Caitriona Balfe tells Michele Manelis reveals how Outlander has made her more of a romantic.
Your character, Claire Fraser, is a very capable woman in many areas of her life. Which of her characteristics would you like to adopt?
I have a tendency to be shy, so her confidence, her forthrightness and her can-do attitude I would like to have rub off on me. There's also a softness and a sweetness to Claire and I've learned that from her, although my real-life partner might disagree with that. She's a very romantic woman and I can be very cynical and turn my nose up at things that are overly romantic. But after these few years on Outlander, I think I've learned to appreciate that side of life a bit better.
You've come from a modelling background – have you come up against some misconceptions about models?
Yes. The misconception that models are somehow crazy confident, whereas actually, I think it's the other extreme. I think that business can really do a number on your self-esteem. And so that was the biggest challenge for me - modelling is so much about presenting this perfect image and that's impossible.
But maybe modelling helped you in the way that you must have a certain comfort level about your body, which would have helped with all the nude scenes?
It's funny; I'd never done nudity before Outlander and so much of that first season we were off in this little bubble in Scotland and we had no idea if anyone was even going to watch the show. You forget about the fact that at the end of the shooting lots of people are going to watch it - including your neighbours back home and the parish priest! You have to leave your vanity at the door and you try to think about the fact that it's not you, it's actually Claire who does all of that stuff.
How did you become an actor?
I think you're born that way. If you asked any of my family, my entire childhood was about me annoying them and running around the house doing impressions or making up little plays. I was involved in youth theatre at home in Ireland and throughout school I always did plays. And when I was finishing school, much to my parents' dismay, I decided to study theatre at college in Dublin.
But then you became a model?
Yes, after a year of college somebody asked if I wanted to move to Paris and model for a bit. So I went off and worked in the fashion industry for about a decade. I grew up and got a lot of life experience but then hit a moment in my life where I realised I wasn't doing what I wanted to do, I wasn't living my dream. So, I started taking acting classes and slowly, over time, classes turned it into jobs and somewhere along the way I got Outlander. That changed my life completely.
Coming from a big family did you have to fight to be heard? Do you think that may have helped you in this business?
I'm one of seven; there's a whole big crew of us. I think if you're part of a big family, yes, there's a certain boisterousness or a certain need to shout to get attention but I'm the only one in my family who ended up doing this for a living. I think the one thing about being part of a big family is that you are very independent.
When it comes to Outlander fans – they're pretty extreme.
Our fans are very passionate and I think a big part of that is because the book series has existed for so long. Diana (Gabaldon) created this incredible world and we've been so lucky that the show was embraced by this fandom. I've certainly had some funny interactions. Outlander seems to be very big among air stewardesses. The other day I was flying from LA to New York and it was my birthday. Well, every stewardess from American Airlines seemed to be a huge fan and I was given a whole tray of cakes. They managed my entire birthday on the plane! It was really sweet. And also, I think compliments from random people always make you feel good.
You and your handsome co-star, Sam Heughan, are good friends, but there must be something about him that annoys you?
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Are you trying to stir the pot? Well, his timekeeping can sometimes irk me when I'm left standing, waiting for him, which happens quite often. But then again, I probably boss him around a bit, so that probably irks him about me. But he's a great partner and I'm very grateful for that.
With all your love scenes with Sam, your husband must not be the jealous type.
He's a very secure person, which is why I'm with him. I feel very lucky that during the time I've been on this show I've managed to meet the love of my life. Thinking about it, it's probably made me more of a romantic, for sure.
Outlander Season 5 premieres on Lightbox on Monday, February 17.