When Golden Globe nominee Caitriona Balfe steps onto the red carpet on Sunday night, she’ll have an advantage over the other actresses taking their gowns for a spin. Long before she nabbed the part of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser in the Starz series Outlander, Irish beauty Balfe was walking runways for the likes of Victoria’s Secret and Chanel. And her decade in the fashion trenches has influenced her red carpet choices, inspiring her to don nervy looks like the black Alexander McQueen frock she wore to last year’s Globes. (She’d stomped the McQueen catwalk, too, back when the man himself was still at the house’s helm. “When you’re modeling, you’re there to elaborate the clothes, you can’t forget, the clothes are the story. But as an actress, the clothes are there to elaborate you,” she says, “It’s been an interesting adjustment, learning to express ‘me.’ ”) Now, Balfe says, she’s also taking red carpet cues from her Globe-nominated Outlander role, and channeling the outspoken Claire in her approach. “It’s insane,” Balfe says, “that all we actresses seem to get asked about is what we’re wearing. Those interviews go out all over the world—and we’re in a moment now where, as citizens, we should be seizing that opportunity to speak up, speak our minds about the things we see happening around us. There’s plenty more to talk about than clothes.” Here, Balfe speaks up.
Did you always know you wanted to act, or was that something that grew out of modeling?
I was actually in theater school in Dublin when I got scouted. I was in a supermarket, of all places—collecting money for charity. That led to some local work, and then that local work led to my getting signed by Ford, and going to Paris, which is when I started focusing on modeling full-time. Not, by the way, that I was an instant hit; it was the tail end of that Brazilian glamazon-era, and me being very white and very Irish, I didn’t quite fit. But then, all of a sudden, the thing became pale Belgian girls, which wasn’t me either, but close enough, I guess! That was when I started landing shows like Chanel and Vuitton and Givenchy.
And then what ultimately got you back into acting?
You know, the bug was itching. It’s really hard to step away from a gig that’s fun to do, and where you’re making money, but after six or seven years of being in the modeling routine, I was feeling kind of burnt out, and in need of something else. I was living in New York at the time, and started taking classes. And then I moved to L.A., and kept taking classes there—I’d read an article about Amy Adams, and she’d mentioned her teacher in it, and it turned out the studio was walking distance from my place. Which was very convenient, as I was only just then learning to drive.
So then, a role here and a role there and then, Outlander?
Exactly. I don’t think I even knew how lucky I was to get that part—I mean, I loved Claire, and we’d gotten a full season order for the show, so obviously it was a great gig, but it wasn’t until we were four or five episodes into shooting and I flew to L.A. to do some press, that I realized what a built-in following the shows had. We did this fan event, and all these people who loved the books came out, and they were just clamoring for the show to exist. It was like, ohhhh. This is going to be big.
I’ve never read the books, and honestly, when I first heard about the show, it sounded pretty silly to me. Time-traveling bodice ripper? Eh. But then when I finally watched it, I was really impressed by how meaty the themes are. I mean, there’s a lot of fun in the series, but it’s also unflinching in its exploration of feminist themes like patriarchy and sexual violence and women’s need to control their own reproductive choices.
Yes, yes, yes. I think there have been a lot of skeptics, like you, who have been turned around by actually watching the show—we wouldn’t have had such success, if that weren’t true. Basically, everyone who works on Outlander tries really hard, all the time, to stay focused on the human dimension of the stories we’re telling, and if you’re telling a story about a woman living in a time when women’s rights were severely constricted, those themes are bound to emerge, and you have to take them seriously.
Speaking of things that are silly: When you’re on the red carpet, do you ever get sick of answering the question “what are you wearing?”? I’ve been privy to that experience, and it seems like you ladies get asked that like, a zillion times.
