The show has never hesitated to film the steamy moments between Jamie and Claire Fraser - but how do they do it?
Throughout the six seasons of Outlander, the most intimate scenes played a major role in the storyline. As the Daily Express reports, these steamy moments underlie Jamie and Claire's enduring love.
However, when the first five seasons aired on our screens, Outlander was without an intimacy coordinator, meaning the cast and crew found themselves without support when filming the most cheeky scenes.
This article is a mixture of several sources found on the Net
Caitriona Balfe told Entertainment Weekly:
"We were put in a situation where Sam and I were really deciding what was going to show up in the scenes."
It's easy to imagine how difficult and delicate it must have been for the actors.
Caitriona added: "It was a constant negotiation between the director and the producers and what the producers want versus what we feel comfortable enough to do. So instead of focusing on what the characters are doing in the scenes, we had to go through this whole exchange like:
"I don't really want you to show so much."
These are never easy conversations, and sometimes it can cause tension.
For season 6, management called on Vanessa Coffey, an intimacy counselor. Because, if in the new episodes, Jamie and Claire are still fighting to protect their home from the American revolution, their relationship is nevertheless "passionate and physical", says the Daily Express. Many steamy scenes are present.
Over time, filming intimate moments becomes less embarrassing for actors.
"It was a very different world when we launched Outlander eight years ago. Caitriona and I have obviously developed an incredible relationship and we feel very comfortable with each other," Sam told Britain's Radio Times magazine.
But the actor nuanced, saying that it was just as important that the teams present on the set do not feel uncomfortable.
Vanessa Coffey is here to reassure and relax everyone.
"We have a lot of sex. It's part of Jamie and Claire's relationship, the thing that binds them together and how they find each other. [Vanessa] gave us tools to try to show that intimacy," said Jamie Fraser. Before specifying the importance of the presence of the privacy consultant.
"It was helpful to have someone to help us navigate as it can be quite inconvenient," he acknowledged.
For her part, Caitriona, who shot this sixth season while she was pregnant, admits not particularly enjoying the filming of these scenes.
"I can't say I like all the sex scenes. These are never the most fun to shoot. I think, at this point, we know that Claire and Jamie have a healthy sex life," she told the British tabloid. But she knows that these intimate moments are an integral part of the relationship that her character forms with Jamie Fraser and that it is not possible to remove them all.
Vanessa described the lengthy process behind the majority of these scenes, stating that it took them a long time to move from script to screen. She said: "I read the script, then I always spoke with the organisers of the show, and then with the directors.
"We really get an artistic vision of how the particular intimate scene will be shot, and then with that information, I then go to the actors and talk with each of them separately about their point of view on the scene and also how the director wants the scene and I ask if they have a different perspective. We then get together to have a group conversation, so we're all on the same page.
From there, we get into the physical rehearsals and it all depends on the choreography of the scene, the literal meaning – what's going to happen?"
"It's a question of whether the characters go all the way to orgasm; what we think it might look like; what might be the particular movements; the length of the scene we are trying to film; what is the general sequence of the story; [and] make sure we address all of that in the choreography."
Once this step is complete, Vanessa is on set to help with "minor adjustments" and make sure the actors and actresses are comfortable. She added: "The process is very choreographic. It starts with open communication between everyone and ends with a state of, "Ok, what's the physicality? is the literal thing we're going to do."
Coffey said the process is long, with conversations taking place weeks before even rehearsals, followed by the rehearsals themselves. This would be followed by another rehearsal on the day of filming to ensure the performance was still "beating the pace".
Finally filming the scene can take between two and six hours.
Sam Heughan approached Vanessa Coffey to join the production.
He has previously said he feels a "great responsibility" to young actors and actresses. He also added that he wanted them to have "extra support" when filming the most typical moments.
Vanessa Coffey, whose previous credits include the Sky I Hate Suzie series, the BBC's rules of the game and Netflix's teen fantasy drama Fate: The Winx Saga, coordinated all the intimate moments of this sixth season.
Many moments were discussed by her before being put into action: scenes of a sexual nature, until Malva (Jessica Reynolds) was beaten by her Christian father (Mark Lewis Jones) for disobeying her.
Vanessa Coffey, Lauren Lyle and César Domboy take us from script to screen on this eye-opening birth scene
When Marsali gave birth in the episode "Allegiance" (S6E2), her husband Fergus wasn't the only one supporting her.
Vanessa Coffey, an intimacy coordinator that Starz has incorporated this season, was deeply involved in how the historical drama approached and shot the very moving and physically revealing scene.
Lauren Lyle told TVLine that regular readers of Diana Gabaldon's books, on which the series is based, made her aware of the big moment years ago, shortly after landing the role.
In this episode, Marsali's delivery progresses too slowly and it becomes increasingly worrisome when her husband Fergus helps things by kissing and caressing her bare chest. The camera leaves the room before its services go any further and eventually work; Marsali gives birth to a baby boy, Henri-Christian, at the end of the episode.
« The bargain is that everything is prosthetic," Lauren laughs. "So it's lovely and very helpful. »
More importantly, she adds, was Vanessa Coffey's role in the proceedings.
