Suzanne Smith has absolutely nailed casting Outlander, time and time again. Here is our thank you for her hard work and expertise.
As everyone from Ron D. Moore to Maril Davis to Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan have said repeatedly since Outlander began: the show owes a great deal to the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all work. We decided it was time to recognize those people who may or may not get a mention on the credits as they scroll by. The first in our series showcased Arron Cuthbertson for his outstanding job with the extras in “The Battle Joined,” and Annie McEwan and the amazing make-up team for helping to create “Cave Jamie” in “Surrender.” In addition, Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts, got a shout out for their unique decision to end “Of Lost Things” with a montage set to a re-worked iconic Bob Dylan song. Most recently, we thanked Matt Roberts for his incredible treatment of the script for the Print Shop episode, “A. Malcolm.” But, next we want to give kudos to the woman behind all of the incredible casting for the Outlander STARZ series, Casting Director Suzanne Smith.
Despite your impressive career casting many popular television shows and movies such as Resident Evil, Band of Brothers, Versailles, Black Sails and The Pacific, as well as your numerous Emmy nominations and wins, we imagine pressure and expectations for casting Outlander weighed heavy on you. After all, Outlander is based on a wildly popular series of novels that have been around for nearly 20 years, and the fandom is solidly invested in the protagonists of the story and many of the numerous minor characters that populate the eight books (to date) series. In fact, I might venture a guess that the casting of Jamie Fraser for the STARZ series might have been the most nerve-wracking task of all. I mean, how do you find someone to portray the “King of Men” believably? And, then there is the complicated, stalwart, woman-out-of-her-time, Claire Randall, who has become a female archetype for all women who have invested in this story of love, war, violence, perseverance, and triumph. How to find an actress to portray this female bad-ass with the aplomb we find in book Claire?
But, again and again and again you and your staff have landed on the perfect actor for these roles. Some may have been skeptical at first about the casting of Sam Heughan or Caitriona Balfe, but you have a knack for finding the actor that can at once embrace the role where it stands in the story but also grow with the character as we see adventures unfold. And, we all know the EPIC adventures within the Outlander series never allow for a character to stay stuck in the same place or mindset for very long.
I was reminded again in Episode 3.07, “Crème de Menthe,” of the brilliance of your choices when we saw more scenes and lines delivered from a beloved character that will play an important role in future books and seasons—young Ian Murray. I recall when John Bell was cast many months ago. I—like most readers—had a certain picture in my mind of what he would look like. But it wasn’t until I saw him in Episode 3.07 that I really, truly, saw Young Ian come to life. Bell’s witty, exuberant, innocent portrayal of a plucky teen trying to find himself amidst the chaos of his uncle’s questionable and dangerous business dealings really hit home. And, dare I say, the adorable facial expressions and wide-eyed enthusiasm for Ian’s first attempt at “becoming a man” (ahem!) endeared all of us to this sweet, yet mischievous character who we will laugh and cry with going forward in the story. Even sweeter was his off-key attempt to woo his lassie in song. I think viewers in unison watched that scene grinning from ear to ear.
And, as if the adorable precociousness of Young Ian weren’t enough, we were also introduced in Episode 3.07 to the comedy team of Fergus and Ian. I, for one, was skeptical that a grown-up Fergus could ever live up to the brilliance of Romann Berrux as wee Fergus (another casting tour-de-force). But, as we have seen in two episodes now, somehow you found the perfect grown-up Fergus in Cesar Domboy. And, I love how young Ian and Fergus get on in the series. They are brothers of sorts, if not by blood. Both are products of tutelage from Jamie Fraser, who has embraced them as his sons and proteges. We see some of this camaraderie in the book series, but here is another case when we can declare proudly that while we love and adore Diana Gabaldon’s prose and story, the television series provides a unique three-dimensional view of the tale that we can’t get in the books. One of my colleagues at Outlander Cast proclaimed that Young Ian and Fergus are morphing into the “baby version” of the comedic Rupert and Angus team of Season 3. Oh, God, yes for this to be so and for us to look forward to more side-splitting hijinks such as we saw with our dearly departed Angus and Rupert.
Repeatedly, we have seen the fandom wind themselves up thinking that there is NO WAY the perfect Roger or the perfect Dougal or the perfect Geillis Duncan could be found. But, every_single_time, you exceed expectations and find an impeccable actor to embody these beloved book characters and in ways we may not have expected. For example, did any book reader envision a young, sexy, actor would be cast as the menacing Le Comte St. Germain? Never in my dreams did I envision Stanley Weber in that role. But, mon dieu, did he nail it! As a viewer I saw a very different side of the Comte and I
lusted after liked it beaucoup!
As we begin to see more announcements of casting for Outlander Season 4, I declare my firm belief in the Church of Suzanne Smith and expect that your spot-on nailing of these characters will continue as long as we are fortunate to enjoy the STARZ series. And, let us also give a shout-out to Executive Producer Maril Davis, who I know is also heavily involved and invested in casting for the show. Maril remains our conscience in this endeavor. She is an unabashed defender of the books and the story, and we know strives to keep true to the Gabaldon narrative within the confines and limitations of the production. Maril said recently that her favorite book character is Young Ian and she was worried about whether an actor could be found to live up to her own expectations as a stalwart book reader. But, Maril has said that she is delighted with John Bell’s portrayal and knew from his first audition that he was THE one. Thank you to Maril Davis, as well, for your steadfast belief in staying as true as possible to the source material. We love you, too, Maril for all your do behind the scenes.
But, thank you again, Suzanne Smith—to you and your whole team. Because of your continued stellar work, my deep pleasure and joy in watching Outlander come to life each week on the small screen knows no bounds. I am more confident than ever that as we move forward with this epic tale that I will never be disappointed in the actors and actresses you find to portray these iconic roles.
With much love and respect,