It was a no brainer for me to ask Courtney to be my next guest with The LOVELANDER Project. I have a crush on her. She’s smart, she’s got dimples for days and her blue eyes…you can swim in ’em ! Holding a conversation with her is easy and exciting. She is the one who is used to doing the interviewing, so I knew she was going to be hard to pin down, she was but I got her! Here she is, Courtney Williams from Outlander BTS.
Thank you, Courtney for giving me your time and being a part of this passion project of mine. Sher, I think you do great interviews, and I love the spirit of your LOVELANDER Project. As you know, I’m usually the one asking the questions, so it took me a bit to get in the right headspace to be the interviewee. Thank you for inviting me.
You are literally the “Behind The Scenes” of Outlander for thousands. They rarely get a true look at you. Tell me what makes Courtney – Courtney. Alrighty, I’m mostly of Irish and Italian descent with some other stuff mixed in. I’m from Texas, the youngest of 3, two older brothers – all close in age. I was a tomboy, liked to be outside most of the time, (still do), and was a little toughie. I left home at 19, and the adventure began. I’ve lived all over the Washington DC area, Madrid, San Francisco, and the Denver area. Today, I’m a wife and mom, I love my family, being with my horse, beach time, reef swimming, and nature hikes/runs.
What do you think it was from your world that helped you become the producer of OutlanderBTS? The pieces of what it takes to produce my blog have always been in me. I’ve always been a writer. Journaling, writing down thoughts and observations. As a child, I kept diaries, and later, before iPhone (notes), it would be on napkins and receipts, ticket stubs, magazines, etc., whatever was around. I love to travel. When I was little, we would take family car trips, leaving before dawn; Dad says the boys would go right back to sleep in the back of our station wagon, but my little bobble head would be wide eyed, looking out the windows, pacifier plugged in. I traveled in Europe for two months in my 20’s, with a Eurail pass and a youth hostel card, and I was absolutely in my element. I became interested in photography and photojournalism as a kid. Dad had an old manual 35 mm camera that I taught myself how to use. I liked photographing nature and people – Candids. Faces. I would write stories about trips and experiences with photos I’d taken, and gift those to people. And doing interviews- ha, as a little kid, I used to interview my friends using my tape recorder with a little microphone!
I remember doing the same thing with my friends, as a military brat we moved around and I wish I could have held on to the tapes to have at hand now. The relationship with your Dad sounds so strong..and stands out to me. I still have some of those tapes, they are hilarious. Yes, I love my dad. I started running with Dad when I was 13 – he’d wake me up before the sun, and we’d go run under the stars. I loved the fresh morning air, the aliveness of my senses in the dark, the silent, one-on-one time with Dad. The only sound was our feet on the pavement; we were in a quiet, rhythmic bubble. At the finish, the sun would be coming up, we would speak, and the spell would be broken. We would laugh and joke around, and the day would’ve started – I felt strong and happy. He’s 88 now, and still a lot of fun. I get my irreverence from him..
It truly is a extraordinary thing to have a close relationship with a father, you are blessed and the way you speak of him, I can see the influence on you and know it is appreciated by those in your world. Tell me more about what makes you tick. Hmm, well, I like to learn, I like to understand why, I like people watching, and I like making connections. I speak Spanish fluently – I graduated from the U. of Maryland, and lived in Spain 6 months, doing a semester at University of Madrid. I’ve worked since the age of 15 doing lots of different things, from waitress to corporate wellness manager, to software project manager, to guest ranch wrangler, and lots of other things. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and have done lots of fun, interesting entrepreneurial things over my lifetime, my blog being the latest. I’ve traveled a lot, to Canada, all over the US, Mexico (repeatedly), Europe (repeatedly), Australia, Japan, and Africa. I like long decadent meals with people I love, or at least interesting people *smile*. I love the beach, and I love water – oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, puddles – any water. And I like riding my electric bike around town.
All of us flying through this Outlander universe have a story of how we were pulled into it’s orbit. What is yours?I loved the books; my mom introduced them to me in 2006, just after my 2nd baby was born. In 2014, while checking out at my local grocery store, I noticed the TV Guide, with Sam and Cait in character as Jamie and Claire on the cover. I thought, “That’s gonna stink, I’m not watching it.” You know how the movie’s never as good as the book? Well, these are my favorite books, so I didn’t want to spoil them with a crappily done TV show.