Oh my gosh. It’s surreal. Here you are, at a celebration of your craft, and all people want to know is what you’re wearing. Again and again. And not just that, but even down to—talk about your nail polish! You don’t want to be rude, but. . . . [sighs] I mean, I do appreciate, it’s a great marriage between entertainment and fashion, and I love that I get to borrow these incredible dresses, and designers—especially lesser-known ones, who I do like to support—get great PR out of it. But I do wish I had more opportunity to talk about that work. And not just that. I mean, one of the things that’s inspiring about playing Claire is that she’s this strong woman, standing up against chauvinism, and that’s really made me consider my own responsibilities, as someone who has a platform. I realize some people object to the idea of actors expressing their political opinions, but we’re human beings living in this world, responding to what’s going on, and why shouldn’t we be able to take a stand on what we see as injustice?
Okay, so if you were going to take a stand on something, what would it be?
Well, you know, if you watch Outlander you see stories about rape, about unwanted pregnancy, about women taking matters into their own hands, to provide a solution. To provide a choice. And in the meantime, you see bills like the one just passed in Ohio, where access to abortion services has been rolled back, and there’s no exception for rape or incest. And Planned Parenthood, which provides women crucial medical services aside from abortion, is under attack, and it just seems, at times, like all the rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for are being chipped away.
The thing that’s so odd to me about what’s happening in America, is that it goes against what we’re seeing in other places. I mean, I’m Irish, and in Ireland right now there’s a big movement to make it possible for women to get abortions in instances where their life is in danger—the laws there are so strict, even that’s not a given. There are women fighting for [greater] access to abortion in Poland. Do the women in America really want to go back to that?
I guess it’s a lot easier for red carpet interviewers to ask about your dress. And so, anyway, what will you be wearing?
I haven’t decided! Or, I have; I think I know, but I’m giving myself a second option, just in case.
Caitriona did an interview and photoshoot for The Wrap this morning. Check out the interview and photos in our gallery.
VARIETY – Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen the Outlander Season 2 finale, Episode 13, titled “Dragonfly in Amber.” Refresh your memory of where we left off with our previous “Outlander” recap.
After a season spent barreling towards the Battle of Culloden, it felt like something of a relief to be spared the gory details of that fateful fight, with the Season 2 finale of Outlander spending most of its time focused on what really mattered — Claire and Jamie’s relationship, both in its vibrant immediacy on the morning of the battle, and through melancholy memories that played out across Claire’s face 20 years later as she revisited Scotland. Claire took a monumental journey in the extended episode, moving from grief and repression to a rekindled sense of hope as she realized that Jamie hadn’t died at Culloden, meaning there was still a chance for her to reunite with him, even two decades (and two centuries) after leaving him.
The episode skipped back and forth between the 18th century and Claire’s “present” in 1968, allowing us to meet Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna (Sophie Skelton), and Reverend Wakefield’s dashing adopted son, Roger (Richard Rankin) — as well as catching up with Claire’s Season 1 friend Geillis Duncan — aka Gillian Edgars — before she traveled back through the Standing Stones and met Claire for the first time back in the 1700s.
The finale provided yet another showcase for Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan’s nuanced performances; Heughan exuded both strength and vulnerability as Jamie was forced to say farewell to his wife — and that was after the ordeal of killing his uncle, Dougal, when the war chief discovered them plotting to kill Bonny Prince Charlie in a last-ditch effort to avert Culloden.
“You just see how desperate they’ve become that they would even consider something as horrific as this, but as Claire says, it’s take the life of one to save the lives of thousands,” Balfe says of their scheme. “It’s a really heartbreaking moment for Jamie because no matter what Dougal has done, he’s his uncle, he raised him for a lot of his life and trained him, and there was a very complicated love there, but there was some kind of love there.”
Heughan agrees, telling Variety in our video recap above, “We decided that Claire should be involved in that and that isn’t in the books. I think it makes them both complicit in the murder of Dougal, it makes them both guilty. So they’re united in their desperation of trying to save everyone and everything, and in doing that they’ve had to kill Jamie’s uncle, which doesn’t sit well with him.”
