‘Outlander’ role a perfect fit for Irish star Balfe

The home-grown star of the time travel TV sensation which is being billed as the next Game of Thrones has told of her excitement at the arrival of Outlander on Irish screens.

Caitriona Balfe: Plays First World War nurse, Claire.
Caitriona Balfe: Plays First World War nurse, Claire.

Caitriona Balfe has become an overnight star in America with her leading role as the beautiful English heroine, Claire Randall, in the adaptation of the historical fantasy book series which has pulled in audiences of up to 8m across the Atlantic.

The major new period blockbuster, set to be aired on RTÉ Two tomorrow tonight, is already being billed as the feminist answer to Game of Thrones, thanks to her central role of the feisty World War One combat nurse. 

The Irish catwalk model turned actress can’t wait for her family to see her role in the blockbuster, but she has tipped off her parents to put on the kettle during the show’s famous love scenes.

“I think I’ve pre-warned my parents that there are a couple of scenes they can go out and make a cup of tea during, but they will enjoy watching it,” says the Monaghan star.

Outlander — based on the eight-book series by American author Diana Gabaldon which sold 25m copies — follows Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743 into an unknown world where her life is threatened.

When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a young Scottish warrior, played by Sam Heughan, Claire is torn between two very different men in two irreconcilable lives.

The actress said that she is bowled over with the reaction to the series, which has become a smash hit in America since it first aired at the end of the summer.

“It’s been wonderful,” she says. “I think we were all hoping it would do well because the books have done so well, but I think we were all very pleasantly surprised with how well it has been received.

“There was a very cool feeling on set and everyone got along very well. It is sort of a dream role. [Claire] is a very, intelligent strong woman.

“She doesn’t let the men away with anything when she finds herself in this very patriarchal society and she also likes to have a drink and a laugh and she gets to go horse riding and it’s very physical and then there is this great emotional love story. From day one, it just felt really like a good fit and it felt very natural and I just got her straight away.”

The actress, who left Ireland at the age of 19 to model in America, said she loved the chance to get back home more often when she was filming Outlander in Scotland over the past year.

“I left in 1999 but obviously my parents are still there and I have a sister in Dublin and a brother in Limerick and another brother in Monaghan and I get home as much as I can,” says the 35-year-old.

-Outlander will be shown on RTÉ Two tomorrow at 11pm.


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