Tonight, Outlander’s season 4 finale aired, leaving us with a lot of feelings, thoughts, and questions—a LOT. So we asked Caitriona Balfe, aka Claire Fraser, to give us her take on the episode. Here, the Golden Globe-nominated actress talks about the finale, reflects on her favorite scenes from the season, shares what she hopes for Claire next season—and explains why we can’t see Sam Heughan shirtless in every scene.
How would you describe Claire this season, going into the finale, and where we leave her at the end?
Well it was a very different season for Claire. She's no longer the front and center. The story has opened up so much to include Brianna, Roger, and the rest of the extended family. In a way, that gives us a chance to open up all of these characters and explore them.
For Claire, it was definitely a season where she was able to sort of relax a little bit more. Because in many ways, she and Jamie, they've found each other now. They are living in Fraser's Ridge. They're starting to build this family, and community, and their relationship is on solid ground, even though there is still a lot of external situations and forces that cause them strife or force them to be apart. But it's not a question about the depth of their love or anything like that, so in many ways, she was able to relax in that sense.
But it was also really interesting that I got to explore Claire as a mother, in a very different way than we've ever had the opportunity to before. The difference of what it is to be a mother to a child, or a young adult, and then mother to an adult, and someone who is sort of your equal now. I think that was a really interesting focus of who Claire is, and what I was working on this season.
There were so many emotional scenes. That moment where she realized that Brianna had been attacked, and who had attacked her was just so moving. That must have been an emotional time on set, and hard to do.
Yeah. I mean, that whole story line, it's so heartbreaking. Sophie does such a wonderful job. She's really blossomed this season, and it's been so lovely to see her being given more and more responsibility, and more time. It's been wonderful to see, and so to be able to play those scenes with her, it was so great.
It's such tough material, and it's such a heartbreaking thing, as a mother to watch her daughter go through that, and to make those realizations about, not only was she horrifically raped, but then who it was, and then the fact that she's pregnant. It's tough material, but it's also those are the kind of things you actually in some ways relish getting to do, because you really feel like you can explore something that's meaningful to a lot of people. I think it's important that we get to explore those things, and bring them out into the conversation as well for people.
Another emotional moment that I was surprised was not included in the finale was the birth scene: Claire is not there for the birth of her grandson, and Jamie isn't either, but I know in the book they are there. Do you have any feelings or insight about why that change was made, or what you think about that?
That's sort of a question for the writers. I'm not fully sure why they made that decision, but I'm sure they... You know, it's very tough to try and fill up all of the different threads, and to have everything come together. You know, our season is only 13 acts. These books are so dense, and there's so much to it.
There are times when you are disappointed by some of the stuff that gets changed, but I also think, I don't know that they would have been able to tie up all of the things correctly, just in terms of the time constraints. I think that Sophie did such a wonderful job in those scenes. I think for Jamie and Claire, getting to see their grandchild, once they see him for the first time, any of those pangs of regret of not being there for the birth or anything like that, it just washes away. It would have been nice to have done those scenes with Sophie, but I think the way they shot it, and the way it ended up, they looked fantastic.
Yes. I don't know anymore than that.
Did you have a favorite scene from this season?
I have a few. I think the scene that you mentioned with Sophie, her confiding in Claire, and Claire sort of knowing that something is up, and the realization of what those were. You know, those are difficult things to bear. It felt really good when we were filming them. It's such a joy to work with Sophie, so I think that was sort of the highlight. Some of the scenes with David Berry [Lord John Grey], in episode six, were such a highlight as well. I think he's such a wonderful actor, and it was such an interesting, odd dynamic to explore. It's nice when you get to sort of look into some of those things.
Some of the romantic things that Sam and I got to do with Jamie and Claire. The bath scene, you know, it's still a highlight for me. I think as the show opens up more and more, we don't have as many opportunities to show those romantic intimate moments, and I think when we do, we really relish the fact that we get to. We place a lot of importance on it, and so that was a really beautiful scene. Denise Di Novi who directed it, I think she did a wonderful job. So, yeah.
You just mentioned that you don't get as many chances to show these more intimate moments. Do you think that's because there is so much of the storyline to pack in or because of character development?
