It’s been more than a year since the season-six finale of Outlander aired, leaving us with some massive cliffhangers to fret over, but now Jamie and Claire Fraser are finally back for a new season of the beloved Scottish time-travelling series.
The seventh season is actually split into two parts, with the first eight episodes airing this summer, starting June 16, and the second batch (again of eight episodes) due to arrive in 2024. That will be followed by – sob – a final season that will wrap things up for the Fraser family.
In the meantime there are lots of questions to be answered (Who killed Malva? Can Jamie save Claire from the gallows?), and battles to be fought (the American Revolutionary War is on the horizon) as season seven begins.
Digital Spy chatted exclusively to actress Caítriona Balfe about what lies in store for Claire and her family in the new season, and how she’s already preparing herself for the eventual end of Outlander.
Recent seasons of Outlander have had a theme, like Family or Home. What’s the theme for season seven?
I can’t say! I’m going to say that the theme is just the epic, epic scale of the season. Or we could say ‘change’ – change is coming, change is here, change is everywhere! Let’s say that.
Claire had a rough time in the last season, coming to terms with all that has happened to her. How is she doing in the new season?
Obviously in season seven, circumstantially she’s still in quite a bit of peril. But I would say mentally and emotionally, in comparison to where we found her in season six, Claire is in a much better place. I think she had her lowest low in season six, and really had to figure out a way of reconstructing herself in a certain way, how she was going to deal with problems going forward.
She couldn’t rely on the old methods anymore. And I think that once she made that decision, and when she started to heal, there is a much stronger – mentally and emotionally – Claire who is present this season.
Even though there’s a lot of very tough stuff and very dark stuff that happens this season, I think she’s just much more capable of coping with it. I think a big part of that is she doesn’t compartmentalise anymore, she’s not hiding things away.
Does she have an easier time of it this season?
There is a lot that happens this season, there’s a lot of peril, there’s a lot of sadness, there’s a lot of joy. It’s really an epic season this year.
Was anything particularly challenging for you filming season 7?
There is quite a bit of challenging stuff this season that I can’t talk about, which is really frustrating! I had stuff with Mark Lewis Jones [who plays Tom Christie] at the start of the season which wasn’t necessarily a challenge, but it was beautiful material to get to work with, and Mark is such an incredible actor. It was stuff that you just get to sink your teeth into.
What was it like singing ‘Ave Maria’ in one of the episodes?
It was a challenge for me to sing this season, which is not my forte.
That was quite nerve-wracking, especially when they were like, ‘We’re just going to film that a cappella, as you’re walking along’. I was like, ‘Okay, can I speed-dial a vocal coach?’
Of course they give me an insanely difficult classical piece to do, but all of that stuff is also what keeps it really interesting and keeps me on my toes this long into the show.
Are you already feeling like you’re saying goodbye to Claire and Jamie, now you know when Outlander will end?
Sam [Heughan] and I were doing a video for this season and I started to get emotional already. It’s going to be so weird. It’s been such an amazing ride that it’s nice to wrap it up while we all still love each other and we are all still feeling like we’re making a good show.
But at the same time, it’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to these characters. It’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to each other and not have that kind of constant contact. It feels like it’s the right time, but at the same time, it’s going to be hard I think.
Is it easier to know that you will have a definitive ending with season eight, and can finish the story properly?
To be honest, that’s one of the reasons primarily that Sam and I wanted to do this [final eighth] season, because we didn’t want to wrap it up really quickly.
[During filming of] season seven, there were a lot of conversations going on, whether we would have finished it in two episodes, at the end of that season, or whether we would do another one. I think we felt like it was really important to do it right. To honour the show and honour the fan base and I hope we get to do that – I haven’t seen the scripts yet of what season eight is going to be. But I think it is really important that we give it a proper send-off.
It’s been 10 years since you started on your Outlander journey. Any advice you’d give your younger self if you could time travel back like Claire?
I probably would have said, buy an apartment in Glasgow sooner! [Outlander is filmed just outside the city].
No, I’m not one for really wanting to change things. I think everything that happens brings you to where you are, and things happen for a reason, and all those things. It’s been such a privilege, you know, I don’t think that there’s anything I’d want to change. I’ve learned so much through this show, I’ve grown so much. My life has changed so much.
It’s been a wild and wonderful ride. And I can’t complain at all.