New York Comic Con: “Outlander” stars on “intimate,” “cathartic” season

It was a fine morning for lovers of kilts, knitwear and time-travel, as "Outlander" fans descended on the Javits Center in New York City for a wee peek at the show’s forthcoming sixth season.

One of the most anticipated panels of this year’s New York Comic Con — the largest comic convention to return to a live format since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — saw executive producer Maril Davis, "Outlander" series author Diana Gabaldon, and star Sam Heughan take the stage, joined remotely by actors Caitriona Balfe, Lauren Lyle, César Domboy and John Bell

And after a gripping teaser trailer (which you can watch above in full), the cast and crew answered questions from moderator Ruth Kinane of "Entertainment Weekly" and fans in the audience. Asked to use a single word to describe the upcoming season (which arrives in early 2022), the artists opted for "traumatic," "cathartic," "healing" and "intimate," among other such words. 

And while those terms were in this context meant to apply to the events of the story, it sounds as though the process of filming was pretty cathartic and intense all by itself.

"We really bonded," said Balfe, who plays the time-traveling surgeon Claire Fraser, of the experience of filming during a pandemic. Davis noted that their set remained "COVID-free" throughout the shoot, a remark met with enthusiasm and applause from the crowd. 

Davis also made time to acknowledge the mighty contributions of the crew, who she stressed as deserving a great deal of respect and support — comments likely meant to acknowledge the looming strike authorized Monday by members of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employee (or IATSE). 

RELATED: IATSE members in TV, film production vote in favor of first-ever nationwide industry strike

Davis wasn’t alone in heaping praise on her peers and coworkers. Heughan, who plays Claire’s Scots husband Jamie Fraser, singled his on-screen wife out as well, celebrating her strength in navigating such an intense, trying season while pregnant. Balfe announced on Aug. 18 that she’d given birth to her first child with husband Tony McGill. 

And Balfe in turn shared her appreciation for costume designer Trisha Biggar, who she credits with helping her to hide her changing shape as filming progressed. (It’s well-deserved praise — when will someone give Biggar her Emmy?!)

As for what fans can expect of the story in season 6: the only word needed is "drama." Without spoiling much of what’s to come, the actors teased the troubling relationship between Fergus (Domboy) and his whiskey stash, the arrival of a new family on Fraser’s Ridge who disrupts the hard-fought peace and of course, the impending Revolutionary War.

"I was going to say ‘intense,’" joked Heughan, before noting that Davis’s description — "traumatic" — was even more appropriate. 

Based on Diana Gabaldon’s series of the same name, "Outlander" premiered on Starz in 2014, quickly becoming one of the cable network’s biggest hits. The fifth season, which concluded in May 2020, can be viewed with a Starz subscription, while the first four seasons are streaming via both Starz and Netflix. 

Wait out the rest of Droughtlander with these (free) romances on Tubi

How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998): Angela Bassett was already a big star in 1998, thanks to roles in "Waiting to Exhale" and her Oscar-nominated turn as Tina Turner in "What’s Love Got to Do with It," among others. "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" only continued that hot streak. "Stella," adapted (like "Exhale") by Terry McMillan and Ronald Bass from McMillan’s novel of the same name, also introduced the moviegoing public to Taye Diggs, who co-stars as the young guy who prompts the reclamation of Stella’s groove. 

Rated R. 124 minutes. Dir: Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Featuring: Angela Bassett, Whoopi Goldberg, Regina King, Glyn Turman, James Pickens Jr., Barry Shabaka Henley.

Charade (1963): Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn star in this twisty romance, which begins with a murder — as all the best love stories do. 108 minutes. Dir: Stanley Donen. Featuring: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy.

Pretty Woman (1990): What, you’re not going to watch this classic rom-com while it’s streaming for free? Big mistake. Huge. Rated R. 119 minutes. Dir: Garry Marshall. Featuring: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Hector Elizondo

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About the writer: Allison Shoemaker is a Chicago-based pop-culture critic and journalist. She is the author of "How TV Can Make You Smarter," and a member of the Television Critics Association and the Chicago Film Critics Association. She is also a producer and co-host for the Podlander Presents network of podcasts. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @allisonshoe. Allison is a Tomatometer-approved Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes.