Caitríona Balfe Reveals Why They've Waited to Return to Filming 'Outlander'

Reshma Gopaldas
·14 min read

Caitríona Balfe, Sam Heughan, and the rest of the Outlander cast are returning to work soon to begin filming Season 6. Balfe said they’ve waited this long to go back because they want it to be safe — and also didn’t want to produce a “Covid-friendly” version of Outlander, because that wouldn’t be authentic to their show. “We want to have intimate scenes,” Balfe said, noting that the classic Outlander love scenes and group scenes are important to their show. Well, it sounds like it will be worth the wait. And Outlander fans everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief at this news.

Balfe dropped this Outlander intel when she virtually joined Josh Horowitz for a special holiday benefit episode of his podcast, Happy, Sad, Confused. All proceeds of the event went to benefit Symphony Space and Harlem-is. In the hour long episode, Balfe chatted about how quarantine has been for her, the book club she started, what she thought of Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish’s book Clanlands, her new movie with Jamie Dornan and Judi Dench, and why she’s nervous and excited about returning to the Outlander set. She also answered a few fan questions, and played a game with Horowitz in which she had to guess what body parts belonged to co-stars Heughan and McTavish. Spoiler: She guessed “Sam’s butt” for most answers. And his butt was not in the game. But… more on that later. Two special guests popped into the podcast with pre-taped messages. The owner of said butt, Heughan, and McTavish.

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“Couple’s Therapy” sequel: Sam, Caitríona & Josh Horowitz

Now when it comes to Jamie and Claire, three’s usually a crowd when anyone tries to join them. But in this case, Josh Horowitz is a welcome third wheel. (That was supposed to sound more complimentary). A few years ago, Horowitz did a comedy sketch called “Couples Therapy” with Balfe and Heughan, as Jamie and Claire, where he played their therapist. He can keep up with both Balfe and Heughan, and he also knows when to leave the scene. (Some things that Jamie and Claire do are best left a party of two).

Balfe remembers the day they filmed the sketch, saying she and Sam just showed up and didn’t know what was happening, but loved being able to do a little comedy. Horowitz said he sent them the script prior. And Balfe replied, “Oh maybe someone gave it to us and we didn’t look at it?” Oops.

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When all the quarantining is over, Balfe said, “We should do another.” Pretty sure when you say something on a Zoom, it’s legally binding.

Forget Me Not gin

A few months ago, Balfe launched her new gin, called Forget Me Not, which benefits the arts. So you can drink her gin for a good cause. How did she get inspired to create her own gin? “I had a bad encounter with gin after some final exams in school,” she confessed. Um, I love to bottle my bad encounters too? After not having gin for many years, she rediscovered her love for it when she moved back to the UK. The first batch benefits the Glasgow Arts School.

Between Heughan’s Sassenach whisky and Balfe’s gin, Horowitz said his Outlander liquor cabinet was stocked. Balfe’s on-screen daughter, Sophie Skelton, won’t have to choose between her TV mom’s gin and her TV dad’s whisky. Because she can drink both. Balfe joked, “Sophie will start her own wine.”

Books & booze — Caitríona Balfe’s book club

When the pandemic hit, Balfe flew back to Scotland from L.A. on March 14 and was on lockdown for four months. These past few months she says, “I’ve learned a lot about myself — and not all of it’s good.” Balfe needs structure, admitting, “I need people telling me what to do and where to be. And then I can rebel against it. ‘Don’t you tell me what to do!’”

But one great thing that’s come out of these strange unstructured times is her book club. She says having that community has been amazing. The theme of her book club is diversity, and she pick books from all around the world. She hosts a monthly Instagram live about the book and laughs that it’s weird to just be talking to herself. She hopes once the world returns to “normal,” she can do them in person. A fan asked her who out of all the book club authors she’d have dinner with. Balfe picked Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. If you’d like to read all of Balfe’s book club picks and support small bookstores, check out this list.

The Hangover, Outlander-style

Wondering if the stories about Balfe in Heughan’s Clanlands were fact or fiction? “I always say Sam never lets truth get in the way of a good story,” she laughed. But the story about the whisky tasting night at co-star McTavish’s house was all true. At least she thinks so, she can’t really recall. Seems a lot of whisky was had, and at least one table was broken by Duncan LaCroix (Murtagh). She, Heughan, and LaCroix all had to go to work in the morning. “The read through the next day was probably one of the funniest yet painful days of our lives.” Balfe then blamed friend and executive producer Maril Davis, “I’m going to bring her into this, because Maril always comes across as the most sensible person. She was responsible for putting me to bed and she set the alarm wrong,” which is why Balfe overslept. It wasn’t the whisky’s fault. It was Maril’s.

