Last fall I was fortunate enough to visit the set of Outlander in Scotland with a handful of other journalists. In addition to touring the production studio, we also got to tour the countryside and see the castles and other stunning locales that make up the show’s unique and unforgettable backgrounds. Another perk was that we got to interview the cast, both on camera (as you’ll see in the video below — it’s the same one as in the Sam Heughan interview, but just in case you missed it) as well as a chance to dive deeper into what we can expect from their characters in Season 3.
Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies were then paired together for an in-depth discussion about Claire and Frank’s relationship in between Claire’s journey into the stones. Once she returned to the 1940s in Season 2, Frank came to terms with her disappearance as well as her pregnancy, and the two seemed to be looking for a way forward. Season 3 picks up with the pair having relocated to Boston where Frank as accepted a position at Harvard, and over the course of the first few episodes we see their life together — the good and the bad — over the two decades that follow before Claire decides to return to Jamie and the past.
Question: What is Claire feeling as she’s going through the stones?
CAITRIONA BALFE: When she came back to the 40s, pregnant … I think it’s many different things at once. Obviously, there’s a huge amount of grief. She knows, or feels, that by going through she’s effectively saying goodbye to Jamie, that he’s going to die on Culloden. So, there’s the grief of that. There’s probably the guilt of also leaving him. I’m sure she feels like she’s abandoning him in some ways. But she is pregnant and she has to protect this child that they’ve created together. I think it’s a little soon for her, at that moment, to sort of have the hope of what all of that will bring with it, but I think, yeah, I think she’s just very, it’s a very complicated thought process that she’s going through.
What are the expectations your characters have, going back into this relationship? What are they thinking will happen now, and how are they going to get through this?
BALFE: Well —
TOBIAS MENZIES: Different things.
BALFE: Very different. I think that the biggest thing for me, starting this season, was to remember that for Claire, she believes Jamie is dead. So once you sort of go through the grieving process and you allow yourself to put that person aside, there has to be this moment of … Claire really wants this relationship to work on many levels. Here is somebody who’s accepted her back, and he’s accepted her reasons for being away, more or less, and he’s agreed to raise this daughter as his own, so there’s a lot of admiration there for what Frank is offering her. I think that she really wants more than anything else that she can make this work, but of course it’s more difficult than that.
MENZIES: Yeah, I think the whole story between the two of them in these first three episodes is really kind of a study of the tragedy of two very well-meaning people just failing to reach each other. Obviously, you have the physical reality of this child that comes into the middle of it and that offers some hope, briefly, and maybe rekindles some of the optimism that maybe we had when we choose to start again. But essentially, the arc of it is a sort of dying fall, it’s them not managing to, I suppose, fill in what’s missing, which is … Claire is not in love with him.
MENZIES: That’s sort of challenging for both of them in different ways. I think Claire, as much as Frank, wants to love him. Claire almost as equally, probably, desires it herself, but it’s just, if it ain’t there, it ain’t there.
Physical chemistry is such an important part of Claire and Jamie’s relationship. How do Claire and Frank broach that hurdle of physical intimacy when they have this strain on their relationship? How is that going to be handled in the show?
MENZIES: Well, funny, we were just having a little rehearsal.
BALFE: Messing about and that.
MENZIES: Because they try to use sex to mend it.
BALFE: Without getting specific about what episodes.
MENZIES: There’s some sex in one of the episodes. Who knew? News flash. Sex, in this show?
BALFE: But the interesting thing is, for Claire and Frank, they did have great sexual chemistry when they were first married, and that was always a really safe space for them. For them, after the war, that was the way they could reconnect. But I think things have changed so much, this time around, they’re starting from very different places. And I think the child and the pregnancy and all that is in some way a great buffer for them to avoid that for a while.
MENZIES: The other key thing is to be aware that Claire has been on a huge journey and Frank is …
BALFE: Hasn’t moved.
MENZIES: … sort of in the same place, still. Do you know what I mean? Of course, he’s been through a lot in his own way, but I think emotionally, he still feels the same way towards her.
MENZIES: Whereas of course, that’s just not the case for Claire, so that’s partly what happens, is Frank slowly, bitterly, disappointedly has to come to terms with that it’s just not recoverable.