Coined by fans to refer to the lag time in production, the third season of the fantasy-meets-historical fiction hit debuts on Sunday. If the Entertainment Weekly-hosted screening and Q&A in New York on Tuesday night was any indication, the fans aren’t just ready, they’re ravenous.
Balfe, who stars as Claire Randall, was on hand with her costar Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) to talk about the new season. Viewers last left the two lovers separated at the end of Season 2, when Claire returns to her present era (the 1940s) and Jaime heads to the Battle of Culloden.
“It’s quite tragic this season,” said Balfe. “It was interesting to think about how someone leads a compromised life and how they function within that. As an actor it was a great challenge.”
Balfe also enjoyed the challenge of playing Claire: the mother, Harvard medical student, and progressive woman this season. It also didn’t hurt that she got to follow her character and play dress up through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, too.
“Hands down the 1960s were my favorite,” said Balfe. “The hair is great. The makeup is great. The clothes are great and the cars are great.”
For Heughan, Season 3, which follows Diana Gabaldon’s third novel “Voyager” in the “Outlander” book series, is the best work they’ve done on the show.
“Jamie wakes up quite literally on the battlefield this season, without the woman he loves, and he has to learn to survive and find a purpose in life. He goes through many personalities and for me, this is definitely the strongest season,” he said.
The first season kicks off with the fallout from the brutal losses by the Scottish Highlanders at Culloden. The actors recalled the two weeks it took to recreate the battle, including filming fight scenes, Claire’s apparition, and the days Heughan spent lying in a pile of stunt men covered in fake blood for filming.
“I just remember [reading the script and seeing the scene where] Claire walks through the battlefield and wakes Jamie, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Alright, two hours, maybe three hours of work. I’ll be done by lunch,’” joked Balfe of her first scene in the premiere. “Flash forward 12 hours later. I guess it’s one of those things where you can’t ever count on a half day [on this show in particular.]”
Heughan laughed, adding, “Yes, but you didn’t have to lie on the battlefield for days.”