My kiddos were 8 and 11, and one day I was home alone with spare time (which didn’t happen much then). I plopped down on the couch and started flipping through channels, also rare, as I’m not a big TV watcher. I came across Episode 101, Sassenach, for free. So, I thought, what the hell. As I watched, I noticed how well done everything was -the casting, sets, costumes, Scotland, Jamie, the authenticity of it, the Gaelic, etc. I became really excited. I found Starz and watched Episode 102, Castle Leoch, soon after that. A defining moment for me with the show, was when Annette Badland walked out of Castle Leoch as Mrs. Fitz. I thought, damn, they’ve nailed it again. I was worried Mrs. Fitz would be played by Cameron Diaz in a cleavage dress (it is Hollywood, ya know). I knew that if they’d be willing to get Mrs. Fitz right, the rest of the show would be fantastic. I was sold, hook, line, and sinker.
I love that you got sucked in that way. I had no idea. Tell me more… I saw somewhere, maybe Facebook? That Sam and Cait would be doing a Twitter Q&A, so I joined Twitter, and followed Diana, Sam, Cait, Terry Dresbach (Seasons 1-4 Costume Designer, wife of Ron D. Moore), Gary ( Seasons 1-5 Production Designer), et al., and started meeting other fans from all over the world. I’d never been in a fandom before, so this was all new to me. I read and watched interviews and enjoyed discussing the show and books online. My husband was working internationally at the time, so I arranged to tag along on a trip to London, and then hopped over to Scotland by myself. That was November, 2014; no one in Scotland had even heard of Outlander, the show, only the books. Season 1, Part 2 wasn’t even out yet.
I have a friend in show biz, who got me tickets to the Paleyfest premiere of Ep 109, The Reckoning, in LA, in March of 2015, and then I went to a local event where Diana was speaking and met her for the first time in April of that year. This kind of thing continued, and I wanted a place to write about all the Outlander adventures I was having. I also found the mainstream media coverage at that time to be unfulfilling, and I knew from discussions that others felt the same way. I was in conversation on Twitter about that with several people, among them, Terry, and she said (or wrote) to me: “Do something better.” And, I thought, OK, yeah, why not?
That is as good a reason as any! My wee blog, Outlander Behind The Scenes, went live on April 6, 2016. Funny story, the night it went live, my little family was crowded around me in bed, watching Google Analytics for the site on my laptop (thrilling!). There were two people on the site, and one left, and my then 10-year-old said, “Don’t worry Mommy, Grammy probably just had to go to bed.”*laugh*
With the support of my husband, my web designer, my Patrons, and lots of other people, the blog has continued to grow ever since. It really has been a fabulous journey.
You are such a natural when working with cast in panels and interviews, there is an ease and intelligence that people are drawn to. Can you contribute this to something in particular? I prepare a lot for my interviews and panels, but in the moment, I let the conversation have space to go where it does, naturally. I’m genuinely interested in the people I’m interviewing and what they have to say (as a fan first). I’ve been around celebrities from a young age, enough to know they’re just people like the rest of us, and usually appreciate being treated that way. I also have some stage experience – I’ve acted and danced in a couple of theatrical dance companies. In one show, my character became tempted by and discovered drugs, partied her ass off, became addicted, overdosed and then died. Good thing it was all a dream…. I’ve also performed with an equestrian dance company, on horseback. So, maybe my (limited) performance experience helps me relate somewhat to those I’m interviewing.
My crush just keeps getting bigger n bigger. If I had more time I would start a Courtney fan club.Part of your work on BTS is breaking down the episodes. Can you give me a synopsis of how the show has done so far, for those who may not be 100% familiar with your thoughts. Season 1 exceeded my expectations, in all ways. Season 2 exceeded my expectations, in some ways. I absolutely love the first half of Season 3, and then… there was a phase I didn’t prefer between Episode 307 and Episode 501. *smile* No, there are some good episodes and moments in the second half of Season 3 and in Season 4, but I did feel things went off the rails a little during the transition from Ron D. Moore to Matt B. Roberts and Toni Graphia. To be fair, most of the original writing team left at that same time, and those are the two seasons they did back to back with no break in between (S3 and S4), so it was a tall order for first time showrunners. Maril Davis and Matt Roberts were at the helm for Season 5, Sam and Cait came on as producers, the writing team for that season was much stronger, and for me, that season put them right back in the flow. I enjoy creative adaptations, I do like the characters to stay in character, especially Jamie and Claire.
