours and everything else.
Yeah, I mean I think it’s hard to have a work/life balance in this industry. The one thing that’s changed for me since the beginning is that I’ve had kids since then, you know what I mean? I did not have kids when I started this, and obviously that change has been huge for me. And Caitriona and I, we’ve gone from talking about where to work to now talking about kids. And I think it’s really hard, but I continue to say that we’re the lucky ones, in that it’s hard for me, but I can kind of call my own hours a little bit more than  anyone else, I have a little more flexibility. The crews, I don’t know how you can be on a crew and be satisfied with your life balance. That’s something I would love to see change. We’re the lucky ones also in Scotland, because we have 10-hour days instead of 12 plus hours in the US. I would love to see that change. I would love to see child care on set.

There are many things that I think could improve for the work/life balance on set, not just for parents, but just for people who want a life. You should be able to have a job and still have an outside life, and I don’t think that is something the industry has figured out yet. That’s also why you don’t see as many women in the industry, or on crews because it really is a choice you have to make. Everyone says, oh you can have it all, but it’s a big lie, you can’t. You do have to make choices. Personally, I would love in my next shows, to see if there is a way we can make it better.

Even with Outlander, you’ve got a lot coming up, finishing Season 7, then Season 8 coming up, and Blood of My Blood. Any idea when that one will come out, or is it really looking like after Outlander is finished?
I don’t know how Starz is going to roll that out, but I can say that we were, pre-strike, in the rooms for both Season 8 AND the prequel, so that is definitely on the road. I don’t know when Starz is going to release those in terms of via Season 8 at all, but we’re on the way.

I know that Outlander hasn’t been the only thing you ‘ve worked on, you’ve worked on several shows during Outlander. What else are you working on – that you can talk about?
I’m working on For All Mankind (Apple TV), which is about to premiere it’s 4th season. Ron and I also have a deal at Disney, so we are developing projects over there, kind of watch this space for more to come. So hopefully I would love to expand the Outlander universe. I know Matt Roberts has ideas, so hopefully something else will come about. But the prequel is the first up.


Ron had talked about developing A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas). Are you working on that at all?
Yes. That is another book series that I had kind of chased that I really loved. I obviously like a certain vibe of book. That’s something we’re developing for Hulu.

That’s another one of my favorite series. I gobbled it up last year.
It’s so good! I don’t know if you’ve read any of the others Sarah has written, but she also has Throne of Glass which is another 8-book series as well, so I’m super excited about A Court of Thorns and Roses, so I’m hoping fingers crossed that we get good news about that soon after the strike.

Yeah, I’ve got Crescent City sitting on my shelf.
That’s harder to get into, once you get into it it’s good, but I don’t know why that at first, getting into Crescent City was not as easy as ACOTAR, but it’s worth it. It’s a very similar type of setup.

Season 7 has been received so well. I think it’s one of the best seasons that has been done. I don’t know if you can speak to that, but I feel like it’s been because the season has stuck more to Diana’s storylines. Yes, there have been some changes, but they’ve made a lot of sense. Compared to the ether story line in season 6, which I think was universally thought of as… not what we wanted at all.
I think though… I push back on the ether story line… I’m a book purist, so I’m going to want to see the book versus anything else. But when you have Sam and Caitriona, and you have actors who are that good, you can’t also just let them sit on the sideline. And the last book, that book in that ether storyline, there wasn’t a Claire story, and there was definitely more Jamie, and we should promote Jamie and we should promote Sam as well. But we also needed to give Caitriona something as well. And we felt like there was no processing of the trauma she had gone through, and understandably Diana didn’t do it in the book, because there has been a lot of traumas, and I think even talking to Diana, she felt like she didn’t want to do that again, but it felt like we weren’t doing justice to that character by not acknowledging that. And certainly in conversations with Caitriona,  she felt the same say, that there had to be some way that she was processing that and she wasn’t just like, done, that was last season, not going to process it.

Maril in the panel for the Season 7 premiere. photo by Sam Kraupner

But I do agree that this season has been really exciting. Some of it has been because we combined two and a bit books, for this season, thinking this might be our last, and we tried to get in as much material as possible. But I just think also the writers did such a great job of condensing these two books, and making them so cohesive that took all the best parts, and made a story that was really understandable as you went through, and didn’t feel like you were missing anything. I agree. The first half was great, the second half is even better.

You’ve had four new writers just the first half of this season. And I know that at one point Ron had talked about wanting a writer’s room that was balanced between writers that knew the material and people who were new to it. Is that still a goal when you’re putting the writer’s room together?
Yes and no. We do require, every season and even in the first season, when we had that kind of balance of people who were fans and people who were new to the material, everyone always is required to read at least up to the books wherever we are, certainly that season. And same this time. But also every year we try to see that there is some turnover, so we try to infuse some fresh blood and some fresh outlooks. We still try to do some sort of balance. Once again, there are those of us who have been with it since the beginning – myself, Matt, Toni, who are huge fans of the books. And we’ve had people – Luke, who has been with us since Season 3, we have some people …we just try to infuse new blood and new perspectives, and that was the same this year. Usually there is quite a balance with the writers and the support staff – the people who are die-hard and those who are newer to the family.

Watch the interview here:

My 2016 interview with Maril, Part 1 and Part 2


Join me and Sam Kraupner on Monday night to talk about the mid-season finale and Men In Kilts – Instagram live, 9 pm eastern/8 central!

We have a fun Facebook group! Outlandishly Three If By Space



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