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With Outlander Season 6 on hold thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire Fraser, had time to join the rest of the cast, the exec producers, and best-selling author Diana Gabaldon to reminisce about Season 5 of the hit Starz series for the first-ever virtual PaleyFest LA.

Season 5 was an eventful one. Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin) tied the knot, Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) godfather Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) was killed at Alamance, Roger was hung and almost died, Jamie was also near death from a snake bite. If all that wasn’t enough, the season closed with Claire’s abduction and sexual assault at the hands of a rogue group of men from Brownsville.

“Subject matter like that is always difficult,” Balfe says of her kidnap and rape scenes. “It is really hard to address these subjects and feel that you are on the right path. You are always trying to toe the line between being responsible and not bringing anything that’s gratuitous or trying to show too much, while also being true to the situation and trying to respect the subject matter.”

In the instance of Claire, the decision was made by executive producer Matthew B. Roberts to try to do something unique for the “Never My Love” episode by adding a surrealistic element to the rape scenes. While Claire is being abused, she escapes in her mind to a fictional Thanksgiving set in the 1970s, where her Fraser’s Ridge family are incongruously in attendance.

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The Season 5 finale of Starz’ mega-hit show Outlander was a deeply emotional journey for its leads, Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire Fraser, and Sam Heughan, as her husband Jamie Fraser.

Since its 2014 premiere, the show has led us through two hundred years of time travel for the star-crossed lovers, as they’ve survived everything from the Battle of Culloden, to marauding pirates. Now, in Season 5, the couple have attempted to settle in 18th century North Carolina, on the brink of the American Revolutionary War. But of course, in true Outlander fashion, things do not run smoothly, and by the finale, Claire and Jamie Fraser find themselves in a horrific situation.

The episode “Never My Love” follows Claire as she is brutally abducted and raped. Speaking via video conference during an AwardsLine screening series panel discussion on Thursday, showrunner, executive producer and writer Matthew B. Roberts talked about the decision to do extensive research into trauma and to partner with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

“We wanted to be very careful with it,” he said. We have in the past on Outlander dealt with rape and sexual assault on the show so we have a lot of consultants, over the past six years, that we’ve been going to, and we mine their expertise before we even start the process.”

Balfe, who, along with Heughan was also a producer this season, added, “I think anytime you tackle the issue of sexual violence or rape, you want to do it the most responsible way you possibly can. What we’ve always done on Outlander is try to take a point of view and highlight something that can be somewhat helpful in terms of starting a conversation… We talked a lot with RAINN about how we could approach this and also in terms of having trigger warnings before the episode.”

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In the latest episode of The Times’ TV podcast “Can’t Stop Watching,” host and staff writer Yvonne Villarreal asks “Outlander” star Caitriona Balfe about her character’s harrowing kidnapping and rape in the Season 5 finale — a scene Balfe’s co-star, Sam Heughan, discussed during his own appearance earlier this month:

One of the things I love about Claire is that everyone talks about what a strong character she is — but there’s a danger, in that people sort of make that character Teflon. … I thought it was really important to show that no matter how strong you are, no matter who you are, if you go through something like this, first of all, you don’t know how your body is going to react. You don’t know how you’re going to be able to process it. And nobody comes out of anything like this unscathed.

You can listen the episode here to hear Balfe chat about sketching the “Outlander” cast, her love of “Cagney and Lacey” and co-starring with — maggots. [Source]



The actress and executive producer breaks down the episode’s heaviest moments and her hopes for Outlander’s next season.

Claire Fraser is no stranger to brutality. The first time we ever see our Outlander heroine, played by Caitriona Balfe, on-screen, she’s stoically tending to a soldier’s horrifically mangled leg, her face spattered with arterial blood, and her life became only marginally less grueling after World War II ended. Since tumbling back through time into 18th-century Scotland, Claire has endured a whole litany of traumas—loss, miscarriage, physical and emotional violence at the hands of countless villains—and emerged more resilient than ever. But tonight’s Season 5 finale centers on what may be Claire’s most horrific ordeal to date, following her kidnapping at the hands of Lionel Brown and his men at the climax of last week’s episode. The disorienting opening moments of “Never My Love” find Claire in an idyllic but surreal 1960s dreamscape, immediately suggesting that this will be no ordinary episode of Outlander. It soon becomes clear that this is her brain’s desperate attempt to cope with unspeakable trauma as she is gagged, beaten, and raped by multiple men.