Outlander season 6 filming…

Balfe said that although they hadn’t started back on Outlander yet, they were starting very “soon.” Then she raised her eyebrows and did a head tilt. So that means January. In eyebrow-head-tilt language. Horowitz asked her how Outlander has changed for her. “I was so green in 2013 and sort of terrified, but also felt so amazing after the first day of filming.” The chemistry between cast and crew clicked from the first day. Now, she says they’re more mature, as she and Heughan have become producers and gotten more responsibilities — but the show still feels like a great family to her. While she’s excited to return to set, she’s nervous too because of Covid. They love to chat and hang out on set together, and it will be strange to possibly have to be removed from everyone. Balfe revealed she hadn’t seen any of her co-stars in person recently, but did hang out with Skelton, Heughan, and McTavish in the summer. “I’ve seen Sophie the most. And I saw Lauren in Scotland when they opened things up a bit more.”

“The Wedding” episode vs. “A. Malcolm”  

Horowitz decided to run a little Zoom poll and see which Outlander episode fans and Balfe loved the most. He selected “The Wedding” vs. “A. Malcolm.” Balfe said right away, “Oh, I think it will be hard to beat the wedding, I mean… first love.” And Balfe was right: 69% picked the wedding. (Hilarious number, very Outlander).

Balfe vs. Heughan in “Guess the body parts”

Horowitz introduced a game he played with Heughan a few weeks ago, where he showed him pictures of Balfe and McTavish’s body parts. “Sam got all of them correct,” Horowitz told Balfe, to which she quickly replied, “I should f*cking hope so! Sorry for cursing,” noting that she and McTavish look quite different. Horowitz then proceeded to show her photos of Sam and Graham’s body parts. “Is it someone’s a**? You need a new printer!” So Caitríona Balfe lost the game, but it was Horowitz’s printer’s fault. The best way to get a feel for how this went down is simply a list of phrases by Balfe:

“Looks likes the moon, is it someone’s ass?”

“You need a new printer, is it Graham’s head?”

“That looks like something none of us should know what that looks like.”

(Once you see the photo below, this statement becomes funnier).

“Oh bloody hell.”

“Is that Sam’s jawline? But why are there whiskers?”

“Graham’s nose? His ear. I’m blaming your pictures.”

“Is it Sam’s butt?” (Horowitz: “No his clavicle.”)

This was like watching someone take an eye test and then fail an eye test. Badly. In her defense, the pictures were hard to see, and he might need a new printer. And we’re all stuck in this pixelated Zoom world, forever.

Happiest & hardest scenes to film on Outlander

The scene where Jamie falls off their horse and Claire saves him was in fact one of the hardest scenes to film for Balfe. First, it was her audition scene. So she had to say, “Stop, help, he’s going over,” more times than anyone should have to say it. “The night of filming, it was cold, late at night, and there were horses and people falling over.” As for her happiest scene, it was when Claire and Jamie dance at the stones before she goes back. She says, “Sam and I were in sync, and the crew got emotional, which very rarely happens.”

Caitríona Balfe’s weirdest modeling job

When Horowitz asked Balfe to recall her strangest modeling job, she quickly recalled one in Paris where she walked down the runway in a bathing suit with a matching rolling suitcase. Unable to button the coat she had to put on, she couldn’t stop laughing on the runway. An Outlander fan on Twitter found this exact moment. Side note: Outlander fans should actually just be the FBI. They will find you and all of your hidden videos and your real dad. (What?) Whatever, they’re very crafty. Don’t mess with them.

What shows she binged… “Huzzah”

Like many people, Balfe has been binging shows, movies, and reading books. The Great, Queen’s Gambit, First Cow, and the movie Rocks were some of her faves. After watching The Great, “I went around saying ‘Huzzah’ for months,” Balfe admitted. Horowitz paused the chat to do a few giveaways to fans. When it was time for Clanlands, Balfe interjected, “They make great doorstoppers.” Ooh burn, Sam. But in typical Balfe-Heughan style, she followed it up with a compliment for him, in a short monologue. She was astounded and amazed how fast Heughan and McTavish published their book in just 8 months. She wishes she could “sit down and do sh*t in quarantine.” “He wrote and published a book. Can he stop being so bloody productive? Who is he?!” Sam Bloody Heughan.

