THE LAST MAGAZINE – For the 36-year-old, Dublin-born former model Caitriona Balfe, acting was a long time coming. “I’ve always wanted to act since I was a kid and it was something I did in local theater and school theater, all of those things,” she recalls over the phone from Los Angeles. “Then, when I left high school, I started a degree in theater studies in Dublin and it was when I was there that I got scouted and given this opportunity to go to Paris, and that opportunity at the age of eighteen seemed like a good idea.”
And who could blame her? Balfe moved to Paris and went on to model for almost a decade, walking for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, and dozens of others, and starring in campaigns for the likes of Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret, Dolce & Gabbana, and more.
It was when she was later living in New York, almost ten years after leaving school to first work in France, that she started to reevaluate the course of her career. “I sort of got to the point where I had been very in fashion, I had some great years, and then it sort of felt like I wasn’t excited by it anymore and I wanted to do the thing that I had always felt was the thing I was supposed to be doing,” she says. Balfe signed up for acting classes in New York and, soon after, quit modeling and moved to Los Angeles.
At first, it was a slow move to the screen. “Well, it’s crazy. I mean, I was thirty,” explains Balfe. “To walk into that industry with no credits and start at the bottom—a lot of people were like, ‘Ah, you’re crazy.’ You definitely need a little delusion [to keep on going].”
It took Balfe three and a half years of auditioning, with the occasional bit part coming eventually, before she landed her breakthrough role—the sharp, strategically driven, sexually empowered Claire, the lead character in Ronald Moore’s historical fantasy Outlander on Starz. In the series, Claire jumps from her life as a nurse in post-World War II, 1945 England to eighteenth-century, violent, and pre-parliamentary Scotland.