I will admit, it was my Mom who first told me to watch Starz’s series Outlander (anyone who’s a fan knows being tipped off to this show by your Mom, or watching it with your Mom might be a tad awkward) but, upon watching it by myself, I immediately fell into the romantic escapism of it that has so many wonderful elements. You really do kind of fall into this show, you want to step into the screen. There’s time travel, spirituality, history, romance: It’s all there. But really from the get go, one of my favorites part of Outlander was its lead – the wonderful Caitriona Balfe – who I always felt brings serious acting chops and authenticity to the series.
Sitting across from Balfe at the Tata Suite at the Pierre Hotel, I realized one thing pretty quickly: She might just be one of the chillest humans I’ve interviewed. Yes, “chill” is truly the word for it. And when I asked her if she’s a romantic Balfe didn’t think twice: “I don’t think I’m a romantic I think actually I am pretty cynical. I think this show definitely made me more romantic…but yeah, Valentines Day is not my thing. I know. My poor husband.”
A cynic talking to a cynic: These are my favorite kinds of interviews.
I suggested that maybe she’s an old soul, rather than a romantic (as I know Balfe is a voracious reader) and to that Balfe characterized herself as somewhat of a blend: “I’m very young at heart, but combined with a bit of an old soul. I have two sides of myself, one side is this crazy-likes-to-party side, and then the other side is likes-to-hibernate-and-keep-quiet-and-read. Those two sides constantly battle and that’s why I’m crazy!”
OK this was getting witchy. And it was the last line of her answer I especially loved. I’ve always been convinced all the best people are crazy.
To rewind some odd years, Balfe first got her start in modeling, an opportunity that arose while she was at drama school in Dublin, “I got scouted, and it was like ‘OK I can stay in Dublin in this shitty theater program or move to Paris.’ So I said ‘I’m moving to Paris.’ So then I was living in New York and it was coming up to almost a decade doing modeling, and I was miserable. I was in a bad relationship and I wasn’t doing what I wanted in life…So I broke up with the bad relationship and moved to LA and started taking acting classes.”
Something I think was key to Balfe’s success is she never really considered things wouldn’t go her way: “I was very naive and I lived in a little bubble of delusion that it was going to work out. I think that was the best thing. I didn’t know how I was going to get a job but I was just like…‘It’ll happen.’”
When I expressed how rare and refreshing that was to hear about an actresses’ start, Balfe chimed in pretty quickly, “I mean I’d come out of fashion so I was deeply insecure and my self confidence was in the toilet. I think that’s what happens after spending ten years in the fashion industry.”
(I agreed with that last sentiment whole-heartedly.)
“But I loved that I had those years to study and get my feet back underneath me properly.” Balfe said.
One thing I’ve read about Outlander, is there’s real effort to staff female writers as well as female directors. It when we got on the topic of what work’s still to be done for gender equality that there was obviously a lot to say. And I loved everything Balfe said about it so I’l need to do the full quote:
“Oh god, there’s so much to be done. It’s crazy that it feels like it’s revolutionary or that we are ‘championing’ by trying to have parity when the world is split 50/50 female, male…Why is there such a skew?” Balfe quipped.