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15 Surprising Facts About Outlander

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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.

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The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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13 Smart Facts About The Big Bang Theory
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CBS Entertainment

The Big Bang Theory, which has held the title of television's most popular comedy for several years now, and will return for its 11th season on Monday, September 25th. In the meantime, geek out with these facts about the long-running cerebral comedy on the 10th anniversary of its premiere.

1. THE SHOW WASN’T PITCHED IN A TRADITIONAL WAY.

Instead of writing up a premise—which includes outlines of the characters and the long-term vision for the show—and pitching it to CBS, co-creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady revealed at PaleyFest in 2009 that for their pitch, they wrote a complete script, hired actors, and, as Lorre explained, “put on a show” for CBS president Les Moonves. Lorre found the experience to be “crazy,” but it obviously worked.

2. IT TOOK TWO PILOTS FOR THE SHOW TO GET PICKED UP TO SERIES.

The show filmed two different pilots, because CBS didn't like the first one but felt the show had potential. The first pilot began with a different theme song and featured Sheldon, Leonard, and two female characters, including a different actress playing what would become the Penny role. Chuck Lorre thought the initial pilot “sucked” but is open to having the unaired pilot included as part of a DVD.

3. JIM PARSONS THOUGHT HE WAS AUDITIONING FOR A GAME SHOW.

Amy and Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory.
CBS Entertainment

When Jim Parsons’s agent called and said Chuck Lorre wanted him to audition for a pilot, Parsons misunderstood. “I did not know Chuck Lorre at the time,” Parsons told David Letterman in 2014. “I thought he was talking about Chuck Woolery. I thought, why are they so excited about it? We should see what the man has to offer before we’re like, ‘It’s a new Chuck Woolery pilot!'"

4. ED ROBERTSON OF THE BARENAKED LADIES HESITATED TO WRITE THE THEME SONG.

As the story goes, Lorre and Prady went to a Barenaked Ladies concert and were impressed that lead singer Ed Robertson sang a song on cosmological theory, so they tapped him to write the series' theme song, called “The History of Everything." In 2013, Robertson told CBS News that he’d previously written some songs for TV and films only to have his work rejected, so he was initially reluctant to take on the project.

“I was like, look, how many other people have you asked to write this? I’m at my cottage, I got a couple of weeks off right now and if you’ve asked Counting Crows and Jack Johnson and all these other people to write it, then I kinda don’t want to waste my time on it,” Robertson told them. Lorre and Prady told Robertson he was their only choice, so Robertson agreed to come on board. The first version was 32 seconds long but Robertson had to trim it down to 15 seconds. The original version was also acoustic, which Lorre loved, but Robertson insisted that his bandmates be on the track, and Lorre loved that one even more.

5. SHELDON PROBABLY DOESN’T HAVE ASPERGER’S.

Because of Sheldon’s anti-social nature, viewers have often assumed that Sheldon has Asperger's syndrome. But Prady has stated that, "We write the character as the character. A lot of people see various things in him and make the connections. Our feeling is that Sheldon's mother never got a diagnosis, so we don't have one.”

Parsons himself isn’t totally sure, though. “Asperger’s came up as a question within the first few episodes. I got asked about it by a reporter, and I had heard of it, but I didn’t know what it was, specifically,” he told Adweek in 2014. “So I asked the writers—I said, ‘They’re asking me if Sheldon has Asperger’s’ and they were like, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘OK.’ And I went back and I said, ‘No.’ And then I read some about it and I went, OK, well, if the writers say he doesn’t, then he doesn’t, but he certainly shares some qualities with those who do. I like the way it’s handled ... This is who this person is; he’s just another human.”

6. KUNAL NAYYAR GOT HIRED BECAUSE HE WAS “CHARMING."

CBS Entertainment

In reminiscing about the early days, Prady explained to Buzzy Mag how Raj came to be: “When we were casting for that part, we were casting for an international member of the ensemble, [because] if you go into the science department at a university, it’s not [just] Americans,” Prady said. “It’s one of the most international kinds of communities. So we saw foreign-born people. And so we saw people who were Korean and Korean-American and Latino. And then Kunal came in and it was like Jim [Parsons]—it was just Person Number Eight on a day of Twenty-Seven people, and he was charming.”

7. AMY FARRAH FOWLER WAS MADE A NEUROSCIENTIST ON PURPOSE.

Mayim Bialik, who in real life has a PhD in neuroscience, told Variety how Amy Farrah Fowler’s profession came to be. “They didn’t have a profession for my character when I came on in the finale of season three,” she says. “In season four, Bill Prady said they’d make her what I am so I could fix things (in the script) if they were wrong. It’s neat to know what things mean. But most of the time, I don’t have to use it.”