You not only attend Outlander events, you also moderate events with cast members. How did that come about for you? I started interviewing cast and crew members for my blog, and I chose to do video. Most of the Outlander folks are in the UK, so I started using Google Hangouts back in 2016. When I started my episode discussion group with the wonderful Karmen Schmidt, Antoinette Simmons, and Catherine Toomer, I got more into moderating – hahahahaha. Hosting a lively discussion between four women is different than a one-on-one interview(and harder to edit)! I was invited to be a panelist for Denver Comic Con in 2018 and 2019, by Desirre Andrews (A Dram of Outlander), so I had that experience. My first live interviews were with Sam and Caitriona for the Season 3 premiere on the red carpet in NYC in 2017. That came together at the last minute, and was a sink or swim moment. In 2019, I’d applied for The BTS Lasses to do a fan panel at Wizard World NOLA, and I was contacted by Wizard World to help design content for Sam’s panel, which I did. During those calls, they ended up asking me to host, which I did. That was live in front of 1,500+ people. After covid hit, in April of 2020, Wizard World approached me about moderating a live streamed Zoom panel with Season 1-3 cast, which was great fun. I think I just started doing the work, saying “yes,” even when I was thinking, “whaaaa?,” and doors would open. I’d say yes again, and gradually I built a body of work, which then helps you get more work.
With so many events and experiences you have been a part of, I am sure its hard to narrow it down to your favourites but do you want to give it a shot?
OK, let’s see. Meeting Diana for the first time.
Watching Episode 109, The Reckoning, as it premiered in front of a live audience. Going to my first performance at the Royal Lyceum theater in Edinburgh, meeting Bill Paterson (Ned Gowan).
Dinner with Graham McTacvish in Cologne, Germany.
Seeing Terry’s Season 2 costumes live in the windows at Macy’s in NYC with my mom.
Photographing Cait and Sam for the first time at that same event (Cait is stunningly beautiful).
Meeting and getting my first hug from Gary Lewis, and meeting all the “guys” early on.
Interviewing Sam and Cait, live, for the first time in NYC and then seeing Ep 301 on the big screen with a live audience
Meeting Gary Steele for the first time, in Glasgow. Seeing Laura Donnelly in The Ferryman with my mom in London. Gillebride MacMillan singing The Woman of Balnain to my mother, acapella, in a large empty room with amazing acoustics, in Linlithgow, Scotland.
Sam’s first MPC Gala at the Kelvingrove in Glasgow with Mom.
A special night out with the BTS Lasses in NYC
All the people I’ve interviewed, but Gary Young (Mr. Willoughby), is a standout.
Standing backstage with Sam, as he watched King Fireman’s tribute to Jamie video for the first time, at Wizard World NOLA, and then interviewing him.
Doing our Wizard World NOLA BTS panel.
And, our fan gathering afterward – seems like a dream now! No masks!
It is lovely to know that it was the BTS chats and moderation with Antoinette, Catherine and Karmen that developed into this wonderful world for you. Those chats do have quite a following in the fandom, what is it, do you think, that draws people to your discussions? Thank you. Based on what people tell me – they like our familiarity with the material, our love for each other, our humor, our ability to discuss intelligently, and disagree civilly, our diversity, and the subject matter expertise of each person. And, we’re fun. We go deep, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
All of that is true. I like to add my favourite bits of the episode chats. From my perspective, I view Outlander in a really weird bubble, I always am disagreeing, agreeing, having wtf moments and laughing my face frozen. It’s the ability to know that you are all coming from a place of kindness, respect and love of the product that makes it a great place to hang out, virtually.
You have a great grasp on the content of the show, I am very curious as to what your vision is for the future of it?My hope for the TV show is that they’ll do all 10 seasons. As long as the audience is there, and I believe it’s still growing, and the core team is willing (Matt, Maril, Caitriona and Sam), I think they’ll continue.
Of course, there is no show without Diana’s books…what is your expectation there? … gosh. I get teary just thinking about the story ending. I know it has to, at some point. We’ll get Bees very soon, and then there’s one more book. I don’t want to know the ending until I read it, at the end of that 10th book. I think I’ll have to have Outlander sitting next to me when I finish it, so I can start all over again and not be consumed by my grief! *wink*
So polish off that crystal ball a little more and tell me how you see Outlander playing out. Plot wise? Well, Sam just let us know that the Christies will be in Season 6, and I’m pretty psyched about that. I just finished re-reading ABOSAA – there is so much in that book. It’s the longest one of all (so far). If it’s well done, and I expect it will be, it’ll be great TV (as Antoinette would say) *smile*.
How about the books? Any wishes that way? And as for Bees, I don’t try to guess ahead. I’m a fan first, and I love just discovering everything as it happens. When Bees comes out, I expect I’ll drop everything and devour it, like everyone else, and I look forward to that. I hope Diana figures out an endless loop type situation for Jamie and Claire, so they’re always alive!
That is the dream! Funny, it is what I have been saying the same for years. Great and twisted minds…Speaking of that mind of yours, what are the things you do to relax and escape? I do most of my relaxing offline. I wasn’t able to read for leisure for 2+ years due to a vestibular injury, so I started using audible. I listen and read now, and love both. I take long walks and runs with our dog, Mocha, in nature. I take Epsom salt baths, I drink chamomile and green tea, and I take naps in a sunny window whenever possible. One of my favorite ways to relax, is hang time, hand grazing or grooming our horse.
