Caitriona Balfe, Coming to America in Outlander Season 4, Grapples With the Depiction of Slavery Onscreen
New York’s Madison Square Garden is home to countless arena concerts and basketball games with screaming fans. It is not, however, typically the place you’d go to meet the cast of your favorite TV show. But not every TV show is Outlander. “It was insane,” said Caitriona Balfe, a few days after a New York Comic Con event in October that had her and the show’s cast take the stage at MSG’s Hulu Theater. “We basically played Madison Square Garden, and I can’t sing and I don’t box and I can’t play basketball, so that was very cool.”
As the star of one of television’s most popular series, which returns for its fourth season this Sunday, Balfe should be used to a fan base that might rival even Directioners or Swiifties. “It’s such a cool thing to happen and to be part of something that really speaks to people that people feel so invested in that they then go and dress up as the characters,” Balfe said. “It’s really wild. I’ve never get used to that…I’m the laziest person. If i have to line up for anything, I’m out.”
Not as if she’d have the time. The 39-year-old Irish actress has spent the last 10 months in Scotland shooting the upcoming season, on which she’ll reprise her lead role as Claire, a World War II nurse who finds herself traveling through time. “It’s always really daunting before you start, but once you’re in it, it’s really fine,” she said. “That first day back on set is just so exciting to see everybody and to catch up. We do still enjoy each other’s company and making the show that we’re making, so that is definitely a benefit.”
This season begins with Claire and her love Jamie (played by Sam Heughen) settling in North Carolina in the 18th century, following the book plot of the series’ fourth installment, “Drums of Autumn.” Despite the new fictional location, the show still filmed in Scotland, as it has with all the previous seasons. “As we say, trees in one place can pretty much look like trees in another place,” noted Balfe, adding that shooting in the country can be “quite intense.” “This winter, we suffered because Scotland had one of the coldest winters that they’ve had in a very long time,” she said. “But we’re a resilient bunch. I think after shooting in Scotland for five years, you become quite hearty.”
The new time period, however, did allow for some changes in outfits for Claire, much to Balfe’s delight. “A lot of the times you’ll do the fittings way at the beginning of the season, before you even get a script, so it is always quite a funny thing because you are like, ‘Where will this be? What will i be doing?’ It’s part of the process that I like; what you wear has such a reflection on who you are and where you are in your life,” she said. “This season especially, because so much of it is the new frontier and Claire as a settler and building this log cabin from scratch and living in the wilderness, my whole thing was it needs to be practical. So it was great; we got rid of the corsets, we got rid of the bumroll. It was cool to find Claire’s everyday, relaxed, man-about-the-house look.”
The new season will see Claire and Sam attempting to build a home, just as America as we know it is being settled, presenting both the actors and crew with new challenges. “Playing a character coming from the late ‘60s and going to North Carolina and ending up on a slave plantation, that was such a difficult thing to shoot,” she said. “We were constantly having discussions with the writers about is what we’re doing right now being respectful and telling the story. A lot of the responsibility lies on the writers’ heads because they determine what is in the script, but as actors you definitely try to fight your cause for what you feel is the most respectful as possible narrative. Anyone dealing with anything historical has to go through those questions.
“I have the easiest role to play in that way because Claire’s views and opinions are much closer to my own,” she continued. “Sam and Jamie are looking through things through the lens of an 18th century person and sometimes that can be a lot more complicated. But I hope we’ve done justice to those issues and looked at them in a way that’s been respectful.”
In her own life, Balfe voices her own opinions clearly, with an active Twitter account that does not shy from current social and political issues. “In some ways, I get a lot of grief online with people saying I’m trying to push this feminist agenda with the show, which I think is absolutely insane, because we are following the story of a book by a woman who has two degrees and raised a family and has a wonderful career, so if you are reading those books and don’t think Diana is just a living, walking example of what a feminist is, whether or not she’s trying to push any agenda, then you’re obviously reading with a hood over your head,” she said. “The way I look at it, every single person has the responsibility to be an informed and active member of the human race. I will always fight for whatever injustice I see happening and try to shine a light on that, because I can. But I don’t think that anyone has to listen to me. They can read my Twitter feed or they can’t. It’s a very easy thing to do. There’s a lot of people’s Twitter feeds I don’t read.”
Again, she also doesn’t have time for it. In her hiatus between Outlander seasons, Balfe is wrapping Ford v. Ferrari, the upcoming film about the feud between, yes, Ford and Ferrari, co-starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon. “It’s been so wonderful. Working with Christian has been such a dream and he is such an incredible actor and such a nice guy,” she said. “Also Matt Damon is so lovely, and it has been such a treat to work with him. It’s been so cool to do something different. The whole thing has such a different feel than Outlander. It feels like a little vacation, but a really exciting one.”
