NEW YORK, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Caitriona Balfe says she did her homework before playing a British former World War II combat nurse who is magically transported through an ancient stone circle to 18th-century Scotland in the small-screen adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's wildly popular Outlander books. "Claire is a woman of the '40s, so I did a lot of research about nurses who worked on the front lines in the Second World War," the 34-year-old Irish actress told UPI in a recent phone interview. "I found some great books that gave first-hand accounts of that and I got to meet with an herbalist and, of course, Diana's book is kind of the bible for us all."
Like the novels, the series follows Claire as she becomes the healer for the clan MacKenzie and falls in love with warrior Jamie, played by Sam Heughan, while trying to make her way back to her own time period and her academic husband Frank, played by Tobias Menzies.
"I can do a mean bandage," Balfe laughed when asked if her research bled over into her real life.
"The herbalist I met a few times -- it was great -- she gave me literature about the different processes that an herbalist would do to make medicines from certain herbs and things. But when we started working, all of that kind of had to fall by the wayside a little bit. But I've got some great books and, when I have some time, I'll delve back into them."
Although she is in constant danger, Claire's thirst for adventure and fulfillment mean she is more satisfied in her new life than she would have been as a retired medic and housewife in the 1940s, Balfe observed.
"We talked a lot about what would Claire's life have been like if she hadn't gone through the stones?" the actress recalled.
"What would have been the conclusion of Frank and Claire? And I strongly believe she wouldn't have been happy if they had moved to Oxford and he had taken up his teaching post and she had been this stay-at-home wife, who had a hobby on the side. I don't think she would have been able to survive in that.
So, in a weird way, this kind of gave her the opportunity to become the best version of herself. In the first season [of the show] and the first book, she is just primarily looking to survive, but I think, as the story progresses, you really see her go out into the world and take in the bigger picture and become this incredibly strong, self-possessed woman."
Outlander airs Saturday nights on Starz. It was recently renewed for a second season.
Balfe is a former fashion model who has also appeared in the films Super 8, Now You See Me and Escape Plan.