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Interview: Outlander Stars Sam Heughan & Caitriona Balfe Talk Season 6

***The following interview contains spoilers for 6.01***

OutlanderOutlander
, based on the best-selling international book series by Diana Gabaldon’s, returned tonight for season six. At the start of the season, Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones), Jamie (Sam Heughan)’s old rival from Ardsmuir, arrives on the Fraser Ridge with his family and a group of fellow Protestants, much to Jamie’s dismay. Meanwhile, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) struggles to cope with her previous trauma.

After playing the characters for so many years, it’s natural that there may be some overlap, according to star Caitriona Balfe. “I think,” said Balfe to Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision as part of a roundtable interview, “obviously, Sam and I were cast, because we have something within us that mirrors or speaks to these characters. So, I think if there is any overlap, that's probably just whatever [is] naturally within us.”

The actress also said that, however, as a period piece with science fiction elements, there isn’t a lot to bring into their everyday life.

OutlanderHeughan told the site that it will be easier to see what parts of their characters bleed into their lives and vice versa, after the series is over, which is something that will be hard to adjust to for him. “I think we have been playing them for so long,” said Heughan, “and, I guess, as the story has progressed, I don't know when the finish will be of it, but certainly I'm starting to realize that without it, it will be quite a shock. I think we've been in it for so many years, it just feels like this is what we do, right? So, then, when you get a glimpse, when for instance Caitriona goes off and does another job, or I do as well, you start to see the world outside of Outlander, and I guess it's interesting to look back at it and realize what we've got and how lucky we are, how incredible the show is, and how good the cast and the crew are. So, it's been an amazing journey and, I guess, when we don't have it anymore, then it is going to be quite a shock to the system.”

This season, Jamie and Claire will continue to use their knowledge of the future to balance their allegiances and help them make the right decisions. However, according to Balfe, that doesn’t make it easy. “They know what the eventuality is going to be, who's going to be the final winner, but they're not sure of the steps that that's going to take,” said the actress. “I think the events that happen, not only do they get pulled into having to decide much sooner than they probably would have wanted to about which side they're going to declare their loyalty to, but their actual home turns against them. The people in their community turn against them. So, they definitely don't achieve their goal; they get anything but peace, I think, this season.”

“I think everything around them is just forcing them to make a decision,” added Heughan. “They've tried to stay out of harm's way; they've tried to not be on the losing side when it comes to the war, and I think…it's out of their control now. Like before, they've always tried to control time or change fate or whatever, but it's not happening, and they're being forced to show their hand.”

The actor also said that having the prior knowledge of the future can be “frustrating.”

“I think what they've discovered and they learned this with the events of season two and Culloden, is that they can never actually change the grand events of history,” explained the actress. “They can't pervert that, but what they can do is they can change their position within it.”

A big part of the Outlander is, of course, the relationship between Jamie and Claire, which will be tested. “I think when any one person is going through trauma,” said Balfe, “there's a side of them that they're trying to protect and they're holding back from sharing with somebody else. I think we see this with Claire and Jamie…I think that that's a very common thing with trauma, that people end up hiding in a certain way or hiding a part of themselves, and any secrets between a couple, I think, can just drive a slight wedge between them.”

“I guess they lose their connection or sight of each other briefly but, again, obviously, to get through any of these traumas, they need each other, and that is the same in this case,” teased Heughan.

For more, be sure to read the full transcript below, and watch all-new episodes of Outlander Sundays on Starz.

Zoom Interview
Outlander
Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe

January 31, 2022


QUESTION:
 
How is Claire using the ether on herself a reflection of her trauma and headspace, and how will Jamie react when he finds out how she's been using her medical experiment?

CAITRIONA BALFE:   I think it's not something that is necessarily a conscious decision of hers. I think she begins to self-medicate in a way that she's lulling herself into this thought that it's purely for medicinal purposes and experimental purposes, but it does offer her an escape. And as we see, Claire's dealing with PTSD from the events of last season, and this is something she's never really had to face in the same way before. Usually, her ability to compartmentalize and to continue on, it's not serving her anymore this season. So, she begins to unravel, and it was really interesting to explore her in that way, and definitely, she started to lean on the ether, and I think it takes an intervention from Jamie for her to really realize how far down that rabbit hole she's gone.