Some Like It Scot
“Claire has finally come back to him,” Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) says of his on-screen wife, played by Caitriona Balfe. “This season is definitely the beginning of a new world and a new hope for them.”
Too Scot To Handle
Jamie and Claire enjoy the fine things that come with staying at Aunt Jocasta’s plantation. But how she runs her property is a big NOPE. “It’s a very beautiful place, and it has this great wealth and opportunity,” says Heughan. “But Jamie certainly doesn’t agree with the sort of politics or the slave trade.”
Scot and Bothered
“Of course there are moments of problems, of trials and tribulations, but overall I would say it’s much more hopeful this season,” says Caitriona Balfe (Claire).
Feeling Scot, Scot, Scot
“There’s a stability and a sense of calm between Jamie and Claire that we probably have not seen before, but obviously the price that she’s had to pay for that is not seeing her daughter,” says Balfe of her character.
“I think there’s something of a likeness between Claire and Aunt Jocasta,” Balfe says of the character played by Maria Doyle Kennedy. “But I think for Claire it’s very hard to get past the fact that she’s a plantation owner and that she owns slaves.”
In Scot Pursuit
“In many ways Claire’s function is very much the wife and the homemaker this season,” explains Balfe. “That is very different from the character that we’ve seen throughout the seasons before. I struggled with that a little bit in the beginning. Is this the same woman? What are we doing? How are we portraying this woman?”
Scot and Spicy
“They’re both still stubborn,” says Balfe of Jamie and Claire. “That’s never going to go away. I’m sure there are things that will come up and they’ll butt heads, but I think this is definitely the most in sync they’ve been in a while.”
Scot as Hell
“Sam has always been the greatest guy,” says Balfe. “He’s created this incredible career. He does so much. I just am so proud of him.”
Scot to Trot
“We were just overjoyed that they gave us a couple more seasons,” says Heughan. “It feels like there’s a new life and new energy this season as well as how it will be different because we’re in America. I think it’s going to be good. It’s going to be really refreshing.”
I’ve added a photo of the cover as well as the photo session inside. I am working on getting scans but it seems the magazine is not available to purchase digitally. If anyone is able to get scans and share them with us, please do! Thank you!
Irish Actress Caitriona Balfe Lands Hollywood Role
Outlander star Caitriona Balfe discusses staying grounded while being swept up in the madness that is starring in one of television’s most popular shows in an exclusive interview for Irish Tatler’s July issue.
Irish Tatler’s July cover star Caitriona Balfe sat down with Shauna O’Halloran to talk about the “wild ride” of stardom she has experienced over the last few years, revealing what it is really like on the set of Outlander, how she remains down-to-earth, and how it feels to witness the #MeToo movement unfold up-close as a Hollywood actress.
She also confirmed that she is to start filming on a new sure-to-be blockbuster alongside Christian Bale and Matt Damon this summer in LA. “It’s a lot of fast cars, hot men, and me!” the actress said when quizzed about the movie, which will be a biopic of mechanic and race car driver Ken Miles set in the 1960s.
In the exclusive system, Balfe also describes how her time as a young model affected her self-esteem. “Your confidence and your self-esteem is in the toilet after you’ve been in the business that long,” said the star, who was once ranked in the top 20 models in the world, walking the catwalk for Chanel, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and more. “Most models I know have terrible self-esteem, which is a crazy thing.”
Caitriona also shares details of her wedding plans in the issue, which hits newsstands today, and donned some of this summer’s most romantic dresses by Valentino and Louis Vuitton in an exclusive shoot.
Also in the July issue of Irish Tatler is our ultimate holiday shopping special, with shoes, bags and bikinis to wear by the pool, the lowdown on the latest tanning waters, fashion buys for a summer in the city and our Weddings Special, featuring everything the budding bride to be needs to know. Out now.
Irish Actress Caitriona Balfe on Outlander, Sam Heughan, #MeToo, and Matt Damon
Caitriona Balfe talks to Shauna O’Halloran about life on Outlander, wedding plans and why women have had enough of Hollywood’s shitty behaviour (her words, not ours).
A pair of stonewashed Levi’s 501s, flat white converse and a little white T-shirt are all that Caitriona Balfe needs to rock up to a day’s shooting in North London, and still have a full crew comment on how beautiful she is in real life. It’s never something I like to lead with in interviews – we’re here to discover the person, after all – but I do feel that to not mention it would be a shame, because she is quite stunning, even when off-duty.