8. ASTROPARTICLE PHYSICIST/SCIENCE CONSULTANT DAVID SALTZBERG ONCE GOT A JOKE ON THE AIR.

The Big Bang Theory has had David Saltzberg on retainer since the beginning of the series. Every week he attends the tapings and offers up corrections and ensures the white boards used in the scenes are accurate. During episode nine of the first season, Saltzberg wrote a joke for Sheldon, who has a fight with another scientist. Penny asks Sheldon about the misunderstanding and Sheldon replies, “A little misunderstanding? Galileo and the Pope had a little misunderstanding!”

Even though Saltzberg teaches at UCLA and publishes papers, he thinks his work on The Big Bang Theory is more impactful. “This has a lot more impact than anything I will ever do,” he told NPR. “It’s hard to fathom, when you think about 20 million viewers on the first showing—and that doesn't include other countries and reruns. I’m happy if a paper I write gets read by a dozen people.”

9. WIL WHEATON GOT THE “EVIL WIL WHEATON” GIG THROUGH TWITTER.

Wil Wheaton and Jim Parsons in a scene from The Big Bang Theory.
Sonja Flemming - © 2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc

Wil Wheaton, who plays a “delightfully evil version” of himself on the show, tweeted about The Big Bang Theory. Wheaton told Larry King, “I was talking on Twitter about how much I loved the show and how I thought it was really funny.” Executive producer Steven Molaro—who will be taking on the same role in the Young Sheldon prequel, which also premieres Monday night—saw the tweet and told Wheaton to let him know if he wanted to come to a taping. A few days later Wheaton received an email from Bill Prady’s assistant about appearing on the show. “I just thought the email was a joke from one of my friends, so I just ignored it,” Wheaton said.

When Wheaton realized that the email was legit he phoned up Prady, who explained they wanted a nemesis for Sheldon. “It’s always more fun to be the villain,” Wheaton said. Even though the character has evolved into Sheldon’s ally, Wheaton said, “I still call him Evil Wil Wheaton.”

10. CHUCK LORRE THOUGHT THE SHOW AIRING AT 8 P.M. WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

The show aired a handful of episodes in the fall of 2007, but a Writers Guild strike halted production until the following year. When the show returned in March, it had an earlier time slot. During a 2009 Comic-Con panel with the show’s cast and producers, the moderator asked Lorre about how CBS once again changed the time slot, this time from Mondays at 8 p.m. to Mondays at 9:30 p.m. “You guys followed us when they put us on at 8 and that is what kept us alive,” Lorre replied. "We did eight shows before the strike took us out in our first season. When the strike was over, CBS put us on at 8 p.m. and we thought that might be the end of it. You followed us and kept us alive and that was when we got the two-year pickup when we did well at 8.” The show eventually returned to the Mondays at 8 p.m. slot.

11. PARSONS ATTRIBUTES THE SHOW'S SUCCESS TO ITS LACK OF CHARACTER ARCS.

In a 2014 interview with New York Magazine, Parsons gave his theory (if you will) on why The Big Bang Theory attracts more than 20 million viewers per week—a number unheard of since the Friends-era sitcom reign. “There’s not anything to keep up with,” he said. “You don’t go, ‘I didn’t see the first three seasons, and now they’re off with prostitutes, and they no longer work in the Mafia, and I don’t understand what happened.’ People have so many choices on TV now, so no one’s asking for you to marry us. You can enjoy our show without a weekly appointment.”

12. A NEW GENUS OF JELLYFISH IS NAMED BAZINGA.

CBS Entertainment

In 2011, a photographer spotted the unnamed grape-sized rhizostome in Australia’s Brunswick River, snapped a photo of it, and sent the photo to marine biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin. In 2013, she named the jellyfish and published a paper on it for the Queensland Museum. In her findings she called it “a new genus and species of the rhizostome jellyfish, which cannot be placed in any known family or suborder.” She told The Huffington Post that it’s the first time in more than 100 years that a new sub-order of jellyfish had been discovered. For now, it’s the only member of the genus Bazinga, the family Bazingidae, and the sub-order Ptychophorae. Sheldon’s catchphrase also inspired the naming of a new bee species in 2013.

13. THE CAST MEMBERS ARE SOME OF THE WORLD’S HIGHEST PAID TV ACTORS.

In August 2017, Variety released a list of television's highest paid actors, and the main cast members of The Big Bang Theory—Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar—came out on top for comedy, earning an average of $900,000 per episode.

BONUS FACT: WE'RE ON THE COFFEE TABLE!

Image credit: Wil Wheaton

In 2010, Wil Wheaton shared this close-up of the coffee table in Sheldon and Leonard's apartment. "I saw a lot of things that could have been on my own coffee table," he wrote, "so I decided to grab a picture."

Here's one from 2014:

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