Caitriona Balfe was born in Dublin, Ireland, in October 4, 1979 and grew up in the village of Tydavnet, near Monaghan, in a family of seven.
She started modelling after she was scouted by an agent while collecting money for charity at a local mall. At nineteen, after working as a model in Dublin for a few months, she caught the attention of a Ford Models scout, who offered her the chance to work for them in Paris. Some of her career’s highlights include opening the Chanel Autum/Winter 2002 Haute Couture show, and walking in several fashion shows for notable brands: Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodrigues, Moschino, Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Max Mara, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Oscar de La Renta, Burberry, Alexander McQueen and more. Also doing advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Max Mara, Oscar de la Renta, Bally, Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino, Victoria’s Secret and H&M. She also walked in 2002 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and was covers for magazines such Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle.
At the height of her career she was considered to be in the Top 20 of most in-demand models in the world, and she’s also generally regarded as the most successful ever Irish fashion model.
Reflecting on her career, Balfe commented: “Modeling wasn’t a passion of mine so that made it get old kind of quickly. I was getting very frustrated.” She has stated that she will not return to modeling full time; although she continues to do occasional modeling jobs with people she has previously worked with, such as photographer James Houston, who, in 2013, featured Balfe in his Natural Beauty series, photographing her in the Antelope Canyon.
While living in New York, Balfe played the minor role of an employee of the magazine Runway in the 2006 The Devil Wears Prada. In 2009, after a ten-year modeling career, she returned to her innitial career choice and moved to Los Angeles, spending her first year and a half in the city exclusively taking acting classes, first at the Warner Loughlin Studios and then at the Sanford Meisner Center and the Judith Weston Studios. She then appeared in films as Super 8, Now You See Me, and Escape Plan.
In 2012 she portrayed Alex #34 in The Beauty Inside, a social film divided into six episodes which narrates the story of a man named Alex who wakes up in a different body every day. In 2003 she starred in the music videos for First Fires, by British musicial Bonobo, and for Chroloform by French band Phoenix, the latter directed by Sophia Coppola.
She also was part of the main cast of the Warner Bros. web series H+: The Digital Series during 2012 and 2013. She played Breanna Sheehan, one of the executives of a biotechnology company that develops an implanted computer which allows people to be connected to the Internet 24 hours a day.
In 2013 Caitriona was cast as the lead character on the Starz television series Outlander, based on the novels written by Diana Gabaldon. The series premiered in August 2014. In 2015 it was announced that Balfe was cast on the film Money Monster, directed by Jodie Foster and starred by George Clooney and Julia Roberts.
Caitriona received in 2015 a Saturn Award nomination for Best Actress on Television for her work in Outlander. She also received a nomination for Best Actress in a Lead Role Drama for the Irish Film & Television Awards. In May 2015, the Irish Film & Television Academy announced that Balfe would also be nominated for the Rising Star Award.