Well, I think we've had a couple of episodes this season where Sam and I just aren't in it at all. So obviously if you open up the world more and more, more and more time is given to other characters, and their stories, and their arcs. You can't really then, just every time you see Claire and Jamie, have them in a pre-coital/post-coital-mid-coital moment. You know, I think we still do have sex scenes, and we still do have intimate moments, and we still try and make sure that those moments are there, and that they feel honest, and they feel important to the story line.
But you know, I think when I say sometimes, "Well, we're now exploring a mature marriage," people misconstrue that as saying that I think that mature marriage people don't have sex. That's not true at all. I think that, obviously for Claire and Jamie, there's still so much passion there, but it's different. It's a different type of passion, and it should be a different type of passion, than it was when they first met. I mean, anyone whose been in a long term relationship will tell you that how you are in the beginning of a relationship is very different to how you are a couple years in. It doesn't mean that you're not still incredibly connected, and that there's not still passion, and that you don't still have sex, but what I'm just saying is, it's different.
The importance on that, is maybe not as heightened as it is at the very beginning. You know we have to explore all aspects of their relationship. And it's also in the story that we're telling, they were living in a one roomed home with their nephew. And sometimes they were out on the road, or they're living in lean-to with their nephew. So you have to take into consideration the logistics, and the story. We've always said that the sex has to be part of the storytelling. We're not just going to jam it in, just for the sake of it. I think we found really beautiful moments to include it this season, and I think they were impactful, and I think as we go forward, we will continue to try and do that. But you know, it's not exclusively Claire and Jamie's story anymore. There's a wider family and a wider community, that is all getting time, so obviously that has an impact on how much you show or see of all aspects of their relationship.
Do you know when you're going to start shooting season five? Have you started shooting?
We have not started shooting, no. I think it's not too far away. I'm not sure of the exact date, but it's pretty soon.
Are you able to give any hints or teases about what the next season will be like or what you would want in the next season?
We're following "The Fiery Cross," I think that's going to be our guide. Each season we sort of base it on the book of that series. So a lot of that is, there's a big gathering. There's also, I think it's the expansion of Fraser's Ridge, and all the various different characters that come there, and the settlement becomes larger. But there's this real, as we've already foreshadowed towards the end of this season, the ballooning revolutionary war. That's going to feature I think quite heavily, and the impact that has on the family, and the extended family, and then where peoples allegiances end up lying. I think it's going to be quite interesting.
Is there anything that you hope for Claire or that you hope for any of the other character? I feel like we left at such a dramatic moment with the birth of this grandchild, and also young Ian starting this new life with the Mohawks. It feels like a big moment.
I just want to continue to explore this character, and expand upon what we've already done. You know, it's an interesting time for Claire in her life, being a grandmother, having all of this extended family. How long—Is that going to be satisfying enough for her? Is she going to sort of expand upon, maybe her more professional side again? You know, and just continue to deepen and explore this relationship between these two characters.
Obviously I love all of the exciting plot points and all of that, but for me, the real interesting stuff is when you get to delve more into the character moments. So yeah, I hope we get to do more of that.
What else are you working on that you're excited about at the moment?
Well I finished shooting a film just before Christmas, Ford v. Ferrari, which was really fun. That's coming out in June. That's quite exciting.
I've been doing voice over for the Dark Crystal, which is really, really fun. It's a new live action television series for Netflix. I play Gelfling princess warrior. It's been really cool. You know, I remember that film so vividly from my childhood, and it was such a cool thing back then, so it's been really fun to be a part of that. And yeah, it's been nice to do some other stuff, and do stuff that's quite different before we go back. But I think we're all chomping at the bit, to get back to it now. It feels like quite a while ago since we finished, so I think we're just waiting on scripts, and then we'll be ready to get going.
It must be funny to be on set finally with Sophie and Rik and Sam and John and everyone—both of Claire's worlds colliding and all of these people coming together, who hadn't worked together before.
Yeah, I mean it's funny. I guess I had sort of worked with everyone more or less.
Yeah, you're the connection.
I feel quite cheated, because I used to have the skinny on everybody, and now everyone just knows everyone. No, it's good. It's really lovely. I mean, we have such a lovely bunch of actors. It's been a real fun group, and a really good season, and so yeah. I think we're all excited to get back, and hang out together again, and continue the story.