"We had good conversations and understood why this was happening and what we wanted to do with it. So we found a solution, and it was great. »
César Domboy, intervenes. "It's almost like choreography at one point, because it's me and Lauren literally going beat after beat, like, 'OK, should we do this? Should I move there? Because you have to be aesthetically pleasing at some point, and to sell something like that, it has to be watchable... We found our rhythm.
On Monday, TVLine spoke in depth with Coffey about partnering with Lyle, Domboy and the show's production team to make the scene work for everyone involved.
TVLINE: Correct me if I'm wrong, but an intimacy coordinator is basically someone who is on set, liaising between the actors and the production, making sure everyone is comfortable with what's going on, and worrying about the logistics and practicalities of setting up a scene like this. Was I partly wrong?
Vanessa Coffey: You weren't wrong, but there are other things as well, that is, researching the scene itself, the nature of that scene, especially because it was so specific,! We must look for what would be necessary to bring about birth. And also for how long, so just research that as well as the choreographic element. Where the arms are, where the limbs go, what exactly the placement will look like so that we can tell the story appropriately through the body.
TVLINE: You come to this show in season 6 – tell me what it's like to happen in a situation where a show like this has already shot a ton of intimate scenes.
VC: This is the first time I've worked on a show that hasn't had an intimacy coordinator from the beginning and where I haven't been there from the beginning. So it's a different environment.
I have to say that in this particular case — and I promise you I'm not just saying this — they were extremely welcoming, both from the cast and the crew who really appreciated my intervention and were really interested in what it might add.
It's a question of protection, of course, but it's also a question of: OK, what can this person actually add to the narration of these moments? What could we do differently in Season 6 that we may not have watched before? And delve deeper into some of these aspects would probably be the most important thing.
TVLINE: Tell me about the birth scene, from the first time in the script, to the preparation with Caesar and Lauren, to the actual shooting.
VC: It starts, quite right, with reading the script. See what's in the details, what we can already pull, what are the physical actions that have already been described by the writers and that they want to see. And then it's about talking with the executive producers to find out what their vision for the scene is or making sure that again, we're true to what they're trying to say for that particular scene, because it could be more than what's on the page, actually.
There may be more things they want to bring out. So after having those conversations, and then having a conversation with the director about their artistic vision of the scene and how we're going to bring it to life, collaboratively, and then having conversations with the actors individually at the beginning to say, "OK, these are the parameters of the scene that have been defined so far. What do you think? It sounds really obvious, but ask really nice and open-ended questions to the actors to make sure you get as much information as possible from them about their concerns.
Also going into things like what they want to express in the scene. Everything I need to be aware of before we start choreographing the scene.
And once you have those one-on-one conversations with the other actors, to convey everything they need to know to the director and the production.
And then the next step is to come in and do a physical rehearsal and in that case – and the art department is absolutely fantastic on Outlander because setting up a rehearsal space for us was basically the equivalent of what we would have on set, because they were using the set that day. It was fabulous because you work with all the props, everything you might need to bring this scene to life, you have it in place. In fact, it was really useful, because one of the things I hadn't thought about was the fact that in this case, there is also a wooden hand that we deal with in the choreography. So it was like, OK, we need to change things, because you won't be leaning on a hand that you can't lean on. So there were practical aspects to the choreography that we had to take into account.
TVLINE | Lauren mentioned that she wore a prosthesis during the scene. Did you have it to use during rehearsal, or was it added later?
VC: We had the abdominal prosthesis in place for our rehearsal, yes.
TVLINE: It always blows me away that actors can do scenes like that with people who are their colleagues and friends. It's so raw and vulnerable.
VC: You're absolutely right, which is why there's such a lot of work to be done to separate the actor from the character. Because the actors have their limits of course, and we have to be faithful to them in order to tell the story for the characters... If we train actors, we talk with the actors about how the character walks, how they sit, how they stand, how they breathe in different weathers, all that kind of thing. But we so rarely talk to the actors about how the character has sex or how the character kisses. Thus, in these moments, actors will often return to what they do personally. And it's a very vulnerable place. But when we approach it through the character, it's much less vulnerable.
TVLINE | I remember Lauren saying that actors didn't want to make the same sounds as in this situation in real life. You want that division, as you said.
Exactly, thinking about what the character looks like when he has an orgasm or what the character looks like when they make love should be entirely different from how the actors do it.
TVLINE | Caitriona Balfe spoke about how being pregnant and doing sex scenes was a new vulnerability for her this season. Can you tell me about when you have someone who is pregnant, what conversations come up or what are the things that happen that you might not have with an actress who is not pregnant?
The conversations are almost the same, then it's about what we do in the room to make sure someone feels comfortable, whether it's choreographing, checking positions, making sure someone feels good physically. If they want to see the reading, for example, they can take a look at it and see what the angle looks like and if they are comfortable with what is shown... I'm not necessarily saying Caitriona asked for a playback, but certainly other actors I've worked with who have been pregnant have asked for it, because you want to be able to see what the camera sees.
