Caitriona Balfe is an Irish actress and model who plays Claire Fraser in Starz’s hit show ‘Outlander.’
Who Is Caitriona Balfe?
Caitriona Balfe (born October 4, 1979) is an Irish actress and former model who stars in the Starz television show Outlander, based on the popular series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. The hit drama has garnered Balfe multiple Golden Globe Award nominations for best actress in a TV drama, among other accolades. Balfe is protective of her privacy, but made her engagement to partner Tony McGill public while on the red carpet at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards.
On Starz's Outlander, Balfe portrays Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser, an English combat nurse who goes to Scotland to reconnect with her husband following their service during World War II, but ends up traveling back in time to 1743 Scotland. There, she meets Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan). Claire has to marry Jaime for safety, and the two end up falling in love. Outlander premiered in 2014. It returned for a second season in 2016, and a third in 2017. A fourth season is scheduled to air in 2018.
Balfe was the last main member of the cast to be hired. After she'd provided a taped audition, she was asked to do a screen test with Heughan. However, her passport was unavailable — she'd sent it off to get a visa for a planned vacation to India — so she couldn't fly to London. Fortunately, Heughan joined her in Los Angeles, the test was a success and in September 2013 it was announced that Balfe had landed the role.
Balfe's casting occurred right before shooting was scheduled to begin, so she had to get to work as soon as her costumes were ready. She also quickly became aware of the extensive fan base for Diana Gabaldon's novels (she'd read the first book in the series while under consideration for the part of Claire). Balfe now connects with Outlander fans via Twitter.
Balfe's appreciation for the job goes beyond the fact that she's no longer a struggling actress. In 2016, she told Vanity Fair, "[G]etting to play Claire was an absolute dream. She is strong-willed and, not perfect, but a survivor and a fighter, and I think that is such a great place to go to in your work every day — to play someone who has such resilience. It can only make you feel better about everything in your life. I feel very grateful to be able to go to work every day and play her."
The relationship between Claire and Jamie on Outlander has included many intimate scenes, which demonstrate Balfe's chemistry with co-star Heughan. However, despite fan hopes, the two have never been a real-life couple. As Balfe said in a 2016 radio interview, "You know, I feel very lucky, Sam and I have an amazing bond, we’re really great friends – but, you know, it’s acting."
Balfe's husband-to-be is Tony McGill; this news was made public when Balfe wore her engagement ring to the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. The relationship has been mostly private, with few public appearances (an Instagram video in 2015, shared by a friend, revealed the two together). McGill is Irish.
Balfe was previously in a relationship with guitarist Dave Milone.
Before becoming an actress, Balfe achieved success as a runway model — she's even been called Ireland's first supermodel. During her modeling days she worked for numerous designers and fashion houses, including Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Roberto Cavalli, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein and Narciso Rodriguez. In 2002, she was one of the "angels" in the Victoria's Secret lingerie show.
Balfe's time as a model began when she was a theater student at the Dublin Institute of Technology and got scouted while at a supermarket. She worked in Dublin before moving to Paris, where she lived for two years. (This meant she had to leave school, against the advice of her parents.) In 2002 she relocated to New York City. While modeling, Balfe also spent time in London, Japan, Italy and Germany; she's said her international experiences helped her relate to Outlander's Claire, who has to find her way in a different world and time.
When she was in her late 20s, Balfe decided it was time to seriously pursue her original dream of acting; she moved to Los Angeles in 2009. She then spent years trying to make it in her new career. In a 2015 interview, she talked about that point in her life: "I started from scratch. I didn’t have any managers, I didn’t know any agents, I hadn’t acted in almost a decade."
When Was Caitriona Balfe Born?
Balfe was born on October 4, 1979, in Dublin, Ireland.
Family and Background
Balfe, who has six siblings, grew up in the small town of Tydavnet, County Monaghan, Ireland. Her father served as a garda sergeant (police officer) there. Balfe was fluent in Gaelic, but has since forgotten some of the language.
Balfe's work on Outlander takes up much of the year, but she was able to appear in Money Monster (2016), which was directed by Jodie Foster and starred George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Balfe told People magazine, "Obviously the opportunity to work with Jodie and George and Julia was just incredible." Balfe was also seen in The Prince of Desire (2015).
As her acting career got started, Balfe had small parts in Super 8 (2011) — director J.J. Abrams also helped her get a work permit — and Now You See Me (2013). She had a larger role in Escape Plan (2013), which starred Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Balfe also made a brief appearance in The Devil Wears Prada (2006).
Balfe has received a Golden Globe Award nomination as best actress in a TV drama in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In 2016, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Scotland gave Balfe its television actress award.
At the 2018 Golden Globes, Balfe wore black in order to bring attention to the Time's Up initiative and its goal of combating inequality, assault and sexual predation across all industries. Balfe's dress was one of the outfits auctioned off after the ceremony in order to raise money for the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund.
How Is Caitriona Balfe's Name Pronounced?
Caitriona is a Gaelic name that is said as "Katrina;" Balfe rhymes with "Ralph."
Balfe is preparing herself for life after Outlander. As she noted in a 2016 interview, "As a woman in this business, you have to think about what’s going to happen when you’re not in a hit show anymore." She would like to develop her own projects, and is working on a screenplay for a story that takes place in Ireland.
However, Balfe knows her Outlander role will always be a big part of her career. In 2017 she told Elle Canada, "I’m going to be Claire Fraser forever! We’ve been so lucky with the way that this show has gone, and she’s such an amazing character to play… these are all only positive things."