It can be a blessing and a curse to star in a long-running TV show and Irish actress Caitriona Balfe has been stepping into the shoes of Outlander’s Claire Fraser for over 70 episodes.
One might think that playing the same character for so long could be difficult for an actor but Caitriona feels differently. In an interview with industry title, Variety she revealed:
“There’s a comfortability [sic] you have because you’ve been playing this character so long but I think every season is so different and this season we explore such a different side of Claire. Before, Claire – especially last season – was very much focused on her professional life and this idea that she was this trailblazing, professional women in the ’50s and ’60s, and that was really gratifying to play.”
She added, “But you also have to realise that as a woman your nurturing side, your marriage, your being a mother, all of that is just as important. To ignore either side of Claire would just not make her the fully rounded person that I’m so lucky to get to play.”
The much-loved show, now in its fourth season, charts the lives of time travelling Claire and her 18th century love, Jamie (played by Sam Heughan). Fans have seen the pair meet, via some cosmic time travelling stones, before enduring separation, war and loss over decades.
Now settled in America, Claire and Jamie are trying to build a life for themselves in the New World. Fans of the show are used to the lovers being parted but according to the show’s star, they could be together for good now. Caitriona says:
“This is definitely the most solid they’ve been. We definitely don’t have any cliff hangers anymore about will they, won’t they. Now that they’ve made that decision to stay together, I think this is it; this is our couple and so the drama will be in the external forces… but as a couple, they’re very solid which is nice”.
While the show will no doubt continue to dish out triumph and tragedy for the star crossed duo, fans will be pleased to hear it looks like the couple will stay together. With two more seasons confirmed there are many adventures yet to come for Caitriona’s Claire and her Jamie.
Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Debra Birnbaum chats with “Outlander” star Caitriona Balfe about the fourth season of the hit Starz show. As Claire Randall, a time-traveling nurse balancing both family and love, Balfe finds herself juggling romance with some horrors of early American life in the new season.
“Claire, especially last season, was very much focused on her professional life and this idea that she was this trailblazing professional women in the ’50s and ’60s, and that was really gratifying to play,” Balfe says.
This season, though, the actress continues, “we get to see this woman, and this couple, choose their home and sort of choose how they want to live their life and what that community that they want to build from the ground up, what that will become.”
Some of the challenges of the new season came for Balfe with a storyline that saw her character encountering slavery up close and person, as well as one in which Native American characters force Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan) to confront land expansion.
“I think in this process of adaptation… it’s a fine line of how you tell these stories,” Balfe says. “Those are never nice subjects when you have to come upon them, but I think it’s important that those conversations are still happening. You have to address it.”
“Outlander” saw immense success as an eight-part book series, but when the television adaptation aired in 2014, Balfe says she wasn’t sure if the series would stick around. Luckily, she says, fans of the books also took to the show, which now boasts four seasons and more than 70 episodes.
“They really embraced us from the start, but…what’s been so nice is that we’ve managed to branch out of that, and the show has sort of won its own fans,” Balfe says. “It’s been quite a wild ride, but it’s been a good one.”
The secret behind the adaptation’s success, she believes, is executive producer Ronald D. Moore whose inspiration for the show comes from the books themselves.
“I think that if you have people who are in the show [and] who are making the show, if they are fans, they retain the essence of what the book fans really love,” Balfe says.
At the same time, however, she says both Moore and the show’s other executive producers are still able to make each episode tell its own story. After all, “you still have to make TV for TV’s sake,” she says.
Caitriona and Sam are interviewed about Outlander season 4 with JoBlo.
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.”
There a bunch of Outlander interviews that were previously done but are now only surfacing this week. Most of them are of Caitriona with Sam. I’ve made a master post to post them all in one spot for easy viewing. They make me so excited for Outlander season 4 this weekend!! Enjoy.
Caitriona talks about what Halloween was like in Ireland as a kid, the unique spelling of her name, shooting ‘Outlander’ all over the World and their crazy fanbase.