SAM HEUGHAN:  Yeah, I think Claire and Jamie always have each other and always have that honesty between each other. So, the fact that she doesn't tell him, and she starts to self-medicate, and it grows, this dependency on it, Jamie's aware that there's something wrong, but he can't obviously put his finger on it, but he also doesn't want to pressure her. I think, having been through something similar himself, he wants to give her space and time to, I guess, come to terms or to deal with the trauma. But I think, yes, it's Outlander; it's explosive as well. I guess, the fact that they reconnect, and they bond is beautiful. It's a really tough storyline, I think, for Claire, and I think Caitriona really beautifully played it. I think also she pushed the writers as well to really make sure that it was an honest and rewarding storyline.

QUESTION:  What do Claire and Jamie really want this season, and how do the events that are unfolding in the next few episodes get them closer or further from their goals?

CAITRIONA BALFE:   I think what they really want is some peace. I think they realize that there's this looming war ahead, that they are trying to straddle these two alliances or these two loyalties. They know what the eventuality is going to be, who's going to be the final winner, but they're not sure of the steps that that's going to take. I think the events that happen, not only do they get pulled into having to decide much sooner than they probably would have wanted to about which side they're going to declare their loyalty to, but their actual home turns against them. The people in their community turn against them. So, they definitely don't achieve their goal; they get anything but peace, I think, this season.

OutlanderSAM HEUGHAN:  Yeah. Just to reiterate, I think everything around them is just forcing them to make a decision. They've tried to stay out of harm's way; they've tried to not be on the losing side when it comes to the war, and I think from the Christies to even to Jamie being forced to become an Indian agent, it's out of their control now. Like before, they've always tried to control time or change fate or whatever, but it's not happening, and they're being forced to show their hand.

QUESTION:  After the dramatic end of season five, how does the relationship with Jamie and Claire change compared to other seasons?

CAITRIONA BALFE:   I think the way it changes is that there's - I think when any one person is going through trauma, there's a side of them that they're trying to protect and they're holding back from sharing with somebody else. I think we see this with Claire and Jamie; she ends up having a secret, right? Her secret is that she's struggling and that she's leaning on something other than her family and her relationship to get through it. I think that that's a very common thing with trauma, that people end up hiding in a certain way or hiding a part of themselves, and any secrets between a couple, I think, can just drive a slight wedge between them.

SAM HEUGHAN:  Yeah. I think Jamie's aware, obviously, that there's something going on, or he certainly suspects, but also wants to give her time and space.  He knows that she will come to him or talk to him about it if and when the time is right, but I think also he's distracted by a lot of the other external forces, with the loyalties and where they lie. So, yeah, I guess they lose their connection or sight of each other briefly but, again, obviously, to get through any of these traumas, they need each other, and that is the same in this case.

QUESTION:  I think what's interesting to me is what you're dealing with, having that knowledge of the future and also what you're doing, changing the timeline and maybe corrupting the timeline. Speak to that and how you both feel, and if you want to leak in your characters and how they feel, that'd be cool too.

SAM HEUGHAN:  I guess they've always had prior knowledge, haven't they? It's frustrating, I guess, for them sometimes, because they don't know the full story, whether it's the outcome of a battle or which side the Native Americans fight on. So, the smaller details are always frustrating for the characters, but also, I guess, the impending doom; the impending knowledge that the great house, the big house is going to burn down I think is always playing on their minds. We've seen it many seasons, I think, that they always have this knowledge of what's about to happen, and then, they're trying to fight or find a way around it, and it's inevitable that it's going to happen. I think this season, really the impending doom is really, really close. The war is about to start.

CAITRIONA BALFE:   Yeah, I think what they've discovered, and they learned this with the events of season two and Culloden, is that they can never actually change the grand events of history. They can't pervert that, but what they can do is they can change their position within it. So, I think this is what they're really struggling with at this point: how do they make sure that where they've aligned themselves is safe for them? They know if they declare their loyalty to the crown, at a certain point that's going to put them in harm's way, because the crown loses. So, at what point do they change tactic? How much can they play each side without having to make this huge declaration? It's a really tough place for them to be in, and I think Jamie struggles the most with that. He shares the burden, the larger burden of that. If only their daughter had stayed as a history major, right? She probably would have been of more use, but she flunked out after a year. So, you know.

