Sea­son 3 of Out­lander a ‘real wild ad­ven­ture’

Fan­tasy series re­sumed with sep­a­ra­tion of leads, but show driven by more than ro­mance


Spoiler alert: This story con­tains spoil­ers for Out­lander.

If you think of fan­tasy drama Out­lander and you think “bodice rip­per,” think again.

While the show’s in­tense ro­mance be­tween an 18th-cen­tury high­lander and a 20th-cen­tury nurse is a big part of its ap­peal for fans, Caitri­ona Balfe, who plays time trav­eller Claire Beauchamp, is very clear there’s more to the char­ac­ter than just her love for Jamie Fraser.

In fact, at the start of Sea­son 3, which be­gan Sept. 10 and con­tin­ues Sun­days at 9 p.m. on W Net­work, Claire and Jamie are sep­a­rated. Jamie (Sam Heughan) com­pelled a preg­nant Claire to re­turn to the 1940s at the end of Sea­son 2 as he pre­pared to fight the Bat­tle of Cul­lo­den in 1746, in which Scots loyal to Charles Stu­art, known as Bonnie Prince Char­lie, waged a doomed bat­tle to put him on the Bri­tish throne.

“I think what I love most about (Claire) is that she loves so pas­sion­ately; she has this huge ca­pac­ity for em­pa­thy, but she lives her life in a very full way be­cause she feels so deeply about things,” says Balfe, who was in Toronto last week for in­ter­views.

And while Claire and Jamie have ob­vi­ous pas­sion for each other, Balfe says Claire’s pas­sion ex­tends to oth­ers in her life.

“She has a huge ca­pac­ity for feel­ing and will carry that into any sit­u­a­tion. And I think that’s such an in­cred­i­ble qual­ity.”

In this Sun­day’s episode, Claire and Jamie are still strug­gling in their dif­fer­ent time pe­ri­ods; he with the re­stric­tions im­posed by the English af­ter the Scot­tish de­feat at Cul­lo­den and the loss of Claire; she with the re­stric­tions im­posed on women of her era and the loss of Jamie.

We know the pair will re­unite at some point, a re­union that was fore­told last sea­son when Claire re­turned to Scot­land in the 1960s and dis­cov­ered that Jamie had not died at Cul­lo­den.

Balfe said the way that meet­ing has been “con­structed is quite un­ex­pect- ed and I love the way that the writ­ers de­cided to ap­proach that.”

“And I think in the lat­ter part of the sea­son, when you see where this jour­ney takes these two char­ac­ters, it con­stantly just shifts di­rec­tion and it’s a real wild ad­ven­ture. Peo­ple are gonna be like, ‘Wait, what hap­pened?’ but I think it’s all . . . very ex­cit­ing.”

The new di­rec­tion has also been ex­cit­ing for Balfe as an ac­tor.

She re­called test­ing for the role of Claire in 2013 and know­ing noth­ing about the Out­lander books by Diana Ga­bal­don that in­spired the TV show. “But I went to my book­store and I was like, ‘Do you have this book? I think it’s called Out­lander.’ They had one copy left and I spent that week­end read­ing it.”

The role seemed like fun, but she had no idea then about the other books in the series or that play­ing Claire would bring her to the at­ten­tion of such a de­voted group of fans.

Now she’s pre­par­ing to shoot Sea­son 4.

“For an ac­tor, that’s a very long time to be em­ployed and it’s been bril­liant,” says Balfe, a na­tive of Dublin. “But on a per­sonal level, you know I’ve grown so much from this show.”

She also says it’s been spe­cial to be taken into the com­mu­nity of Out­lander fans and be “part of some­thing much big­ger than you.” And the fame she’s gained has al­lowed her to sup­port the char­ity World Child Cancer, which helps chil­dren with cancer in the de­vel­op­ing world. But back to the act­ing. “I think, as an ac­tor, the dan­ger is if you’re re­peat­ing your­self over and over again that you get com­pla­cent and you get bored and stop be­ing chal­lenged,” she says.

“I think that when you’re part of a show that does move so much, not just in terms of lo­ca­tion and all that, but the story and char­ac­ter; their emo­tional jour­ney moves so much it re­ally al­lows you to keep the same level of ex­cel­lence all the time.”

When Claire and Jamie do find each other again it will be 20 years — give or take a cou­ple of cen­turies — since they were last to­gether, which presents the chal­lenge of play­ing the char­ac­ters as older peo­ple find­ing their way back to each other. Both have ex­pe­ri­enced in­tense grief, for each other and for oth­ers.

“Joan Did­ion was some­one I read a lot of,” says Balfe, re­fer­ring to the Amer­i­can au­thor whose mem­oir The Year of Mag­i­cal Think­ing de­tailed the 12 months that fol­lowed the sud­den death of her hus­band of 40 years.

“That helped me un­der­stand grief in a way that I have not ac­tu­ally had to go through in my own life.”

As an ac­tor, Balfe adds, “You have to feel em­pa­thy and you have to be able to put your­self in oth­ers’ po­si­tions.

“That’s the great thing about my job: I live in my imag­i­na­tion . . . it’s some­thing that I used to get (told off ) for when I was a kid and now I get paid to do it.”


Cross-cen­tury cou­ple Claire (Caitri­ona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) won’t re­unite un­til later in Sea­son 3.

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