It’s not that much of a surprise of course. The Monaghan native was once one of the most sought after runway models in the world, having been spotted by a Ford Models scout in Dublin. At 18, she was opening and closing shows in Paris for Chanel, Moschino, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, to name a few.
And this humble glossy is just one of many she’s graced the cover of – with Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle magazines all having starred Caitriona over the years. So no wonder there was literally not one bad shot to be found in the photographer’s edit.
Today however, Caitriona Balfe is known best to most of the world as Claire Beauchamp Randall – Outlander’s time travelling 1950s nurse who falls for a dashing highland warrior by the name of Jamie Fraser, played by her costar Sam Heughan.
The show, now on series four, is based on a series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and to say it has mega fandom is an understatement. Having taken up acting after her modelling career, Outlander was Caitriona’s first major role and has propelled her into a stratosphere with over five million viewers per episode. How, I wonder, is that?
“It’s been such a wild ride!” She tells me as we sit down to interview. She’s back filming in Scotland for her fourth season and we already know that seasons five and six are a go, so Claire is going to be part of Caitriona’s life for some time to come. “I was cast late into the proceedings. I got cast on the 11th of September and I was in Scotland [for fittings and filming] on the 15th of September 2013. I guess I knew about two days before they announced it!” she says of the whirlwind entry into Outlander.
It didn’t take long, however, for Caitriona to realise the scope her new role was going to have. “After we filmed about four episodes Sam and I were taken to LA and we did a fan event. Nobody had seen anything and there was over two thousand people at this fan event…having not seen one minute of footage. We came out on stage and everyone was just screaming!”
The core fan base has stuck with them as the seasons have gone on and Outlander has won multiple awards. Caitriona, too, has been widely recognised for her role with 20 plus nominations and a host of Best Actress wins from institutions like the People’s Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, the Saturn Awards, IFTA and BAFTA.
One of the notable points of the drama series is the sparky on-screen chemistry between her and Heughan during their many steamy scenes together. So much so that people have had a hard time believing that they’re not a couple in real life. No matter how much the actors insist.
Outlander: Inside Jamie and Claire’s ‘rough’ adventure, plus season 4 intel
Put away those steel drums and forget about the Planter’s Punch: Though Jamie and Claire are about to set sail for Jamaica in Sunday’s episode of Outlander, it will be anything but a Caribbean vacation for the not-so-euphorically happy couple.
“There are no umbrella drinks going on,” teases executive producer Matthew B. Roberts. “It is rough going for both of them.”
In breathless anticipation of the drama’s final five episodes, EW returned to Scotland to chat with Caitriona Balfe (Claire Randall Fraser) and Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) about the passionate reunion of their characters in episode 5 and how love doesn’t necessarily conquer all when so much time has passed.
“The hard work in any relationship is getting beyond the fantasy,” Balfe tells EW. “That’s when all the truth comes out and Claire learns everything. You want it all to go smooth sailing. But reality is never like that. It’s not the Disney dream.”
But something magical will happen in the coming episodes. For this week’s cover, EW is offering fans an exclusive first look of the fancy togs Claire and Jamie don to attend a lavish ball in Jamaica. If you think the costumes look familiar, then you would be right; the couple wore them at the Palace of Versailles during season two.
“It’s an Easter egg,” says costume designer Terry Dresbach of Jamie’s smart suit and Claire’s sumptuous saffron gown. It’s also historically accurate to re-purpose the outfits. “In the 18th century, people would have an item of clothing for their entire lifetime,” she adds. “So things got remade, repaired, and reconfigured. We will see that a lot in Outlander coming up.”
For the next issue of Entertainment Weekly, we’ll give some hints about what Claire and Jamie will encounter in the Caribbean while on the hunt for Young Ian (John Bell). We’ll also share some secrets about season 4, like how a green pasture in Scotland will double as a North Carolina plantation owned by Aunt Jocasta, a key character in the new year that will be played by Maria Doyle Kennedy.
And good news, Sassenachs! We’ve created another trio of Outlander covers to go with the last set. The first two below, featuring Heughan and Balfe individually, will be available to subscribers and on newsstands Friday. The third, showing the two actors together, will be available exclusively at Barnes & Noble stores beginning Tuesday, Aug. 29.
I’ve added a bunch of new additions to the gallery. Big thanks to FFA for some of the Outlander images. Enjoy!
I’ve added a bunch of missing magazine scans to the gallery both recent and from earlier this year. Thanks to my friend Alikat for some of these. For scans of Sam (Jamie Fraser) check out my fansite, Sam-Heughan.com. Enjoy!