Can you imagine Outlander without Claire?
I don’t think anybody could, so that’s why it was so surprising what Diana Gabaldon said about how Claire wasn’t in the forefront of her mind when she started to write her epic novel series.
While doing press at this summer’s San Diego Comic Con, the author and TV series consultant explained that Claire didn’t show up in her mind until the third day of writing.
“I started this as practice and decided to write historical fiction because I could look things up,” she said of beginning the first Outlander book. “It seemed easier than making them up. So I was looking for a time and place to set this novel. I chose Scotland in the 18th century on the basis of a young man in a kilt on a Doctor Who program.”
Gabaldon also explained that “after the third day of writing, I introduced this English woman. No idea who she was or what she was doing there, how she got into the plot. But [I put] her in a cottage full of Scotsmen and see what she’d do. They all turned and stared at her.
"And I was thinking ‘Why, does she look funny?’ Anyway one of them stood up and said, ‘My name’s Dougal MacKenzie and who might you be?’ And without my stopping to think I just typed, ‘My name’s Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp. Who the hell are you?’”
And an iconic character of literature and now television was born.
As we move into Outlander Season 1 Episode 7 this week, we can be grateful that Gabaldon created Claire because what a fabulous turn of events we’ll see involving her and young Jamie Fraser when they wed basically to save Claire from the hands of the evil Black Jack Randall.
Almost as much as Claire almost organically came to Gabaldon, the actress playing her in the Starz series, Caitriona Balfe, said that becoming Claire was a pretty easy task for her.
“From the first day on set it just felt like easy,” she said. “The minute the clothes are on, the minute action is called it just felt like a really familiar fit.”
Balfe, who is Irish, also talked about the British accent and how it isn’t as natural as one might think. “It's so funny because my friends always laugh, 'Do the English accent.' The minute someone asks me to do it, I can't do it, I sound terrible. But with Claire, that's her voice. That's the way she holds herself. I don't know, it does sound really strange. The way it's written, the writing's so good…it's just been a really dream job and it just feels easy even though it's tough work.”
In fact, for series creator Ron Moore, who took on the arduous task of bringing the book to series, it was the Sassenach that really pulled him into the story.
“I really liked her and respected her and thought that she’s a smart, interesting character to wrap a story around,” he explained. “And I really like the period and the detail of the period. I like history. I like historical fiction. I didn’t know very much about 18th century Scotland and the politics and what was going on and yet there was a sense of truth to it. As I was reading I was fascinated with this time and this culture. By the time I finished the book, I’d bought it. I was just, ‘I see this as a show.’”
But what about the wedding and the, um, wedding night?
The faint at heart may have to watch the episode with pauses for a cool down since, to be honest, it’s pretty sexy and steamy episode, butit's also a welcome change of pace from Outlander Season 1 Episode 6, where we flashed back to Jamie’s second flogging at the hands of Randall, as well as Randall interrogating Claire with a climactic punch to her gut.
Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie, was clearly well prepared not just for having his shirt off regularly on the show... but for the physicality of the role, too.
“I got a trainer [and] we did six weeks of two or three times a day, like hitting everything and trying to pack on as much weight as I could. We didn't want [Jamie] to look like he'd been in the gym, but we wanted him to be able to lift a tire and look like he worked on a farm. Heughan added that he’s pleased he wasn’t injured despite the physical demands of the role.
The attraction that Balfe and Heughan have to play for their characters (which culminates with this week’s episode), was helped by the fact that the two got along famously literally from the start. Balfe remembered:
“From the moment that I walked into the room to test in LA, we just started chatting. It was a really hot day. I think I was running ten minutes late, really bad, and I was stressed out. I remember walking in and needing a tissue to dab the sweat off me and we just started chatting. And he was so generous and calming. He's just the greatest guy to work with, and I think we just got along.”
Heughan joked that the fact that both he and Balfe have a “childish sense of humor” is a good thing to balance the emotionally and physically intense work they have to do on the show.
“It gets us through a lot,” he said. “We sometimes have intelligent conversations but it's quite rare.” Balfe added with a smile, “Very rare.”
And while so much of the focus is on the Claire and Jamie relationship in the 18th century, Moore talked about the time travel element of the series and how keeping Claire's 20th centur husband Frank a part of the series was important to him and the show.
“Her drive for a good chunk of the first season is to get back to that world. It’s to get back to Frank and back to her life and I didn’t want to lose touch with that,” he said. “I thought it was important that the audience keep understanding why she’s trying to get back to those stones…so you had to understand her relationship with Frank.
"You had to sort of get that the desire to go home was so fundamental and the audience can always look into it. But you had to kind of remind them each week and show them a little bit more because they get really invested in the story in the 18th century.”
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz. My recap of ‘The Wedding’ episode will be posted at approximately 10 p.m. ET tonight.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.