Outlander has always been fascinated with the dynamics of sex and power, and by extension with the ways in which sexual assault is used as a weapon. Ever since Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) was raped by Black Jack Randall at the end of Season 1, the show has drawn praise for its unusually nuanced portrayal of sexual violence and its lasting psychological impact. But more recently, particularly in the wake of the rape of Brianna Randall Fraser (Sophie Skelton) last season, there has also been criticism for what some consider an overreliance on rape as a source of conflict and drama; an overreliance that is baked into Diana Gabaldon’s novels, on which the show is based. Though Claire is promptly rescued midway through the season finale, this episode will continue a long and sometimes fraught conversation about the role of sexual violence on Outlander.

“It is a really hard line that we have to tread,” Balfe told me over the phone last week. “Obviously, we try to stick as faithfully to the books as possible, and [rape] is something that creeps up quite often in Diana’s novels. When you have eight or nine books out in the span of 20 years, it probably doesn’t feel like there’s as much, but when you’re compressing all of that down for TV, it becomes quite difficult. We can only try to do it as respectfully and as, I suppose, empoweringly as we can.”

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When Diana Gabaldon sat down to write Outlander three decades ago, she let her imagination run free, ultimately creating an epic story that encompasses time travel, the passionate love story between Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall, and well-researched historic events from the 18th century. Her efforts have paid off with a series of best-selling novels. There are eight books in the franchise—a ninth is in the works— with the first five novels (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn and The Fiery Cross) having been turned into one of Starz’s most successful series to date, with season six already in the works.

“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

“It’s a very strong finale, quite stylized and quite unsettling,” he shares. “I think people are going to be pretty shocked as well. If you’ve read the books, you know what happens, but the way we’ve shot it is exciting.”

In preparation for the upcoming Droughtlander, we spoke to Gabaldon, Heughan, Balfe and current Outlander showrunner Matthew B. Roberts to get their insights and fun facts as they look back on all five seasons. Spoiler alert for those who have not yet seen all of the seasons.

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It has been more than five years since Starz’s time-travel drama TV series, “Outlander,” premiered on television and the stars of the top-rated and critically-acclaimed show are looking great.

Scottish actor Sam Heughan, 39, and Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, 40, have remained looking youthful. The two talented thespians, in fact, are the same humble and charming actors we interviewed more than five years ago.

Sam, who portrays the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, and Caitriona, who plays the role of the married former World War II nurse Claire Randall who in 1946 finds herself transported back to Scotland in 1743, have now also taken the roles of producers of the show.

Renewed for the fifth and sixth seasons with the fifth premiering last February, “Outlander” is a historical drama TV series that was based on the novel series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon.

We recently talked to the “Outlander” stars and below are excerpts of our interviews.

What’s your relationship to Claire?

Well, I’m very protective of her. I think that’s sort of the first thing that comes to mind but, you know, it’s hard to know because I spend so much time playing her.

We shoot for 9, 10 months of the year and more of my waking life these days is playing Claire quite often than not, but I think her confidence and her forthrightness has definitely installed some of those attributes in me.

I have a tendency to be shy sometimes and with playing Claire, that’s given me a confidence or her just sort of can-do attitude has definitely rubbed off on me a little bit and that’s in the best way.

You have been to some amazing locations. Is there still an adrenaline rush?

We shoot this season in quite different locations than we have before. Obviously we’re making Scotland double as North Carolina and so the type of places that we’re shooting are quite different.

I think before in Seasons 1 and 2 it was a lot of highland and rugged and now we’re in much more pastoral kind of beautiful fields with these ancient trees and much kind of grander rivers and that’s what’s surprising, because Scotland has all of these things and as an Irish person who is an honorary Scot, I suppose at this point, it’s amazing.

At the end of the season this year we shot at a place called Dunkeld and it looked like something from “A River Runs Through It,” and it’s breathtaking how beautiful it is and that’s one of the really fortunate things about shooting in Scotland even though it’s not technically Scotland anymore.

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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.

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When Outlander returns for its fifth season next month, the feeling will be a bit different–at least initially–than previous seasons because Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) have been able to spend quiet time at Fraser’s Ridge building their future.

It is as if Jamie has been able to fulfill his destiny. While not the Laird of Lallybroch he was set to be once his older brother died, he can be considered to be the Laird of Fraser’s Ridge, and while Claire is not considered a medical doctor in the 1770s, she has built quite the surgery in their new home and is tending to patients as best she can.

So, the day-to-day part of their life is moving along nicely, but what does it mean for their passionate love story, which is what drew in readers and TV viewers alike? Are they too settled now as a couple, or is the flame still ignited?

“The circumstances of this season have really allowed us to invest in those relationship moments,” Balfe tells Parade.com “We see a lot more of the intimacy and the passion of Claire and Jamie, because we have that luxury of them being in one place a lot of the time, and it’s so nice. Sam and I have been talking a lot about this today, that we get to see how they work together as a couple, the strains and the pressures of these outside things, but they’re able to come together and touch base with each other and support each other. It’s really lovely to see them just converse as a couple in this supportive and emotionally supportive way.”