I find so many of us in the Outlander Universe are like minded so getting referrals from one another is something I love encouraging. How about books, what are your shares? Funnily enough, I’m reading a book recommendation from Laura Donnelly right now – Shuggie Bain, and I’m loving it. I’m always re-reading an Outlander book – I just finished ABOSAA <sigh>. I recommend The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung. This one’s not an easy read, it’s almost written more for doctors, but it’s worthwhile. I gained a lot of weight between 2016 and 2020, due to illness and injury, and this book helped me understand how to lower my insulin levels. How about movies or binge-watchers? Movies I’ve enjoyed lately with my family are “Ocean’s 11,” “Ocean’s 12,” and “Casino Royale.” I’m not a very good binge watcher, but the closest I’ve come lately is “The Crown,” “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali,” and re-watching all seasons of “Seinfeld,” over many weeks. *SMILE*
This is turning into an awfully long Droughtlander thanks to Covid-19, one I am ok dealing with if it keeps people safe. How are you holding up? Thanks for asking. This has been a challenging year for our family, but also one of tremendous growth and healing. And I agree with you, Sher. Safety, and getting through this as humanely as possible is what’s important.
What have you been doing to stay sane-ish? To stay sane, first, I acknowledge that we are in a unique time, and I try to cut myself and the people around me a break. I go back to the basics, as much as possible. I realize my energy is finite, so I nurture it, and use it for my priorities – my health, my family and loved ones, and my work. Those are my top 3. For me, my health starts with my thoughts. I try to focus on the outcomes I want vs my fears. When I have conflict with someone, I try to work through it consciously, and own my part. I try to practice compassion and forgiveness, and also gratitude. The key word is practice – I’m not always successful, but I don’t beat myself up about it. I get outside and move my body as often as possible. I limit my exposure to news and social media. I have a few reputable sources I go to for updates, and then I take breaks. I avoid going down my habitual mental rabbit holes whenever possible. I work on our home space, continually, because we are always here right now. I’m mindful about what we eat. We started using a local CSA (community supported agriculture), and I have a new love for fresh vegetables. I prioritize my sleep. I cultivate quality time with loved ones, in the house, and afar, and I balance that with alone time. And, I take one day at a time, and give myself permission to rest when I need to. Other than that, we wear masks in public, wash hands, and pretty much stay at home. As my very beloved sister-in-law used to say, “this too shall pass.” I think of those words often.
It is official, my crush has just leveled up. The words you have shared are truth. They are open and kind and I know will help many people find a balance where they may have been falling over. Thank you for them.
Time to give yourself a Tagline, Warning Label and a Theme Song.
OK this one was so hard for me!!!
Tagline: “Smart, fun, and gets it done.” This one was so hard for me! You would not believe how long it took me to come up with that, and it’s just OK.
Warning Label: Spicy when hot
Theme Song: What a Feeling, by Irene Cara
What a feeling is right. This fandom is much more than blogs, podcasts and fan groups. It can be a community of like minded people sharing things they love, bringing laughter, comfort during difficult times and being a family to one another where one may not exist. People like Courtney are at the gooey center of that community. Always a warm, welcoming presence and a place to get great Outlander content. If you didn’t know a lot about the person behind the scenes of Outlander BTS, I think you are the better for it now that you do.
Until next time, stay safe and much love,
The Beav SHER
Have you missed Previous editions of – The LOVELANDER Project – Edition 1 Vida/Blancklanderz Edition 2 Erin/Three if By Space CastEdition 3 Vincent/Supporting Artist Edition 4 Tracy/Outcandour CastEdition 5 Nell Hudson/Laoghaire Cast Edition 6 A Quickie w Kikki Fleming/ Lesley Edition 7 Koko/Outlandish Vancouver Cast Edition 8 Paul Gorman/Josiah and Kezzie Beardsley Edition 9 Chas/ Outlandish Scotland Edition 10 Barry Waldo/ Writer, Producer & husband of Jon Gary Steele Outlander Production Designer Cast Edition 10 Stephen Walters/Angus Mhor
ABOotlander LOve – Previous Interviews – Julia LeBlanc/VideoQueen Summer & Ginger from Outlander Podcast CastDr.Joe Abernathy/Wil Johnson CastAdrienne-Marie/Suzette Beth Wesson/@PixieTwit Connie Verzak@ConnieBV Karmen @OutLandAnatomy Jane @RRankinFans CastSera-Lys McArthur /Johiehon CastCarmen Moore /Wahkatiiosta CastKikkiFleming/ Lesley