Portola Valley's Jim Kohlberg behind 'Outlander' TV series


By Kate Daly | Special to the Almanac

Portola Valley's Jim Kohlberg says he's excited to see positive reviews come out in the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly about his latest Hollywood project, "Outlander," a new TV series adapted from Diana Gabaldon's best-selling historic fantasy book with the same name.

The show premiered on the STARZ cable TV channel on Aug. 9.

Kohlberg is the executive producer. Ronald D. Moore, known for his work on "Battlestar Galactica," is serving as both executive producer and creator of "Outlander."

The story starts post-World War II with a British nurse mysteriously transported back in time to 1743 in the Scottish Highlands, where British soldiers are skirmishing with clansmen.

With a "strong woman character with a great love story, great romance ... plenty of bodices ripping," Kohlberg says, it's no wonder 80 percent of "Outlander" are females. "We're hoping the fan base will broaden" with the show, he says.

The popular author recently spoke at Foothill College to promote her eighth book about the same characters. Her first "Outlander" book came out in 1991.

"I had the rights for over five years and we tried to do it as a film," Kohlberg says, but it was "too tough to shoehorn 800 pages," so a TV series felt like a better fit.

"I feel really good about it," he says. "Each episode builds up and is better than the next."

Sixteen episodes are scheduled to air this season. "We're still filming the last couple of episodes in Scotland," he says.

It's too soon to tell whether there will be a second season.

The cast includes Irish actress Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall and Scotsman Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser.

Kohlberg produced and directed the 2011 film, "The Music Never Stopped." He is currently in pre-production on two films, "The Yellow Birds" and "Dial M for Murdoch," and he's developing some other TV series.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Laura
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2014 at 10:45 am

STARZ' Outlander had over 3.5 million views of their premier via TV and other media. Approximately 45% of the viewers were MALE. Outlander is NOT a "bodice ripper" romance but a genrebending historical fiction, action, drama, romance, scifi story with battles, murder, love, hate all wrapped in possibly the most beautifully filmed production on television today. To limit your description to a "woman's" TV show is to really miss the mark for Outlander. Obviously men have already figured that out.

Like this comment
Posted by Laura Carmichael
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2014 at 11:07 am

Agree with the previous post (another Laura) - Thank goodness Ron D. Moore is the producer actually _MAKING_ the series, since he understands the material. This is historical action-adventure, with strong family _and_ romantic relationships. Hardly a bodice-ripper: it does the show and prospective viewers no good to so label it. After reading this interview, I am more relieved than ever that Jim Kohlberg failed to make a movie version of Outlander! Ron D. Moore's version is truly exceptional, riveting television. My husband and I (who are both fans of Diana Gabaldon's novels) loved the first episode, and everything we see coming in trailers, photos, and interviews looks even better!

Like this comment
Posted by Jeanne
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2014 at 11:22 am

My first impulse is to give Jim Kohlberg the benefit of the doubt and am more inclined to think he was taken out of context or (gasp) misquoted. I've just read too many reviews and interviews that are more fiction than not. He clearly loves the source material and I doubt the author would have sold him the rights to begin with if this were not the case. But, I will say that chances for a season 2 are in the bag. No one does this much marketing for a one-season-wonder. No one. Season 3 on the other hand....

Like this comment
Posted by Laura Carmichael
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2014 at 11:41 am

Perhaps, Jeanne. That said, there is additional context, not in this article, which is also being referenced (from extensive comments made in myriad places, by the folks involved, about the making of Outlander over the years).

Like this comment
Posted by A Scot
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Having read the entire "Outlander" series, I can tell you that the books are definitely better at suspending one's disbelief about time travel. They are also quite complete in their descriptions of the main characters, Jamie and Claire, and the actors in the TV version are quite ill-suited to their parts.

I also know that Diana Gabaldon took so long to turn over the rights to her first book ( the subsequent sequels are even better) because she knew it would mean losing all control of the story line.

The TV series does NOT make women dream of men in kilts like the books do!

Like this comment
Posted by Melanie
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 15, 2014 at 11:14 am

This is to the guy A Scot:
Ill-suited?! Seriously Dude? Have you just seen the pic's or did you watch the episode?

When the author describes her characters and then the producers find exact description of those characters [especially Sam Heughan who is even tall and weighs as the character he plays] how is that ill-suited? If the author who created them says they ARE what she envisioned, who am I to dispute it? I've seen the 1st ep and they are perfectly cast.

I do admit that for many the book characters we tend to 'adopt' and superimpose a 'vision' of them in our minds, they may not fill the bill, yet if one is a true fan of the books, one is grateful for it just being offered in this medium.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

A new home in Redwood City for Mademoiselle Colette's croissants
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 8,246 views

Electric vs Gas Heat: Which wins?
By Sherry Listgarten | 18 comments | 3,839 views

Lights Out! Foods to Snuggle With in the Dark
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,685 views

What to do with all those cardboard boxes
By Cheryl Bac | 3 comments | 1,472 views

Some answers, please, PG&E
By Diana Diamond | 6 comments | 860 views


Race Results Are In

Thank you for joining us at the 35th annual Moonlight Run & Walk! All proceeds benefit the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday fund, supporting local nonprofits serving children and families.

Click for Race Results