When the Droughtlander ends in 12 days with the season five premiere of Outlander, some time has passed in the North Carolina hills. Fraser’s Ridge has grown and prospered, Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) have built a “big” house with a surgery for Claire to practice medicine, and they are doting grandparents to Brianna’s (Sophie Skelton) son Jemmy.
“It’s really nice to be able to play someone who’s in a very mature and happy place in their life,” Balfe told reporters at the Television Critics Association. “Obviously, things will happen, and there will be dark moments, but I think, as an overall sense, she has her family, she has love in her life, she has a passion and a calling. I suppose that just makes her a very full, well-rounded person, and it’s nice to play that.”
Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser, Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser (STARZ)
But even as Claire is happy in her life, she isn’t above taking risks to ensure the health of the people in her community. In season five, based on Diana Gabaldon’s The Fiery Cross, Claire is able to invest time again in her role as a surgeon and really expand her role as a healer in the community.
“She has so much knowledge from the 20th century, she feels that she could really help this community and the people around her, if she could bring some of the things that she used in the 20th century to this time,” Balfe says. “Obviously, that comes with a lot of risks. We see that she takes these big chances in exploring surgery that she would have done in the 20th century and also trying to maybe develop medicines that she would have used in the 20th century. We do play a lot with what are the consequences of testing fate and playing God? But that definitely is a very risky endeavor for Claire this season.”
Do you feel like her instincts are your instincts at this point? Do you know her really well?
At this point, it feels very organic in playing her, but I think there’s still room to be surprised. There will still be things that come up that are challenging and different and new, and that’s really nice at this point in the show, because I think if that wasn’t the case, it would all get pretty dreary.
How about this season in particular? What challenged you?
I have a storyline towards the end of the season that’s very challenging. I can’t really talk too much about it, but it’s a storyline we’ve brought in from book six [A Breath of Snow and Ashes], and it was really challenging material. We took a risk with how we were doing it visually and storytelling wise. I haven’t seen it yet, so I hope it’s paid off, but it was good. It was nice to have something that asked a lot of me, again, at this point in our show.
Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser, Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser (STARZ)
How has your approach to playing Claire over the years evolved and changed as the series has progressed?
I think in the beginning, you’re creating so many memories for a character and they’re purely out of your imagination. You have to build up a bank before you start, because you have to create a life. Whereas now, five years in, every scene you do is like a memory from that person’s life. So, everything we talk about, we’ve already filmed it and lived it, in a certain sense.
So, in that way, the prep is a little bit different, because so much of it is already inside you. You don’t have to, I suppose, create it as much, but again you still have to be as focused on day 550 as you are day one. Otherwise, for me anyway, if I’m not invested and if I’m not focused, then I wouldn’t be enjoying it. The show continues to challenge us, and that’s the best way to keep you focused, I think.