Outlander has become a major hit for Starz since it premiered back in 2014, and while the story has of course kept the show going strong for the better part of a decade, stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe have the chemistry to keep fans hooked. The series is currently in the midst of another Droughtlander – a.k.a. long hiatus between seasons – but Sam Heughan has opened up about the first casting session with Caitriona Balfe all those years ago, and it was intense.
Sam Heughan looked back at the early days of Outlander when the show was still in the casting process in his memoir, called Waypoints: My Scottish Journey. When he and Caitriona Balfe read together early on, they tackled a scene from the Season 1 episode called “The Reckoning,” which saw the two characters fighting in the aftermath of Jamie’s daring rescue of Claire after she’d been captured by Black Jack Randall.
It was an emotionally intense scene in the first season with both of them saying some things that they would ultimately regret, with Claire still not used to the constraints of her life as a wife in the 18th century and Jamie still not used to a wife who won’t just do as she’s told. In his memoir (via Variety), Heughan commented on the scene for Jamie and Claire, and how he and his future co-star got into the moment:
Despite their enduring love, the two characters can be quite antagonistic in their relationship. In the heat of that moment, born from love and frustration, we literally began tearing at each other until the director called time on us. It was intense, physically and emotionally. It left us breathless. She was wrapped in my arms and I think we both know that Jamie and Claire had just come into existence together.
Personally, I wish that there was video available of this casting session, because it sounds like their performances here solidified them as the perfect actors to play Claire and Jamie. It would also be interesting to compare it to the finished product that aired in “The Reckoning.” That episode was the first to air after the show’s first long break, as more than half a year passed between the end of the first half of Season 1 and “The Reckoning” as the start of Season 2. A lot had happened between the casting session and when they actually filmed the scene!
If this casting session is what led to both of them landing their roles, then fans should be happy that they went all-out. Their chemistry has kept the show going strong for six seasons and counting, to the point that some viewers have speculated that they were secretly in a relationship.The two actors also came to Outlander with some very different levels of experience.
Heughan was an established actor with many credits on the U.K. side of the pond along with some roles for the U.S. market, including a Hallmark Christmas movie that he still remembers fondly. For her part, Balfe was a model before transitioning into acting as well, with a far shorter list of pre-Outlander credits than her co-star. Heughan addressed how he felt “protective” of his co-star when Outlander began, writing:
It was a big leap for her. I felt that I needed to be protective towards her, as supportive as Jamie is with Claire. In some ways, it seems as if that dynamic developed between us as actors and then went on to amplify and be explored in front of the cameras.
Even though there were no guarantees back when the show was still in the casting stage that it would become a hit, the series is based on a popular (and still ongoing) novel saga by Diana Gabaldon. With the beloved source material and a lead pair with the chemistry and talent to keep the action going through location changes and major time jumps, Outlander is still going strong nearly a decade after it first premiered, with a spinoff in the works.
Unfortunately, there’s no word just yet on when Season 7 will launch on Starz, although there have been some exciting updates on the casting front. Sam Heughan also promised a “huge” seventh season that picks up with Claire in prison, Jamie on a mission to rescue her, and the Revolutionary War still brewing. Season 7 is in fact set to be the longest since Season 1. So, even though the show won’t be back any time too soon, fans are in for a lot of action when Season 7 does premiere.