Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of television Debra Birnbaum and TV critic Sonia Saraiya talk with “Outlander” stars Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe as they discuss the character progression of Menzies’ Frank and Balfe’s Claire in the upcoming third season of the Starz hit.
At the end of Season 2, Claire, who became pregnant by Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser after time traveling back to 1743 and falling in love with him, returned to 1948 and reunited with her husband Frank. At the beginning of Season 3, the pair struggle to move forward after Claire’s infidelity.
“It’s a kind of exploration of deeply compromised, imperfect love, these two people who we’ve tried to put as much love and tenderness and compassion and goodwill shot through the whole relationship, but it’s a strange kind of disconnect and [their relationship is] ultimately doomed,” Menzies said. “I mean, the major change is the arrival of this child at the end of episode one and I think that, in different ways, impacts both characters pretty strongly, and maybe not in the way you’d entirely expect.”
Balfe added that it was important to the writers and actors to convey that Frank and Claire’s relationship wasn’t doomed from the start.
“We really wanted to retain the fact that at a certain point, this was a happy and productive relationship,” she explained. “That had Claire not experienced something that was so much deeper and touched her soul rather than just touched her heart, she probably could’ve come back and been very happy with Frank. For Frank, having learned of the betrayal, it’s hard to move past that. But at the same time, they’re two people who have a lot of respect for each other, maybe not in the passionate sense but in the platonic sense, it’s there.”
The pair also talked about the aging-up process for Frank and Claire, since Season 3 continues into the future, eventually arriving in 1968, with Claire now 50. “We told it more through emotional weight,” Menzies said. “It sort of just accrues and you can see it towards the end — being resigned — and that’s how you see that they’re older rather than groaning when they get up from chairs.”
Balfe concurred. “For Claire, she’s put this — which has always been such a huge part of her personality — her sexuality has been completely shelved. So that gives somebody a bit of rigidity or hardness and that’s more what I was looking to explore rather than, does she have deeper crows feet around her eyes.”
Both Menzies and Balfe were quick to reassure audiences that the series will remain as true to the books as it has been in the past. “The showrunners are very dedicated and committed to realizing the books in all their facets,” Menzies said. “The fans can trust that they’re in pretty good hands, they keep a strong eye on that.”
Listen to the full episode below:
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