Caitriona Balfe may need to clear some shelf space for a few trophies: The Outlander actress is up for a Critics’ Choice Award this Sunday, a People’s Choice prize next month, and hopefully several others this awards season. In preparation for her red carpet arrival, we asked Balfe to reflect on her last season’s most gut-wrenching episode — the death of her baby, Faith — and what we can expect from season 3 of the Starz drama.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are you doing right now?
CAITRIONA BALFE: I have been filming a lot of Boston with Brianna [played by Sophie Skelton].
Did you say parts of Glasgow in Scotland double as Boston?
Yeah. We have Claire and Frank’s Boston apartment in the studio, and then we use some of the West End in Glasgow as exteriors.
Can you say what episode you’re on now?
We’re gonna film six and seven. We’ve already shot eight. We’re almost halfway through.
How far ahead have you read the scripts? Do you know how this season will end?
No. I mean, we start shooting our next block this week, and I got the script [last week]. It’s not a long time, and I only got one of them, so I’m still waiting on the second one. It can be quite quick, you know? I mean, obviously, we know the general trajectory because we’ve read the book, but what the writers have chosen to do with the book, we don’t know yet until we read the script.
Are you shooting in order this season? Have you still not done anything with Sam Heughan [who plays Jamie Fraser]?
We’ve shot a little out of order, so Sam and I have shot one episode together. So [this week] Jamie and Claire will be together from now on. So Sam and I will be on set together as we go forward. We’ve mostly shot the first stuff up front, but we had to pull one episode forward because of different actors’ schedules, so yeah. We’ve done a little bit together.
Earlier this year, we ran a first look shot of you walking on the battlefield. Was that from a dream sequence, with Jamie imagining his life without you?
I don’t think he’s imagining his life without Claire. It’s an image that Jamie has conjured up in his head. That’s the best way of saying it.
Can you reflect on the dark places that you went last season, like the episode involving the death of your daughter Faith?
Any time you get material like that as an actor, it’s a gift, to be able to explore those different aspects of humanity, death, and loss and love. They’re essential to our humanity, so to be able to explore those in your work is always gratifying. That episode that Toni Graphia wrote… it was hard to sort of trace yourself in that emotional space and stay in it, especially when we were filming that. We were filming those scenes for over a week but it was a really beautiful and important part of the character’s story. I think this season is different. Especially in the first part of the season, we’re going through 20 years of Claire’s life and seeing little vignettes of who she’s become as a woman, and that was a very different type of challenge. How do you tell the story of a relationship and of a life and of a woman over her 20 years in the space of a few scenes? So that had its own unique challenges. It’s definitely different to last season.
What is Claire’s look these days?
Well, it’s different. Obviously, we go through 20 years, so you’ll see some ’40s, some ’50s, some ’60s. The ’60s sort of look we’ve seen already from last season. And then, when Claire goes back [through the stones] — I suppose it’s something like the things that she’s worn in France, I guess, but it’s quite subdued. It’s not nearly as flamboyant, I guess, as some of the Parisian faire that I wore last season.
What’s it been like on set in terms of paparazzi? Are you finding more this time around than before?
A little. Because we’ve been filming around Glasgow, some people come out and but, you know, generally, in the U.K., people are quite respectful and we’re up in Glasgow, so there’s not a huge amount of paparazzi around, which is quite nice. There are days when we’re on the street and you don’t always notice that they’re there, but then, a few days later, somebody’ll say, ‘Oh, we saw you were filming,’ and then you realize there’s pictures everywhere! But I tend to absolutely not notice until there’s some terrible photos floating around.
Are you going to be working up to Christmas this month? What’s the production plan?
Yes. I think we stop two, three days before Christmas. So yeah, we’re gonna be shooting right up until the 22nd, I think.
Has Starz let you know when they’ll announce when the show returns?
I’m quite happily ignorant to all of that. I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend I don’t know. I have no idea.
Do you think you’re gonna be working straight through for much of 2017? Do you know when your next big hiatus is?
I know when we finish season 3, if we don’t take some sort of a break, we might have a few main actors in hospitals. I think they have to give us something. This show is just so big, and it’s such a beast that it just wouldn’t be feasible to go straight from one season to the other. I don’t know how long that will be.