Caitriona Balfe reveals the intimacy and vulnerability of that Outlander reunion

Contributed by
Oct 23, 2017

Outlander's third season has been an emotionally poignant rollercoaster for Claire, Jamie, Frank, and the audience, as the Frasers' 20-year separation has actually played out across a 200-year chasm in time. It's been mind-bending and heart-wrenching to see the people Claire and Jamie have become separately without one another, but as they say ... absence makes the heart grow fonder.

In the season's sixth episode, "A. Malcolm," the Frasers' much-anticipated reunion finally came to be in late 1700s Scotland as Claire successfully stepped through the stones again and found her soulmate running a print shop under the Malcolm alias. For fans of Diana Gabaldon's books, it's a seminal moment in the couple's relationship, so there was a lot riding on getting it right in the series for the invested readers, as well as the show-only viewers.

In a small chat with select journalists, actress Caitriona Balfe talked candidly about how the creative team planned out the emotional and physical beats of the episode.

It took six hours to finally bring Claire and Jamie back together this season, but was there a gap for you and Sam in terms of actually working together?

No. We filmed Episodes 1 and 3 together, and then Episodes 2 and 8 because of an actor's availability, so we had to pull 8 forward. For 4 and 5, we weren't together.

The reunion scene was talked about by fans continuously in the downtime between Season 2 and Season 3. How did you all approach the episode creatively?

It was a lot of conversations with [writer] Matt (Roberts). When we were talking about it, we all didn't want it to be the classic romance novel moment. We wanted to play with it like they were two teenagers again and do some mirroring to "The Wedding" episode. Even though they've never forgotten about each other, they don't really know each other, so there's a process of discovery. They aren't quite sure what to do with their bodies or their words. I think that lends a realism to it.

Outlander has never shied away from portraying physical intimacy, and there's a decent amount in this episode. Is it easier now three years into production?

I think the fact that we are all such good friends, and have such good relationships off set, it helps those scenes look as comfortable as they do, if they do. And then we whisper, "Never talk about it again." (Laughs)

How do you go about blocking an episode like this?

There is always a sit-down with the writer/producer, the director, and the actors involved. Especially with Sam and I in an episode with a lot of it, we break down each moment. You figure out what the writer wants to portray in those moments, and in "A. Malcolm" we wanted to mirror the journey in "The Wedding" episode about how they discover each other. We wanted to have the same kind of thing with this. You figure out what each other are comfortable with and make sure everyone is on board. We definitely go to pains to make sure that everyone knows the same things, like what the angles will be and what will be seen and won't be seen.

There's a lovely little moment where Claire addresses that she's dyed her hair. Talk about that.

It's a sweet moment. It's funny, the "Clairol moment" was something that I was resistant to in the beginning because I was like, why would you make Claire insecure about her features? It's not how I see her. But it ended up being a sweet thing to do. It's boring to play somebody as positive all the time, and it gives her a vulnerability that plays really well. At the end of the day, we all worry on some level about how we look and how somebody sees us. She's worried about meeting the man that she loved so much after 20 years, and it's not just, "Is he going to love me again?" but "Will he actually find me attractive again?" It's a valid point to play and really nice.

Since this reunion is the middle of the season, what can we expect with the rest of Season 3?

This season, especially, the second half is about transitions. Physically, we leave behind the country that has been at the core of our identity as a show, and we move forward in crossing the Atlantic and arriving in the New World. And in a way, that's also Jamie and Claire who are transitioning from this previous young relationship and having each other on these pedestals for 20 years and into this more mature and deeper version of their relationship as well.

Watch our exclusive interview with the Outlander cast as they answer fan questions ...