TV INSIDER – Before dawn on a freezing morning last winter, Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, who play soulmates Claire and Jamie Frasier, arrived on set in the rugged Scottish countryside to shoot a heartbreaking scene for the Season 2 finale. The pair soon got chills—and not from the cold.
“When the sun came up, there was this magical layer of snow,” recalls Heughan, who makes fans swoon as the heroic 18th-century Highlander in love with feisty time-traveling former WWII battlefield nurse Claire. “The whole place looked like a Disney set. It was perfect for such a powerful scene,” Balfe adds.
But the action on Outlander, as fans well know, is far from Disney fare. This season has seen the couple challenged by a move to France, the fallout from Jamie’s rape in prison, the devastating loss of their child and now the impending Battle of Culloden, a clash between Scotland and England that will kill thousands and wipe out Highland clan culture, which the duo failed to stop. “Jamie thinks he’s going off to die [in battle],” Heughan teases. “His hand is forced and some of his actions have dire consequences. Ultimately, he and Claire get trapped.”
The action in the supersized 90-minute finale cuts between Claire and Jamie dealing with a disastrous chain of events leading up to the war in Scotland and incidents that happen more than two centuries later, in 1968, when a middle-aged Claire visits Scotland with her 20-year-old daughter, Brianna, or “Bree” (Sophie Skelton), whom she has raised with husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) despite her undying love for Jamie.
To prepare to play an older Claire, Balfe watched films starring some of her favorite actresses—Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep—and compared performances they gave in their twenties to those later in life. Balfe changed the register of her voice, deepening it to give her character more authority, and she even tweaked her posture. “I was interested in how she carries herself, how the weight of experience rests on her,” Balfe says. “In 1968, Claire’s got all of these memories flooding her mind. Everything is unnerving her.”
Claire’s distracted mood doesn’t sit well with Bree, who is suspicious. “She thinks her mom’s lying to her,” Skelton says. “Bree’s a very logical person. She majored in history! And she’s strong-willed.”
The mother-daughter tension builds to a powerful argument. The scene, created by writer-producers Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts, was penned before the rest of the script so it could be used to audition actresses for the part of Bree. The moment will be familiar to readers of the bestselling Outlander novels—but not an exact copy. “We’re very mindful of the mass of loyal book fans,” Roberts says. “We try to give them what they want, just not how they expect it.”
The quarreling mother and daughter get a mediator in the form of another new face in the series, a grown-up Roger Wakefield (Richard Rankin), whom viewers met in previous episodes as a boy in 1940s Scotland. “Roger’s intelligent both academically and emotionally, and he’s quite charming,” says Rankin, a Scottish actor who grounded himself in the role by spending two weeks in the Highlands before shooting began and found a visit to the Culloden battlefield “deeply haunting.”
Roger is instantly smitten with Bree, and the two soon join forces to unlock some secrets from the past. “For her, it’s more about the excitement of solving this puzzle,” Skelton says. “Bree isn’t very easily swept off her feet.”
A good portion of the finale, however, deals with Claire’s inner emotional life in 1968 as she revisits some of the places she knew with Jamie in the 1700s, including their onetime home, a now dilapidated Lallybroch. “It was really sad because it looked so abandoned and discarded,” Balfe says. “It’s the tragedy of time and what it does to places.”
No matter how time and fate conspire to drag Claire and Jamie apart, “This is a love story. They’re lovers who are meant to be together,” Graphia says. “It’s safe to say they’ll always find each other. We just don’t know when, where and how.”
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – The critically-favored period drama will be on the pay cable network for the foreseeable future.
Starz is committing to at least two more seasons of Outlander, renewing the series with an order that will cover the third and fourth novels in Diana Gabaldon’s sprawling source material.
The cable network announced the news on Wednesday, a few weeks into the sophomore season’s run, noting that the books Voyager and Drums of Autumn will be adapted during the upcoming seasons.
