Caitriona Balfe: 'Outlander' love story keeps 'expanding'

Caitriona Balfe stars in romantic drama Outlander.   Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
Caitriona Balfe stars in romantic drama "Outlander."   Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Season 5 of the romantic drama Outlander -- set to debut on the Starz app and Starz-on-demand Friday and on Starz Sunday-- shows Claire saving lives in her 18th-century clinic and Jamie ensnared in the events leading up to the American Revolution.

The screen adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's fantasy novels features Caitriona Balfe as Claire, a British, World War II nurse -- and later a surgeon -- who is magically transported to 1700s Scotland, where she falls in love with Jamie, a Scottish Highlands warrior, played by Sam Heughan.


New episodes take place in North Carolina where the star-crossed lovers resettled in Season 4 with their family after decades of complications that separated them and imperiled their lives.

"Claire was a very young woman who wasn't living her life in the present," Balfe recently told the audience at New York Comic Con.

"She was not connected to who she really was and she was in a marriage that was not really true. When you live your life to the fullest and with passion -- like the passion she found with Jamie, like the passion she found in her career -- then you become a whole and full version of yourself. That's who we see Claire as now."


Heughan added: "Jamie started off as a young man. He was very hot-headed. He didn't think before he acted, and now he has become, almost, his Uncle Colum.

"Certainly, he is a politician. He is a laird of sorts. He's grown up. He's become less tempestuous, less impulsive at times, but he's still got that Fraser fire. He's an adult now."

The show weaves together elements of sci-fi and historical fiction, but most fans agree it is the unbreakable bond between Claire and Jamie that keeps them riveted to their screens.

The cast gets that.

"It's so wonderful to be able to play a relationship that keeps growing and growing and deepening and deepening," Balfe said.

"The love that they have for each other just keeps expanding. You don't think that that's possible from Season 1, but it really does. They are there for each other no matter what, and they support each other through really tough, tough times."

"That's the reason Outlander exists, though, isn't it?" chimed in Maria Doyle Kennedy, who plays Jamie's Aunt Jacosta.

"The belief in that love, that it's possible to go through time for each other or lay down their lives or climb mountains or swim seas or also just endure -- that the love lasts is the most incredible thing about it. That's what we see in this season."


Asked what advice Jamie would give his younger self, if he could go back through the time-portal stones, Heughan said, "He can't go through the stones!"

"Don't go near her, your life is going to be a mess," he joked about what he would tell Season 1 Jamie.

"She just turns his world upside-down and I think every time Jamie looks at her, he sees his own demise in that he knows he would do anything for her. He would die for her."

Working in medicine

Claire has been a healer in whatever time period she inhabits, but Season 5 shows her operating in the best clinic she could conceivably set up in the 1700s without being suspected as a witch.

"Claire's created this amazing surgery. We've got this beautiful, beautiful set and I get to do lots of operations this season and it's cool," Balfe said, adding she would be "absolutely lost" without the medical adviser on set to coach her.

"She talks me through exactly what I'm going to do -- everything from how you hold your scalpel to how you tie a one-handed knot. I love learning the procedures and it's great because it's all spongy bits and I can't actually kill anyone."


Gabaldon said Claire is smart enough not to reveal how much she knows about medicine for fear it may raise suspicions that she either is from the future or dabbling in black magic.

"She is a person of good sense. She understands how people work," the author said.

"You can't just take someone and say: 'Everything you know is wrong. Listen to me.' You see how well that works, if you watch TV at all. That won't get you anywhere. You have to start with people where they are and draw them gently toward where you would like them to be. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't."

The writer also hinted she isn't thrilled when the show brings back characters who died in her books.

"When I kill them, they stay dead. No offense to Murtagh or Duncan [Lacroix], but he should have stayed dead," Gabaldon laughed.

The costumes transform the actors

Costumes go a long way toward helping the actors transform into their Outlander characters.

For Balfe, it's the corset that helps her become Claire.

"Once you put on those undergarments, you are just automatically transported to a different time -- that kind of very modern way that we carry ourselves and sit is all dramatically gone," she said. "I think that is the most transformative piece of costume that I wear."


"It used to be the kilt, but now it's the boots," Heughan said. "They just give you more weight and stability and just make you stronger."

Kennedy, whose character is blind, has her trusty cane.

"I use it so much particularly in the beginning to find my way around without looking. And also the wig," she said. "Once I put on the wig on, I disappear and I see her and I don't see myself anymore."

This season, Heughan and Balfe also served as producers on the show.

Heughan hopes the actors' perspectives they offer benefit the set-building, costume and filming teams.

"We can give our input and I think that's been really rewarding, also, on the scripts, as well. We've been privy to some early drafts, which has been really great to be on-board since the beginning," Heughan said.

"It's been really interesting to be able to see the behind the scenes and the work that goes on," Balfe said.

"A lot of this has been us observing and learning and ... watching how each individual department does the work that they do," she added. "Being able to sit in on production meetings and hear what each one of them contributes is eye-opening. As actors you sort of show up on the day and it's like, 'Look at everything that got made!'"


The series' ensemble also includes Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin and Lauren Lyle. Gabaldon is now working on her ninth Outlander novel, Go Tells the Bees That I Am Gone.

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