Outlander's Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan Talk Love, Pain, and Witch Trials

TV Features Outlander
Share Tweet Submit Pin

The romance continues on Outlander, with the second half of Season One now underway on STARZ. It has been six months since we last saw Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan). Claire had been captured by the British and was being brutally questioned by her nemesis “Black Jack” Randall (Tobias Menzies)—to the point of rape—when Jamie came to her rescue. And that’s right where we picked up on Saturday, but with one difference. The first episode back is narrated by Jamie rather than Claire, giving us a perspective on what the hot Scot is thinking.

As a result of risking his life, and the lives of several of his men, to get Claire out of Randall’s clutches, Jamie isn’t quite feeling the same love for his new bride that he was during their honeymoon. And there are consequences. He has to punish her for not listening to him (she was captured because she didn’t wait where he told her to), and the men of Jamie’s era actually spank their wives, so Jamie does does the same. He can’t afford to lose face with his men.

At a press event for the sci-fi, historical romance set in Scotland in the 18th century, Balfe and Heughan talked to a select group of reporters, including Paste, about that spanking, Claire and Jamie’s tempestuous romance, Claire’s struggles with the customs of the era, the biggest hurdles of their relationship, costumes, and more.

When we last saw Claire, she still had this idea that she could return to Frank (also Tobias Menzies). Is there a turning point where she gives that up and moves forward with this new life of hers?

Caitriona Balfe: I think we’ll see all of that come to a head. I don’t want to give too much away, but she does have to make a decision. I think she has to realize that she’s been on a very singular journey, and she’s had a very singular goal, which is to get back to the stones. And in doing so, she’s caused a lot of chaos around her, and, I think, when she finally realizes that her actions are having such repercussions, then she realizes she has to change her direction.

How has Jamie changed Claire, and how has Claire changed Jamie?

Balfe: Well, I think they both taught each other a lot, and I think we really see that in episode nine, where they both have to maybe compromise some of their beliefs in order to accept each other and understand that, with this person, their ideas are going to have to change. He says it to her. He’s like, “Maybe for us, it’s going to have to be another way.” And I think for her, she has to accept this thing that he’s done to her [the spanking], and she has to understand that he didn’t do it out of malice. It’s because he’s from that time.

Claire challenges everything Jamie knows with her revelation to him. So how do you make that transition from this really naïve man, to somebody who is believing something so fantastical?

Sam Heughan: Obviously, with the witch trial and all that leads up to that, Jamie has to ask her the question—whether or not she’s a witch. He, obviously, doesn’t believe that. But ultimately they have this bond, and it’s a fact that he trusts her and she trusts him. And that’s an amazing thing.

Can you imagine anything like what Claire is going through—a romance so passionate that she actually decides to stay in a time when people believe in witches?

Balfe: When I came to filming that scene, I didn’t want it to be purely Jamie. I think Claire is a much more complicated woman than that. Obviously, it was a huge factor, and you will do anything for love when you’re in love, but I think that she had to really reason out all the different things for herself, and I don’t think that she was able to choose to leave.

Now that Claire and Jamie are married, what would you say is their biggest hurdle in the second half of the season?

Balfe: They have so many. Their relationship is really tested, but they discover their marriage is really about supporting each other through all of these very, very traumatic events. It feels like one thing happens right after another. They just go through the wringer.

Heughan: The biggest hurdle is what happens at the very end of the season. The whole second part really tests the relationship, and they’re constantly trying or fighting their way to get back to where they were on the wedding night. It’s a great tragedy of the show, I think, that this wonderful relationship has actually been tainted for good. I don’t think we can ever get back there. Jamie’s learning to grow up and come to terms with the responsibility of being a husband and a laird; there’s his history with his sister, his best friends, and his dead father.

What’s the hardest part for you? Is it the performance, or is it having to get dressed in costume?

Balfe: The costume becomes like a second skin after a while. It’s a little uncomfortable, but [costume designer] Terry Dresbach is so fantastic that our costumes only ever add to the performance. I think it’s just every day you get to work, and you just want to strive to give the most honest performance that you can. And that’s just the job, but it’s the good part about it as well.

Heughan: Terry’s done an amazing job, sourcing all the materials, the colors, all the dyes. She went to the local plant life, the herbs, and the berries to make the colors. To be honest, it’s a wonderful part of the character. You know, each Highlander has got his own way of wearing the kilt. It’s like a personal thing, and they’re very warm. They’re made of wool, and they keep you warm in the winter. I don’t think I’ve ever been cold on set. Sometimes I wear a warm jacket if it’s really blowing a gale, but the clothing is so authentic. There’s no zippers, no poppers [snaps], no Velcro.

We’ve always heard that Scotsman don’t wear anything under their kilts. Are you doing that for the series?

Heughan: I’m surprised you have to ask the question! You know, I’m a true Scot in every sense of the word. I think it’s all part of getting into character, so I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Obviously, the wedding episode was hugely popular. Do the sex scenes in the second half of this season get steamier?

Heughan: I think we try to approach all the intimate scenes—the punishments, the spanking, the torture, the rape, and the violence, with this thought: What do we need to see? What is this doing to their relationship? How does this move them forwards or backwards? When we sit down with the writers, we read it through, and we work out what works and what doesn’t. Then on the day, we just go for it, but it is a process of what we want the audience to feel or see. Honestly, I think we’re all firm believers that less is more. We want this to be an adult show, but we don’t want to seem smutty.

Are you doing a lot of your own stunts?

Heughan: I do them all, yes. I really enjoy it. In episode 10, there’s a duel. I had actually injured myself in that [scene] the day before, but I was determined to film it, and I kind of used it as well. He gets injured in that duel, so it was maybe a bit foolish. But I really love that side of it, and the horse-riding as well.

Outlander airs Saturday at 9 PM EST.