“Outlander is like nothing seen before on television,” boasted Starz CEO Chris Albrecht in a statement. “From its depiction of a truly powerful female lead character, to the devastating decimation of the Highlander way of life, to what is a rarely seen genuine and timeless love story, it is a show that not only transports the viewer, but inspires the passion and admiration of its fans. On this 25th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the U.S., we are thrilled and honored to be able to continue the story that began with author Diana Gabaldon, and is brought to life by the incredibly talented Ronald D. Moore. There are no better storytellers for Outlander than this team, both in front and behind the camera.”
The network has no reason to slow on its commitment to the franchise. Produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining and Supply Company, and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television, the second season is has been outperforming the first in early time-shifting data. The initial run, 16 episodes spread out in two runs, averaged 5 million multiplatform viewers per episode.
Outlander premiered with a built-in audience. The book series, with eight titles in total, has sold more than 26 million copies worldwide.
This renewal does not include a set episode count, and Starz has already proven that it’s happy to be a little loose with the Outlander roll-out. After the second batch of season one episodes, the show was off the air for more than a year.
LOS ANGELES TIMES – The first season of the Starz historical romance epic “Outlander,” based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon, saw heroine Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) travel back 200 years to the 1740s where she soon fell in love with the equally heroic Scot Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). She also found a nemesis in the odious Black Jack Randall, a captain in the occupying British army and the ancestor of Claire’s 1940s husband, Frank (both played by Tobias Menzies). That season ended with Jack brutalizing Jamie before Claire saved him from capture; the couple then escaped to France. This season finds the lovers infiltrating the French court, plotting to save their Scottish way of life.
Gathered in a Hollywood hotel penthouse for a photo shoot and an interview with The Envelope, the three actors briefly pose as Charlie’s Angels. They each have legions of fans: Caitriots, Heughanots and Menziatics. When asked whose group is the fiercest, Balfe and Menzies simply point at Heughan.
Men, how does it feel to be objectified?
Menzies: It’s a curiosity of the show that that role is reversed.
Balfe [pointing to her body]: Nobody’s interested in this. They’re like, “Put your clothes back on, love. But you!” [Pointing to the men]
Menzies: But it’s Jamie more than Jack or Frank.
Balfe: There’s Team Frank. There’s also team Jack, which is — let’s not talk about those ladies.
Heughan: I don’t really pay any attention to it. Are we objectified?
Balfe: I sometimes get indignant on your behalf. The way that the women speak about Sam sometimes, if a guy was ever saying those things about an actress, there would be an uproar. I always want his acting prowess and his talent to be front and center.
VARIETY – This post contains spoilers for “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 2, titled “Not in Scotland Anymore.” To refresh your memory on the Season 2 premiere and Claire and Jamie’s run-in with Le Comte St. Germain, check out last week’s recap.
After Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) eventful arrival in France last week, episode 202 throws the Frasers headfirst into the political machinations of the royal court, bringing a number of memorable new characters into their orbit, while further exploring the emotional and physical distance that has grown between the couple since the events of the Season 1 finale.
The episode opens with Jamie and Claire in a moment of intimacy, but quickly takes a darker turn when Claire morphs into Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) in the middle of the act, prompting Jamie to viciously stab him until both are covered in blood. Since this is a nightmare, Jack’s eyes snap chillingly back open, and Jamie awakes in a cold sweat, leaving a concerned Claire in bed while he decides to try and get some work done, in what has obviously become a nighttime ritual for them.
“He’s still troubled by what happened to him and like every guy is not really dealing with the issue,” Heughan tells Variety. “He puts it to one side and throws himself into this mission to change history. It puts a strain on their relationship because they’re not really connecting, not really dealing with [what happened to him].”