But the idyll is broken when Jamie gets called up by Governor Tryon (Tim Downie) in season five to hunt down the Regulators, so they also spend some time apart from each other, even as it is their time together that matters most.

“Claire has her surgery and the dealings going on there, and Jamie has this political side,” Heughan says. “He’s working with the British. But they touch base, and they always need and yearn for each other, and they reconnect. It’s those moments we see that are quite domestic. It’s their home life and it’s actually really touching. And those are the really fun scenes to play, to see them need each other and reconnect.”

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Sassenachs, we’re just days away from getting Outlander season five. The “droughtlander” is very nearly over. So what can we expect from this season?

Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire Fraser, recently told us that one of the biggest challenges for Clare and Jamie Fraser is becoming grandparents. “This is something we hadn’t seen before, and that kind of thing of you’re not looking after each other, you’re looking after your extended family and what that means,” Balfe explained.

We’ll also properly meet Brianna and Roger MacKenzie’s baby Jemmy, and see how the new parents adjust to their roles. Of course, this won’t be easy with the impending American Revolutionary war, which will play a massive part in the story of this season.

When Stylist caught up with Balfe while she was just finishing the last bit of filming last year, the actor shared her favourite book and podcast recommendations, discussed the emotions involved with filming such a long series, and revealed who’s the funniest person on set.

What books do you read in between filming?

I could just lock myself away and just read for a month, which would be so lovely. I have a high stack of so many good books at the moment that I’m waiting to get into. Right now, I’m reading Three Women by Lisa Taddeo which is just magnificent. The fact that she’s been able to take these three women’s lives and weave it into what seems like a novel even though it’s based on reality is incredible and it teaches you so much about women and their sexuality and all of that, and I think it’s really beautiful. The next book that I want to read is The Overstory by Richard Powers. It’s a novel about a tree – I think maybe a couple of trees? – and their lives, and it just sounds amazing.

What about podcasts?

I do like Talk Art with Russell Tovey. I listen to that quite a bit because it’s good, short interviews with artists. I haven’t quite got on the whole serialised podcast thing that everyone seems to be on. If they’re too in-depth and if they go on for too long, I end up daydreaming and I’ll find myself 10 minutes into a podcast and I’ll realise I’ve missed half of it. That’s why I can’t do audiobooks at all. It kind of exists over here in my brain and I’m like on the opposite side in some other world.

Sam Heughan’s Clan Lands is coming out soon. The fact that he and Graham McTravish have travelled around Scotland together, and they’re both the most ridiculous human beings – it’s going to be prime fodder for me. I’m looking forward to that.

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From director James Mangold, the high-octane drama Ford v Ferrari is inspired by the true-life story of American car designer and automotive visionary Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and his British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), who overcame their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford that could challenge Ferrari at the most difficult race in all of motorsports, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. Their partnership is a testament to how unconventional thinking, inventiveness, determination and will can overcome the odds to achieve something extraordinary.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Caitriona Balfe — who plays Ken Miles’ wife, Mollie — talked about what it was like meeting Mangold for the first time, what struck her most about both Bale and Damon, and what surprised her about making a movie on this scale. She also talked about hitting the Season 5 milestone on her Starz series Outlander, what she’s most excited about with the upcoming season (premiering in February 2020), and balancing what fans of the book want to see with new surprises.

Collider: Congratulations on this film! It’s just so good and, as a cast, you’re all terrific in it.

CAITRIONA BALFE: Oh, good. I’m glad that you liked it.

Did you have a feeling, when you were making this film, that it would turn out to be one of the best films of 2019? Can you tell, when you’re on set, how something will turn out, or is it only when it’s done and you get to see the finished product that you feel like you really know?

BALFE: Yeah, I don’t know that you ever really know how something’s gonna turn out because there are so many things that need to come together and need to work. But what I do know is that the feeling on set was really good. Jim [Mangold] creates this wonderful atmosphere. He’s like this fantastic conductor. There was so many moving parts and so many things for him to keep track of, with all of the racing stuff and everything. In the beginning, we shot a lot of our family stuff isolated in this house in Highland Park. Later on in the shoot, they had built some of those interiors in one of the airport hangars while he was concurrently filming a lot of the racing stuff. So, you could feel that he was really in a great groove, and that he was excited by what he was doing, and that just created this wonderful atmosphere where everyone just felt they were in really safe hands. When you have that, you hope that’s gonna translate to the screen, and luckily it feels like it has. That’s really exciting ‘cause it was really so much fun to film it.

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Outlander
Season 6

Role: Claire Randall
Release Date: 2020
An English combat nurse from 1945 is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.
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