Caitriona Balfe Interview: ‘Outlander’ Season Two, Costumes, and Jamie and Claire’s Relationship

Caitriona Balfe Interview: Outlander Season 2
Caitriona Balfe in ‘Outlander’ season two (Photo Courtesy of Starz)

Season two of Starz’ critically acclaimed Outlander will find Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) arriving in France on a mission to stop the Battle of Culloden. A far cry from their simple life in Scotland, the Frasers will attempt to adapt to the French Court while trying to get close to Prince Charles Stuart in order to alter the course of history. Season two also finds a pregnant Claire worrying about giving birth and Jamie still struggling with the trauma he experienced at the hands of Black Jack Randall.

Starz once again went all out in promoting Outlander at the San Diego Comic Con, bringing Heughan, Balfe, series creator/executive producer Ronald D. Moore, and author Diana Gabaldon to the sold-out fanfest for a standing-room only Q&A with fans. The Outlander gang also participated in roundtable interviews where they answered questions about the much-anticipated second season without giving away any spoilers.

Caitriona Balfe Outlander Interview:

Claire’s going to have an interesting journey in season two. Are you looking forward to going down a new path with her in the second season?

Caitriona Balfe: “Yes. Really, I think Claire in season one was very reactionary. She’s been thrust into this new world and sort of having one event after another just sort of happen to her. It wasn’t so much time for contemplation or, really, life was sort of thrust upon her rather than her figuring out what she wanted. And I think that season two is very different. First of all, they make this decision to try and change the course of history. I think the pregnancy has a lot to do with that. I think also trying to lift Jamie out of the affects of last season and give him a mission and give him something to strive to do. You see her trying to create a world that she wants to live in. There’s some incredible storylines or plot parts coming up, and, yeah, I’m really excited to play them.”

Claire had a relatively unstructured upbringing with her uncle, and then she had to learn to adapt to going back in time in Scotland. How does Claire feel about being in the French Court and all the demands that come with their decision to attempt to change history?

Caitriona Balfe: “It’s a huge adjustment for her, and in a way she had much more freedom in 18th century Scotland than she does when she first lands in Paris. And I think, again, finding her place in a very patriarchal society where the role of women is very restricted is tough for her. It’s not where she’s most comfortable. But, what I love is that she manages to find an outlet for her independence, for her professionalism, in a way. She meets Master Raymond, Mother Hildegarde, who are two great characters that are coming in, played wonderfully by Dominique Pinon and Frances de la Tour.

It’s tough. I think both Jamie and her struggle in the beginning. They’re very much in a place where it’s not their comfort zone, but they have to use their intelligence and their smarts to figure out a way to navigate this new place. It’s interesting. It’s interesting to see them inhabit a new world and how that affects them.”

For those who haven’t read the books can you tease a little bit of what they can expect in season two?

Caitriona Balfe: “The second season you see Claire and Jamie arrive in France. They’ve made a decision to change the course of history if they can, so they want to stop the Jacobite rising. Claire is also pregnant, so a lot of it is dealing with the political intrigue, but also dealing in private with her own pregnancy and the insecurities that that brings up and the fear that that kind of brings up. She lost her parents when she was five, so she didn’t really have this mother role model who she can look back to or go to for guidance. It’s a real time of uncertainty for both of them.

Then, towards the second half of the season you will see them return to Scotland. So, it’s in a way it’s a season of two halves. It’s going to be visually very different in the beginning.”

How was it working with Dominique Pinon as Master Raymond who’s very much a counterpart to Claire in France?

Caitriona Balfe: “Very much so. I liken it to when she first met Geillis. It’s, again, this person that they have a like-minded interest in herbs and healing. It’s the first friend she makes in Paris. He is an absolute joy. I am a big fan of his work anyway from before. When I heard they cast him, I was like, ‘Wow, we got Dominique Pinon!’ He’s just such a joy at work. He’s bigger than life. He’s just a real unique, fantastic character and he plays him so brilliantly, so, yeah, it’s fantastic.”

Outlander Photo - Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in a scene from season 1 of ‘Outlander’ (Photo © 2014 Sony Pictures Television Inc)

Can you talk a little bit about Claire and Jamie’s relationship when we catch up with them at the start of season two?

Caitriona Balfe: “Well, when we meet them at the top of this season, he’s still struggling with what happened at the end of last season. We really wanted this to be a continuation. It’s not a reset, so you see two people who are very much still affected by everything that’s happened. I think Claire really has to put aside some of her own issues at the moment to really help him get past what happened and heal. Part of that is giving him a mission and giving him something to focus on that’s not looking back on what had happened.

They’re going through a very uncertain time. They are struggling with their own issues and maybe sometimes privately, which is creating a bit of a gulf between them. But ultimately they’re there for each other and they’re working to try and help each other. You see continuously, as with anything in life, adversity and getting past adversity will make you stronger. I think that’s a beautiful thing about this couple.”

How much do those incredible costumes help you get into Claire?

Caitriona Balfe: “It does! It changes everything. The minute you put on a corset, it changes how you sit, how you breathe, how you feel. Claire’s discomfort in this new world and in all of this finery, it mirrors what you’re going through. The costumes are so beautiful and it just makes you feel like you’re in a different place. Whereas before…I love pockets and that was one thing from the ’40s, I was like, ‘Claire likes her pockets.’ So in the 18th century women had pockets in their skirts, and so it’s a lot of pockets. You can trunch around the fields and all of that. There’s none of that. It’s pristine satins and silks and the most exquisite stuff, but it’s just very different. You have to carry yourself very differently and it really does inform it all.”

Since it affects how you play the character, do you rehearse in the costumes?

Caitriona Balfe: “Well, this year because it takes so long to get dressed, usually I get half ready for rehearsal. We’ll come in, we’ll block the scene, and we’ll do a rehearsal, so I’ll usually just have the underwear as they call it, but that’s already three layers. That’s the corset, the bum roll, the cage if there is a cage because we have to rehearse with the dimension. That’s also a big thing because you can’t really move. They’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, just stand together.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I’m this wide.’ It does really affect it.”

You’ve been receiving a lot of well deserved praise over your performance in Outlander. What has this done for your career in general? Are you getting more calls and offered more roles?

Caitriona Balfe: [Laughing] “Yeah, they’ve called and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m kind of busy at the moment.’ It’s opened so many doors for me. I was very lucky. I got to do a great film during the hiatus. Hopefully during the next hiatus, I’ll get to do something else as well. We shoot for a very long time, so it’s limited time in between. But as an actor, first and foremost, you just want to work. Then to be able to get a job that you love is amazing, that people respond to and they like. I couldn’t be happier and more grateful at the moment.”

More on Outlander Season 2: Sam Heughan Interview / Ronald D Moore Interview / Diana Gabaldon Interview