SCIFI VISION:  You've both been playing these characters for so long. Do you ever find them bleeding into your own lives? And on the flip side of that, do you start seeing more and more of yourself in the characters?

SAM HEUGHAN:  Wow. I think we have been playing them for so long, and, I guess, as the story has progressed, I don't know when the finish will be of it, but certainly I'm starting to realize that without it, it will be quite a shock. I think we've been in it for so many years, it just feels like this is what we do, right? So, then, when you get a glimpse, when for instance Caitriona goes off and does another job, or I do as well, you start to see the world outside of Outlander, and I guess it's interesting to look back at it and realize what we've got and how lucky we are, how incredible the show is, and how good the cast and the crew are. So, it's been an amazing journey and, I guess, when we don't have it anymore, then it is going to be quite a shock to the system. I don't think I'm turning into Jamie. I think earlier I couldn't even remember my son's name.

CAITRIONA BALFE:   [laughs] I think, obviously, Sam and I were cast, because we have something within us that mirrors or speaks to these characters. So, I think if there is any overlap, that's probably just whatever that's naturally within us. I think the beauty of doing something that is a period piece and has these sci-fi elements, there's not so much that you can bring into your normal everyday life, unless Sam decides to run down the road with a big sword one day, which could happen. But I think we've grown, and we've matured as these characters have, and maybe it won't be until we get to look back that we see the extent of what that's given us. I think hindsight will be much more illuminating than when we're still in it.

OutlanderQUESTION: There's the arrival of the Christies in the season premiere, and Jamie at least is very lukewarm on their arrival. Can you talk about what this family being on the ridge means for Jamie and Claire and how it complicates their situation as they're trying to figure out which side of the Revolutionary War they want to start on?

SAM HEUGHAN:  Lukewarm is being very generous, I think. A little bit of a spoiler, but we find out, or have a flashback to, the origin of Jamie and Tom's relationship. It goes back to the prison they're incarcerated in and to the two sides they were on and their belief system of being a Protestant or a staunch Catholic. And I think, yes, the Christies come with the fisherfolk and come to settle, and there is this real power play between Jamie and Tom, which really starts to unravel the status quo at Fraser's Ridge. There are a lot of other stories with the Christies as well, which I think, yeah, it really is the beginning of the end of the Fraser's Ridge as we know it, and the popularity of the Frasers as well. Up until this point, the Frasers are pretty affluent and pretty popular, and I think Tom is certainly the rotten apple.

QUESTION:  Somebody else had asked about what it was like playing characters for this long. And my curiosity is, you played them for six seasons, do you still learn new things about them, despite that comfortable familiarity with the roles?

CAITRIONA BALFE:   Yeah. I feel very grateful. I'll just speak about myself from last season. I feel like I was really surprised by Claire last season. I feel like I got to explore her in a completely different way than she's ever been explored before, and I don't think that that is something that you always get being on a long running show, to be challenged and to be surprised by your character every season.

SAM HEUGHAN:  Yeah, I agree. I think, especially Jamie, he's been so many characters in a certain way. He's had so many different lives. But this one, unlike the others, he is a lot more political this season and being pulled in different directions and, I guess, I don't know, the fact that he and Clara both lose track of each other is something that really unsettles him. There’re so many exterior forces pulling at his responsibilities. Every season, every episode is always a challenge. So, this season isn't any exception to that.

QUESTION:  One of the most striking images from last season was Jamie in the red coat, and then we had Claire obviously knowing what's coming. So, what can you preview about their situation with the British and season six?

SAM HEUGHAN:  Yeah, well, Jamie, obviously, he's allied himself with the crown, and he knows that they're the losing side. He really doesn't want to be involved and knows at some point he will have to switch sides. Major McDonald, almost in a way to control Jamie, gives him the job of being an Indian agent to work on behalf of the Crown to go between himself and the Native Americans there, and I think Jamie initially doesn't want to do it. He rejects it out of hand but then is forced into it. It's this sort of relentless fate that they know is about to happen. So, he really does need to switch sides, and it's just about choosing the right moment to do that, but yeah, he's stuck between a rock and a hard place, really.

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