Caitríona Balfe Says We'll See Claire "Unravel" In A Way We've Never Seen Before

- Outlander -
Caitríona Balfe Says We'll See Claire "Unravel" In A Way We've Never Seen Before

Claire has a new surgical protégé in Outlander Season 6, but as Caitríona Balfe shares, that relationship is going to get a bit complex. Balfe discussed Claire's status with Malva Christie at the world premiere of Outlander Season 6 with The Outlander Podcast correspondent, author, and historian Sarah Fraser, and The Dipp has exclusive quotes from Fraser's interview.

Fraser, who married a descendant of the real-life Simon Fraser (Jamie's grandfather), spoke with Balfe about Claire's upcoming response to the trauma that happened last season, and all about Malva.

"Malva is such an intense young woman and [in] her first interactions, I think Claire's a little bemused by her," Balfe tells Fraser. "But she sees within her this real thirst for learning and this real need to sort of go beyond the confines of her very strict father and brother."

Malva becomes Claire's apprentice in surgery despite her domineering father — Tom Christie, an old foe of Jamie's from his time in Ardsmuir Prison — and her oddly protective brother, Allan Christie.

"Claire can really sense how Malva needs an outlet. And that's something Claire recognizes from her own self. She sees something of herself in Malva and she feels very maternal toward her," Balfe says. The actor notes that there's part of Claire that wished Brianna would have followed in her mother's footsteps and taken more of an interest in the medical field. Malva fills that void in a way.

"She wants to learn and she has an interest in what Claire's doing," Balfe says. "[Claire] really feels like if she takes her under her wing that she'll be able to help her because she definitely sees that she's troubled."

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If you're familiar with the sixth Outlander book by Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, you know just how troubled Malva is. But Balfe points to the "beautiful" parts of their early relationship.

"I love the way that they bond in the beginning and you can see Malva start to blossom and she really takes a shine to everything that Claire's doing and such an interest," she says. "It's this lovely relationship that they build. And, of course, then it becomes a lot more complicated."

Claire's commitment to Malva points to her role as a caregiver, beyond just her commitment to medicine. But there's one person Claire may be neglecting to care for this season — herself. After last season's kidnapping and sexual assault by Lionel Brown's gang, Balfe notes that Claire's usual methods of dealing with trauma aren't helping her.

"She [is] very much a product of women of her time. Having just gone through a world war, you were taught to just take things, put them in a box, move on," Balfe says of Claire's original early 20th-century life. "And that's very much how she dealt with stuff and I think that's probably why she's also such a good doctor. She's able to compartmentalize really well and she's always, up until this point, really compartmentalized everything."

That compartmentalization was on display in the Season 5 finale, "Never My Love," when Claire entered a dreamscape, with Jamie and her family by her side in the 1960s, during the assault. Yet, as she gets back to life on Ridge, she's struggling for a number of reasons, according to Balfe.

"Obviously the violent sexual assault is something that was so horrific that it's not something that you're able to just move on past," she says. "I also think there was something to do with Claire's age at this point. It's a real transition age for a woman and everything accumulated where that way of functioning, that way of compartmentalizing, just didn't serve her anymore."

"We see her unravel in a way that we've never seen her unravel before."

As someone accustomed to springing into action despite her personal problems, this isn't an emotional space Claire's used to being in. So when the season starts, Balfe says Claire will be up to her usual ways — to the detriment of her own wellbeing.

"She has always been the rock for other people, she doesn't know how to ask for help. She doesn't know how to recognize when she's not able to just carry on as normal," Balfe says. "She's trying to put the brave face on, she's trying to be there for everybody. And what we see is that she starts leaning on other things to help her cope. And, of course, that's not going to serve her either, that's going to exacerbate the problem."

Though this leaves Claire in a dark place, Balfe — who's been a producer on the Starz series since Season 5 — praises the way Outlander handles the storyline.

"The writers really gave it time to have us be able to unpack her, but then find a new way of having her be able to cope. It was one of the best challenges I've had in a couple of seasons," Balfe says. "Exploring Claire in this way and learning how to find her deepest, darkest fears and what would happen if they came to the forefront? And then, how would you be able to alleviate that?"

"It was the best challenge I've definitely had in a couple of seasons. So it was good in that way," she says. "Sad for Claire [laughs]. But in a way, it was good for me."

Outlander Season 6 premieres on Starz on Sunday, March 6.

Special thanks to The Outlander Podcast (you can listen to their Season 6 red carpet coverage here), and Sarah Fraser, whose book about the "Old Fox" Simon Fraser, The Last Highlander: Scotland’s Most Notorious Clan Chief, Rebel & Double Agent, is available now.

Images: Starz

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