It's also about that follow-up with the actor, because part of the work that I haven't mentioned to you before and that I should have mentioned is also checking in with the actor a few days after we've shot a scene, just to see how he feels about it. I'm a big fan of Brené Brown, and she talks about what's called the "hangover of shame," which can come out two or three days after you've done something. You know, that horrible feeling if you walk down the street and suddenly you're like, "Oh my God, I can't believe I did that a few days ago." We want to make sure, with an intimate scene, that someone feels really well supported and really comfortable and confident in what they've done, especially if they're in a vulnerable place.
Interview of Vanessa Coffey by Valérie Gay-Corajoud
for Dinna Fash Sassenach
Hi, Vanessa, before we begin, I'd like to thank you for agreeing to answer my questions. I find it essential to shed light on your profession. The magic that operates on screen should not be at any cost and it is essential that the priority is the respect and well-being of the actors, before the emotion of the viewer. It's all about balance and I'm really happy to see you alongside the team that has made us dream for more than six years.
Valérie Gay-Corajoud: First of all, I would like to know what skills are needed to be a good intimacy coordinator. Do you need to be comfortable with your body to do your job?
Vanessa Coffea: I think it's important to be a great mediator. You need to have an understanding of actor training and you also need to have a good understanding of how a professional set works.
There is no requirement that you be comfortable with your own body, however, you must be able to talk about intimate things without excuse and without any level of embarrassment. So, if we talk about breasts for example, we must be able to talk about nipples, lateral breasts, etc. without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable.
VGC: Are there any trainings? Or is it rather an accumulation of special talents as well as a personal conscience?
VC: In terms of training, there are currently only a few organizations in the world that dictate minimum levels of training. SAG-Aftra, IPG (Intimacy Practitioners' Guild, Europe) and BECTU UK all set minimum standards.
At a basic level, someone should have training in movement, play or direction as well as:
● Mental Health First Aid
● Consent training
● Fight against harassment, sexual harassment and bullying
● LGBTQIA+ awareness
● Awareness of diversity and equality
● Conflict resolution/problem solving
● Training on witness intervention
But also, a knowledge and understanding of:
● Movement and choreography
● Use of clothing and modesty barriers
● Use of privacy protocols
● Understanding the label on the tray
VGC: What is your posture with technicians? I imagine that some scenes can also be very tricky to shoot for cameramen, lighting and sound engineers! How is your work with the different teams organized?
VC: We are a member of the team, just like any other. Everything in the film is a collaboration between departments, so I work alongside other technicians. Some scenes are of course very tricky for other departments, but as long as we cover absolutely all the parameters, people feel more comfortable.
VGC: Have you ever had to assist actors who had no affinity with each other, or even a form of repulsion? And if so, how to ease tensions so that it is less painful?
VC: Yes, I've worked with actors on intimate scenes that don't necessarily get along off-screen (not on Outlander though!) and at the end of the day, they do their job like everyone else so they have to find a way to do it.
There are specific acting exercises that can help actors stay inside the stage as a character, which is really what we should see as a spectator.
VGC: Over the years, nudity and intimate scenes – if not downright steamy – seem to be a must on screen. Do you think that's a good thing? On the contrary, is your profession sending a warning signal to say that there are limits not to be exceeded?
VC: I honestly believe that my job helps to create beautiful intimate scenes. We are not there as police officers, although, of course, we are there to make things safe. Our role is very similar to that of the stunt coordinator. We try to help with safety, but also to make a detailed scene that seems realistic and that delivers the intention of the director while respecting the limits of the actor.
There are, however, limits that should never be exceeded. Let's look at two examples involving French actors.
- We have "Last Tango in Paris", in which Maria Schneider stated that she felt "violated" on screen by Marlon Brando when a lubricant was used on her, without her prior consent or knowledge. The director later said that he wanted Maria (editor's note: the actress, not the character) to feel "humiliated" so that she would really shout and shout "no!" No one should ever have to feel like this, let alone when they're at work.
- The other example is "La Vie d'Adèle". Lea Seydoux was very eloquent after filming the nature of what was asked of them as performers and how the director "bullied" them into getting it.
VGC: In the sixth season of Outlander, we know that Catriona was pregnant. Were you accompanied by psychologists or did you have the necessary training to deal with this particular difficulty?
VC: It's about the way we approach angles and choreography, rather than psychology in my opinion, especially since Claire (The character, editor's note) is not pregnant and it's her story that we're telling here.
VGC: Sam and Catriona have known each other for years. Before you arrived, they shot an incredible number of intimate scenes. Have you been led to "deconstruct" habits, "tricks" that they had to put in place to "protect" themselves?
VC: Not in the slightest. I am here to support and not to deconstruct their practices. They had a very good working relationship and trust, so I was able to work on that.
VGC: In the Outlander series, you're going to have a job! Is there not a risk of "repetition" or worse, of "mandatory passage"? In the end, aren't intimate scenes a reductive way to evoke relationships in a couple?
VC: I think intimate scenes are a way to better understand a relationship. They are there when words just aren't enough and we need to start telling a physical story, as well as the vocal story.
Thank you very much for your time dear Vanessa.