Starz historical drama “Outlander” revolves around a woman named Claire Fraser who works as a nurse, notably lending her skills to the British Army during World War 2. Shortly after the war’s end, she winds up traveling back in time to the year 1743, where she joins a fictionalized version of the real-life Scottish Clan MacKenzie.
Given her familiarity with a relatively more modern era, Claire provides the series’ audience with an avatar of sorts, through whom its historical setting is filtered. In fact, one thing “Outlander” fans want more of in future seasons is an increase in scenes depicting Claire’s everyday life. Those with knowledge of the material on which the show is based recount these moments as highlights of the original book series.
Caitríona Balfe is the actor who plays this pivotal part in “Outlander.” While her career kicked off not in Hollywood but through frequent modeling work, movie roles both prior to and in the wake of her breakout “Outlander” performance have helped her become a familiar face for plenty of filmgoers.
Caitríona Balfe plays Joe’s mother Elizabeth in Super 8
Caitríona Balfe plays protagonist Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney)’s mom Elizabeth Lamb in J. J. Abrams’ sci-fi drama “Super 8,” in what’s effectively her first significant screen acting role. Before its 2011 premiere, Balfe appeared in film and on TV solely through her modeling work. So, although her first acting gig was technically in “The Devil Wears Prada” in 2006, this was an uncredited cameo as a model, rather than as a character with any sort of dramatic impact.
Her role as Elizabeth in “Super 8,” though brief, is key to the film’s story. At its outset, Joe has just lost his mom to an accident at the factory where she works. Furthermore, on the day of her death, she was covering a shift for her coworker Louis (Ron Eldard), so Joe’s father and Elizabeth’s husband Jack (Kyle Chandler) resents Louis for what he believes was an active part in the incident that took her life. While the total length of her time on-screen may be minimal, then, her loss is nevertheless pivotal, looming over the duration of the movie.
Balfe is Arthur’s wife Jasmine in Now You See Me
A couple years and a few films later, Caitríona Balfe played a part in “Transporter 2” and future “Fast X” director Louis Leterrier’s magician heist movie “Now You See Me.” As of her “Super 8” appearance, Balfe’s body of work still largely consisted of modeling, hence her relative lack of screen time. Between then and “Now You See Me,” however, she acted in a couple of independent films as well as a popular web series, helping establish herself as an actor and not merely a model dabbling in the film industry.
Nevertheless, her “Now You See Me” character Jasmine is defined by her partner — she’s the wife of rich businessman Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) — more so than her own dramatic story arc. Those familiar with the film might remember her from a scene in which The Four Horsemen extract some personal information from Arthur on a plane. That said, “Outlander” premiered just one year later with Balfe as its lead, kicking off a career trajectory that would see her in increasingly important film and TV roles moving forward.
She’s Molly Miles in Ford v Ferrari
By the time of the 2019 premiere of “Walk the Line” and “Logan” director James Mangold’s racing drama “Ford v Ferrari,” Caitríona Balfe had four seasons of “Outlander” under her belt. Balfe once again plays a major character’s partner in “Ford v Ferrari” as Mollie Miles, wife of racer Ken Miles (Christian Bale). In comparison to her previous, similar roles, though, Mollie is herself dramatically complex, rather than a mere accompaniment to a more important character.
The bulk of Mollie’s arc, however, is still colored by her relationship to Ken, leaving somewhat vague the particulars of her life when she’s apart from him. In fact, author Sage Young criticized the film’s treatment of Mollie in an NBC News editorial titled, “The way ‘Ford V Ferrari’ undermines its main female character is frustratingly predictable.” While Mollie’s depth may be a far cry from that of Claire in “Outlander,” Balfe was nevertheless capable of securing a major role in an Oscar bait Hollywood drama, arguably marking the start of her present day arc as a prestige actor outside of just her “Outlander” character.
She’s one of the stars of Belfast
Caitríona Balfe’s “Outlander” role has earned her considerable acclaim over the years, including four Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a TV Drama. Thus far, only her role in “Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh’s film loosely about his childhood, has garnered a similar degree of recognition at festivals and awards ceremonies.
Child actor Jude Hill stars in “Belfast” as a boy named Buddy, growing up near the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Balfe plays Buddy’s mom, only referred to as Ma throughout the film. Since his father, played by Jamie Dornan, works in England, Ma is Buddy’s primary caretaker, and plays a major part in the story of his childhood. Balfe earned herself another Golden Globe nomination for her work in “Belfast,” competing in the Best Supporting Actress category. She also won awards at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Currently, Balfe is slated to return for Season 7 of “Outlander,” which will air in two halves between 2023 and 2024. With this role and now “Belfast” escalating her into the upper echelon of major awards-worthy performers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Balfe’s career soon reach new heights.