The international phenomenon that is Outlander returns to Starz on June 16 for its much-anticipated seventh season and its stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are giving out major hints at what fans can expect from their characters Claire and Jamie Fraser, as their sweeping on-screen love story now faces the Revolutionary War.
“It is pretty intense stuff this season,” Balfe told with me during our new conversation. “I think we pick up where we left off last season with Claire in jail, and we figure out that Jamie is trying to find her. He’s trying to rescue her but the salvation comes in a mysterious form, doesn’t it?”
Heughan said, “Yeah, the first episode kind of ties up a lot of the story that we left hanging in the last season, and then I think from episode two, we’re suddenly on a different trajectory and a very different storyline. The first few episodes, a lot happens.”
Based on the bestselling Outlander books by author Diana Gabaldon, the sixth season consisted of only eight episodes due to filming limitations during the Covid-19 pandemic and other factors. Fortunately for fans, this new Outlander season has 16 new episodes to continue the epic tale surrounding the Fraser family in late 18th century Scotland.
When I had previously spoken with Heughan, we had briefly discussed his aspirations to start directing projects, an interest he shares with co-star Balfe, beyond them both already becoming producers on the series in season five. In fact, Balfe said that she does “a little bit of second unit [directing]” in this seventh season and plans to direct a full Outlander episode during its eighth and final season.
Heughan said of directing, “We both love to challenge ourselves and I think especially as an actor, once you’ve been in the industry for a little bit, you start to sort have your own creative ideas and ways you like to approach things. I think as storytellers, it’s just another way to tell or impart a narrative. It would be fun to explore that.”
Balfe continued, “I think as an actor, you sometimes get limited to what you can say or just in terms of who you can play or what kind of stories you can tell. As Sam said, it’s another way of being a storyteller.”
Knowing that season eight will be the end for this particular Outlander story, I asked Heughan and Balfe if they will head into filming the final season with more ease, knowing the end is near and they have already created a worldwide hit, or if they will put even more pressure on themselves to properly wrap up these storylines for their longtime characters that they have played since the series premiered in 2014.
“I think for sure we want to end it on a high,” Balfe said. “That’s part of the reason we wanted to do this season eight, is so that we could really do justice to the series and do justice to the fans who’ve supported us for so long, and kind of give them a really considered and thoughtful ending. We really haven’t started those conversations yet.”
Heughan said, “We just want it to be a satisfactory ending. Obviously, there’s still a lot of story to be told that we probably won’t be able to cover it all, but it does feel rewarding that we can come back for one more season and just finish it with some sort of satisfaction.”
Outlander executive producer Maril Davis, who has also been an integral part of the series since the very beginning, shared with me the current status of the upcoming final season. “We were in the writers room until the writers strike. We were in the writers room on both the prequel and season eight. Obviously, with the writers strike, who knows what’s going to happen, but I hope that ends soon. I hope the writers get what they want. I hope we can come back to those rooms because it’s a lot of exciting stuff.”
As Balfe and Heughan continue to work alongside one another as romantic on-screen scene partners, I wondered what Heughan would say remains his favorite quality about Balfe after all these years, and vice versa.
“I think it’s her sense of humor that is always the paramount,” said Heughan. “We have a good time – we laugh a lot. She’s been a fantastic scene partner. We’ve kind of grown up together on the show and got a lot of experience from it, and it’s so nice to then also see us both go off and do other things, as well. I feel very proud of her and all of the work that she’s doing.”
Balfe said, “I have to say all of the same stuff but also Sam’s kindness. He’s one of the true, genuine, kind people out there with such a big heart. I feel so fortunate that I’ve had such a good partner-in-crime this whole time. I think we very rarely do get to have such a great relationship as this in work and it’s been really, really great. He’s such a talented and kind human being.”
Even as Heughan and Balfe continue to keep a large part of their focus on Outlander, they both have broadened their horizons beyond the Scottish countryside alone. Balfe remains a proud patron of World Child Cancer, the leading international children’s charity dedicated to addressing the global inequality in childhood cancer care.
Balfe said, “We’ve been so fortunate in life and I don’t take that for granted. I know Sam definitely doesn’t and I think it is about if you can help anybody else, if you can shine a light on the great work that a lot of people are doing – the people who are actually in the nuts and bolts of charity work – if you can help shine a light on their work, that’s something that we’re more than happy to do. It’s just all about lifting up those who are less fortunate than yourself.”
For Heughan, one of his many commitments includes being the active founder of My Peak Challenge, a global movement dedicated to educating and inspiring its members to live healthier, happier and more balanced lives while raising funds to change lives.
Heughan said, “We’re artists. We like telling stories and I think I’ve really enjoyed creating the TV show or the [Clanlands] book series that we’ve done, and certainly the [Sassenach] spirits business for me is a real passion and I love doing it. I guess also providing a voice or a platform – we’re lucky the show has given us so much opportunity. The fans support us in all of the projects that we do and being able to help lend your voice to whatever charity that we’re able to work with, it feels very rewarding to give back a little bit.”
As I concluded my conversation with these beloved figures pushing for positive change, both on and off the screen, I asked Balfe and Heughan what message they might have for their loyal Outlander fans, people who have supported the series since day one and continue to anxiously await more episodes.
“Thank you and we really, really hope you enjoy season seven because we made it for you guys,” Balfe said.
Heughan added, “We did! We’re really proud of it. Honestly, I think it’s one of our strongest seasons yet. So much to look forward to.”