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Outlander star Caitriona Balfe, 40, time travels to the 1960s for her role as Mollie Miles, wife of Motorsports Hall of Famer Ken Miles (Christian Bale) in Ford v Ferrari (in theaters November 15). The movie tells the story of how designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Miles built a revolutionary car for Ford to race against the legendary team Ferrari at Le Mans in 1966.

This is more than a racing movie.

It’s a film about friendships, teamwork and that passion that makes you who you are. It’s all about the people who help facilitate that.

Mollie and Ken have a special bond.

Ken is the man who’s out there doing the racing, but he wouldn’t be able to achieve that unless he had somebody who was helping him, supporting him. The teamwork that Mollie and Ken had is the type that it takes to achieve something great.

What keeps the racing scenes interesting is they are intercut with scenes of Ken at home with Mollie and Peter, which adds an intimacy.

During some of the research that I was doing, I watched this incredible documentary. It was actually about Ferrari and the decade leading up to this time. It was about how many young Ferrari drivers had died in the late or mid-’50s to mid-’60s, during the time that Ferrari was striving for this excellence. One of the great things about this documentary was it interviewed so many wives and girlfriends that had lived through that time and had, unfortunately, lost their husbands or partners.

When you think of any endeavor that human beings take on that has an element of danger, we forget about the wider repercussions of their goals or these great things that they try to achieve. They leave behind families. Every day, when they go out and they’re racing or mountain climbing or any of these things that have such a high element of danger, the family or the people around them carry the weight of that. I think it’s important not to forget the role that they play as well.

Did you meet Mollie and Ken’s son, Peter?

I was very fortunate to meet the real Peter. Not only was I fortunate enough to spend a little bit of time with him, but he gave me an article that Mollie had written for Drive! magazine talking about her first date with Ken, but, also, Peter told me that she was big into racing as well. She was a fan of racing. Occasionally, she would join the guys on the race course. So it’s important to show that it was a passion for the entire family and it wasn’t just Ken’s passion.

Mollie is very different from Outlander’s Claire. The word ‘cheeky’ came to mind as I watched her.

They are very different women, but I think Mollie had to sacrifice a lot for Ken’s dream. They moved from England. They moved to California. She was very much a stay-at-home mom and a wife, but they were a team, and that’s what I loved about this relationship. I think what [director] Jim [Mangold] was very interested in portraying, and what Christian and I were very interested in portraying, is the teamwork that has to exist within a marriage for one person to achieve something great.

She may not be the person who’s out in front in that relationship, but she’s such an essential part of it, and she’s going to hold Ken accountable. She’s in some ways reliant on him for so much support and security like so many women of her generation were. So, if he’s not going to do the things that he’s promised to do and puts her security in jeopardy and her family in jeopardy, then she’s going to make sure that she doesn’t let him away with it.

I think that so many women had to do that in that time. They weren’t the masters of their own domain, or they weren’t in control of their own destinies in so many ways. They tied their destinies to these men, and there’s a responsibility with that, too, where she has to make sure that he’s going to take care of her the way he said he would.

Both Claire and Mollie are women who are very much in love with their husbands, and it’s reciprocated. But, also, both of these men respect their wives. Is that something that you look for in taking on a role?

I look for good writing. I would be happy enough to play a different type of character that didn’t get that if I was going to say something about that situation. You always have to have a point of view and you always have to say something. In many ways, especially this time we’re in, I like to impart some kind of good into the world. But I was just very attracted to the script and to the story. I’m actually a fan of racing myself, and always have been. So that was also an element, which I don’t think is maybe that common among women, but I don’t think it’s uniquely a male sport.

There’s also a lot of humor in this. Was it a good time on the set?

Jim is such a jovial and just brilliant, energetic personality, and he really set the tone on set. He brings so much energy—he’s funny and he’s a booming personality. It was great because Matt [Damon] is one of the most down to earth but funny guys, and Christian has such a funny, sort of goofy side to his personality too. It was really lovely to see all of them. I think they all really, really enjoyed making this film, which was so evident every day.

Mollie is British, but a different British than Claire. Are you getting good at accents?

I don’t know if the people of Birmingham would think so. It was fun. It was really nice to do something different. Obviously, Ken and Mollie are from a suburb of Birmingham, so it’s not quite a Birmingham accent. But it was nice to do something that was just a little bit different and a little bit more relaxed than Claire’s accent.

You’re filming season five of Outlander. What are you still enjoying about playing Claire?

Every season you go in and you’re not quite sure what the experience is going to be. Just having that time to spend with a character, you have a deeper understanding, a deeper appreciation for them season after season.

What keeps Outlander fresh for you?

The great thing about Outlander is that because we don’t stay necessarily in one time, and because it is this epic fantasy, you get to really play very varied things all the time. So it feels like it stays fresh for us, which is really very unusual as an actor.

You were married this summer—to music producer Anthony McGill—and you managed to keep it on the down-low until Sam Heughan, your Outlander “husband,” posted a photo. How are you dealing with fame? Are you still able to go out and live your life?

Very much so. I think you create the life you want. First of all, we’re very lucky because we shoot in Scotland and Scottish people are really very unimpressed by everything. So they don’t bother anybody too much. But I also think I just go about my normal life very easily. I have the same friends that I had since way before the show.

Great things have come with the show. All the opportunities and all of the perks and everything have been wonderful, but at the same time, other than, say, the freedoms and the extra work, not that much has changed about me. Maybe that’s because of the age I was when I got the show. But I think it’s been only positive.

Jamie and Claire are in The Fiery Cross less, at least in the book. Does that open up your availability to do other roles?

When we’re in production, we’re in production. We can’t do other things. Occasionally, we can get out for a day or two to do press for the movie or whatever. Production has been really great in allowing both Sam and I to do those things. We’re not in it as much; I’m not in every single scene like I used to be. But we’re still in it a lot, so you don’t really get a chance to do other things during production.

Do you have a dream role that you want to do?

It’s hard to say because I think you don’t know it until you read it, at least for me. I would love to do something that’s different from Claire and maybe something contemporary or someone that just feels very different. But I won’t know until I read it.

What do you love most about your life?

If I look back on this year in a couple of years, I’ll be like, “Wow, that was such a great year. So many great things happened.” When you maintain a bit of balance, it’s always a good thing, and I feel this year has been pretty balanced. It’s not often you get to be in a happy place with your career and your personal life at the same time. [Source]

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Current Projects

Role: Claire Randall
Release Date: 2019
An English combat nurse from 1945 is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.
Ford v Ferrari

Role: Mollie Miles
Release Date: 2019
American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.
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