Before this past Sunday’s Outlander, the last time Claire and Jamie Fraser saw each other, they were in their 20s. After roughly two decades apart, they reunited (or at least started to) at the end of Episode 5… looking much like they had on the eve of the Battle of Culloden, despite the intervening years.
And that, star Caitriona Balfe says good-naturedly, is just something viewers of the show are going to have to get on board with.
Balfe tells TVLine that neither she nor co-star Sam Heughan were afraid of wearing heavy makeup that would make them appear to be in their 40s, but “I do understand the decisions that were made, because there’s a long way to go if we continue to do this show.”
She refers to the Starz series’ source material: Diana Gabaldon has written eight novels in the Outlander series and is working on a ninth. By the end of Book 8, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, [Slight Spoiler Alert] Claire is in her early 60s, while Jamie is on the northern end of his 50s. If the television adaptation continues its one book = one season formula, that’s a lot more time for the pair to visibly mature on screen.
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In the interim, Claire does have a little bit of gray in her hair — though it’s pointed out that she dyed it before returning to 18th-century Scotland — and the next episode (airing Sunday, Oct. 22) contains a brief aside in which Jamie explains something age-related about his appearance. (Trust us, it’s slight.)
A little suspension of belief is the best way to go, Balfe says. “A lot of prosthetics can also be jarring and can take people out of the scene, and it cannot look perfect,” she adds. Also, as we’ve learned from Heughan’s stories about the application of Jamie’s scarred back, “that would add an awful lot of production time. It would probably add a lot of cost and post-production [work].”
More importantly, she says, the story is really about how the events of the years that Claire and Jamie were apart have changed them, and whether they still are the soulmates they were before her trip back to her present — regardless of appearance.
“I hope that Sam and I were able to portray them internally as different people,” she says. “That’s what we both worked on, how time — or how decisions or how circumstances in your life — wear on you.”