By Lynette Rice
August 24, 2017 at 03:00 PM EDT

To read more on Outlander, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

When two actors portray a timeless love affair, the urge is to photograph them in a passionate embrace. So when longtime EW photo contributor Ruven Afanador was scouting locations for EW’s Outlander cover shoot, his first instinct was to have Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe recreate an iconic moment from movie history.

And what better scene to pay homage to than the classic beach romp in From Here to Eternity?

It’s not like Afanador was short of sand and water. The backlot of Cape Town Studios in South Africa, where the second half of season 3 was filmed, provided the perfect setting because it featured a small lagoon. “We wanted to create a beautiful romantic moment and when we were presented with this beach, From Here to Eternity came to him right away,” explains EW photo editor Natalie Gialluca.

Ruven Afanador for EW

The first hurdle was convincing the costume department to agree to that part of the March 8 cover shoot. “It would require the actors to roll around and get dirty,” recalled Gialluca. “They hadn’t even shot [their first episode] yet. It was their first day back on the set and the table read was the next day. The costumes were very precious so that was our biggest hurdle to get them to let us do it.”

Once Afanador and Gialluca got the green light, Heughan and Balfe were totally game to tap their inner Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. (For the pop-culture challenged, here’s the iconic moment from the 1953 movie).

Everett Collection

“They were really excited about the reference,” says Gialluca. “They really got into it.”

Maybe that’s because they had a little more to wear than Lancaster and Kerr. Like it even matters: we dinnae think the actors can look any hotter!

Season 3 of Outlander debuts on STARZ on Sept. 10.