Why Caitríona Balfe wants Sam Heughan to be James Bond

Horowitz brought up the rumor of Heughan being cast as James Bond. He told Balfe he’s not sure if he could take Heughan talking about being Bond all the time. But Balfe said, “Oh no, we want the perks. We can take the ‘I’m James Bond’ stories. We can dine out on that for years.” Now that’s a true supportive friend. I hope you get the job, so you can treat us to dinner all the time.

Caitríona’s new movie, Belfast

Although she’s sad Outlander’s been shut down, Balfe just finished filming Belfast, a Kenneth Branagh film about his life, where she plays his mother, Jamie Dornan play his father, and Dame Judi Dench plays his granny. Balfe said the film set was magical because “everyone was excited to be working.” She noted that Branagh’s crew was very “diverse. So many women and people from different backgrounds.”

Two dudes and their kilts

Heughan and McTavish dropped in with some pre-recorded messages. Balfe’s impersonation of McTavish is worth re-watching. Heughan popped on the screen emerging from a pile of gifts like Santa Claus. If Santa had whisky and was wearing an English cabbie hat. He then proceeded to read a story as Santa. If James Bond doesn’t work out, he’s got the lock on Santa. He’ll probably only deliver whisky though. Santa’s slainté! It’s like Santa’s sleigh, except, oh never mind. Heughan signed off by wishing everyone happy holidays and blowing a kiss, but specified, “It’s not for you Josh.”

Heughan also plugged his new show, Men in Kilts. “It’s a new show on Starz — nudity and violence and a bald man with a beard who’s hungry a lot of the time.” If you can’t wait til January, check out the Yule Log Men in Kilts fire Starz is releasing on Christmas Day, in which Sam and Graham sit by the fire in kilts. Or a show I like to call, “Two Men and a Log.” What’s under the kilt? A yule log. I could make that joke. But I’m too refined for that. Wood jokes are for the weak. (Hi, my name is weak, nice to meet you).

Caitríona Balfe has not listened to Taylor Swift

A fan asked Balfe what her favorite Taylor Swift song was, after revealing that the song “Willow” reminded her of Jamie and Claire. Balfe confessed, “People keep asking me what my favorite Taylor Swift song is. I have to confess, I think she’s amazing. As a person, how she carries herself and handles herself, she’s amazing. But I don’t really listen to her music, sorry.” Uh oh. I hope the Swifties don’t come for Claire. But Balfe said her new “folky” albums are more her vibe. Phew, it will be a Merry Swiftmas, after all. (I have not listened to Taylor Swift’s new album either, since ‘tis the season to confess).

The most important thing we learned is that Caitríona Balfe’s dream vacation is room service. Yes. Correct. She wants to go to a nice hotel on the beach, order room service, swim in the ocean, hang out with her husband, and then order room service again. Balfe joked, “Some would say, ‘I would climb a mountain. Nope. I would lay on my ass and do nothing.’” Not all heroes wear capes, people — some of them order room service. Keep in mind she runs around in a corset in Scottish woods pretending to be American woods for 10 months out of the year.

2021 — Back to the Outlander set

Balfe said that usually for the holidays, her huge family plays drunken scrabble that ends in arguments and hot whiskies on Christmas Eve. (“Which whisky?” Sam Heughan asks somewhere). But this holiday, everyone is staying safe at home. Balfe says she’s hoping next year “we’ll emerge as a better society.” And Outlander goes back into production “very soon” according to Balfe and Heughan. While waiting for it to return, TikTok may be able to fill the void, like this one which features Claire in Season 2 returning from the past.

All proceeds from this event will benefit arts and educational programs at Symphony Space as well as Community Works NYC. Visit Harlem-Is.org to donate and support the arts. And you can drink gin while you do it. Unless you’re under 21. Sorry I don’t make the rules. Water tastes good, too.

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Before you go, click here to see the all-time best Outlander episodes you’ll want to re-watch. 

'Outlander' cast Caitríona Balfe, Sam Heughan,
'Outlander' cast Caitríona Balfe, Sam Heughan,

Launch Gallery: The All-Time Best 'Outlander' Episodes You Need to Watch (or Re-Watch)

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