This week, Jamie has his first meeting with Bonny Prince Charlie (in a brothel, no less), in order to try and forestall the Jacobite uprising that Claire knows will lead Charles’ followers to a crushing defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Arrogant and entitled despite his exile, Charles Stuart is used to getting his way. (Take a shot of whisky every time he says “mark me” this season, if your liver is strong enough.)
“You now realize why this true historical figure was so inspiring to men but also so dangerous and such a fool,” Heughan notes. “He’s this young man who’s been brought up in exile abroad and been fed all this propaganda by his father and the people around him. He believes when he arrives in Scotland, he’ll be greeted by crowds of adoring people and he probably arrived on a cold bleak day in Scotland and there were only a few thousand people there. So he’s a great character, and it’s interesting to see Jamie — who is not a Jacobite supporter and is in fact the opposite — have to play along with that.”
Despite the fact that “Jamie’s forced into this friendship because he’s trying to manipulate” Charles, Heughan says that the two men “do form this bond, and at some point, Jamie becomes his only ally … That’s what this season’s about — friends are also enemies, it’s really uneven ground. In a weird way, I think Jamie actually feels sorry for him; he’s also an outsider, he shouldn’t be in control of men and he shouldn’t be in the position he’s in.”
Claire, meanwhile, has become acquainted with the demure Mary Hawkins and Parisian socialite Louise de Rohan — who facilitates her entree into the court of Louis XV at Versailles (and the joys of bikini waxing) — but our heroine is finding herself suffocated by the expectations placed on women of the period.
“It’s a whole new set of constraints, in a way,” Caitriona Balfe points out. “Weirdly, Claire as an outsider in Scotland had almost more freedom, because she was different and because she was regarded as a crazy Sassenach and they would roll their eyes at her, but now in Paris … especially because they’re doing something dubious and underhanded, they feel they have to keep up appearances and conform. Her frustration is epic, and I could feel it building in her because she wasn’t given anything to do. Jamie is sent out and she gives him this mission to keep his mind active and away from thinking about the events of last season, but she’s not a woman who’s content sitting at home and going to visit ladies and drinking tea and gossiping.”
ACCESS HOLLYWOOD – [Warning: This story contains spoilers from Saturday’s episode of Outlander, “Not in Scotland Anymore.”]
Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies also break down Bonnie Prince Charlie’s introduction and Frank’s return.
It takes a lot more than a cattle stampede to take Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) down on Outlander.
Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) initially believed that their escape from Wentworth Prison resulted in Black Jack’s death back in the season one finale. But Claire learned from his brother, Alexander Randall (Laurence Dobiesz), that he was only injured in the stampede, and was still very much alive. Claire received the shocking news with a horrified look on her face, faced with the knowledge that she would have to be the one to break the news to Jamie that his tormenter still walked the earth … or did she have to tell him at all?
Unbeknownst to the news that just rocked Claire’s world, Jamie pushed forward in his mission to finally meet Bonnie Prince Charles (Andrew Gower) to sabotage the Jacobite rebellion from the inside. When Jamie came face-to-face with the iconic figure, he finally realized why the rebellion would fail: Charlie was not the man everyone he thought he was.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Balfe, Menzies and Heughan about Black Jack’s fate, the eye-opening introduction of Bonnie Prince Charles and more.
Now that Claire knows Black Jack is still alive, how does that knowledge affect her going forward?
Caitriona Balfe: There’s a great fear that this is going to be something that breaks Jamie. She felt that they were finally getting to a place where they could put that to rest. Even though she still sees Jamie struggling with the torment of all that happened last season, she felt like they were perhaps on the road to recovery. Now with the knowledge that he’s actually not dead and his brother is now in Paris, she’s so scared that it’s going to break Jamie.
Caitriona and Sam will be on Entertainment Tonight facebook page LIVE tomorrow, January 07, answering fan questions.
Several photos from the Outlander Season 2 Press Day held in Glasgow (Scotland) back on August 22nd have now been added to the gallery! Caitriona looked splendid as always. Thanks to Far Far Away for the HQs!