Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Debra Birnbaum chats with “Outlander” star Caitriona Balfe about the fourth season of the hit Starz show. As Claire Randall, a time-traveling nurse balancing both family and love, Balfe finds herself juggling romance with some horrors of early American life in the new season.
“Claire, especially last season, was very much focused on her professional life and this idea that she was this trailblazing professional women in the ’50s and ’60s, and that was really gratifying to play,” Balfe says.
This season, though, the actress continues, “we get to see this woman, and this couple, choose their home and sort of choose how they want to live their life and what that community that they want to build from the ground up, what that will become.”
Some of the challenges of the new season came for Balfe with a storyline that saw her character encountering slavery up close and person, as well as one in which Native American characters force Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan) to confront land expansion.
“I think in this process of adaptation… it’s a fine line of how you tell these stories,” Balfe says. “Those are never nice subjects when you have to come upon them, but I think it’s important that those conversations are still happening. You have to address it.”
“Outlander” saw immense success as an eight-part book series, but when the television adaptation aired in 2014, Balfe says she wasn’t sure if the series would stick around. Luckily, she says, fans of the books also took to the show, which now boasts four seasons and more than 70 episodes.
“They really embraced us from the start, but…what’s been so nice is that we’ve managed to branch out of that, and the show has sort of won its own fans,” Balfe says. “It’s been quite a wild ride, but it’s been a good one.”
The secret behind the adaptation’s success, she believes, is executive producer Ronald D. Moore whose inspiration for the show comes from the books themselves.
“I think that if you have people who are in the show [and] who are making the show, if they are fans, they retain the essence of what the book fans really love,” Balfe says.
At the same time, however, she says both Moore and the show’s other executive producers are still able to make each episode tell its own story. After all, “you still have to make TV for TV’s sake,” she says.
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