"Outlander" delivered an emotionally complex and heartbreaking episode on Saturday night, as Claire Fraser went through one of the most devastating tragedies of her life – losing her child.
Although she rushed to the forest to stop her 18th century Scottish husband, Jamie Fraser, from dueling with Jack Randall, she arrived too late to intervene. In the chaos, and under mounting stress, a pregnant Claire began hemorrhaging and was taken to the hospital where the staff was able to save her life, but not the life of her unborn child, whom the episode is named after – "Faith."
Caitriona Balfe gave an exceptional performance as Claire as her character went through a devastating loss, a tragic period of disbelief, a crushing scene of acceptance, and later, suffered quietly, but with deeply felt grief. After Claire paid a high price for her husband's release from the Bastille, the episode offered another shattering scene – the heartbreaking reunion of Claire and Jamie, as Claire opened up about what she went through during his incarceration, and how she'd come to blame herself for the loss.
Romann Berruxx as Fergus and Caitriona Balfe as Claire in 'Outlander' Season 2, Episode 7 -- 'Faith' (Starz)
Despite the weight of the material, TV productions move so fast that Caitriona had just an average amount of time with the script (which was written by "Outlander" co-executive producer Toni Graphia) before shooting the episode. In a new interview, she told Access Hollywood about preparing for and shooting "Faith."
AccessHollywood.com: How long did you have the script for the 'Faith' episode before you had to shoot those scenes?
Caitriona Balfe: I think it was the same as usual. Although, Toni Graphia -- this episode was so beautiful. She wrote it with such a poetic, respectful way. When I got the script... I cried and I remember emailing her and just being like, 'You have floored me. I've just been sitting here sobbing.' And also, it was one of the scripts that really didn't need an awful lot of changing or work, so I probably had it a week or so before we started, or maybe a little more, but we don't tend to have them for too, too long. But yeah, it was just written so beautifully and it was one of those things where, you as an actor, in some sort of a masochistic way, really look forward to filming the most horrific things.
Access: You knew it was coming because obviously Diana [Gabaldon] has this in 'Dragonfly in Amber,' but I'm interested in your process, or what you are willing to share of it. I guess I'll ask you about the initial stages of your preparation. Did you talk with someone? Did you work with someone? Was it all in your head? What were those days like as you were leading up to it?
Caitriona: A big part of my preparation -- well, it depends for each thing, but for this, I obviously went back and read the source material, and then I also turned to – it's funny, for some reason, Joan Didion was a big thing for me this season. I'd reread 'A Year of Magical Thinking' for Ep. 1 and for this episode, I kind of went and read her 'Blue Nights' book again because it was a lot about losing a daughter, and even though her daughter was an adult, there's just something about her descriptiveness of grief that I felt [was] so helpful. And also, unfortunately, I think everyone knows someone in their life who has gone through an experience similar to this. And not that I called anyone up to ask them, because I just think that would have been disrespectful, but I've definitely been there when people I've known have gone through similar stuff like this, like miscarriages, and just being aware of their pain and how difficult it was for them and wanting to, I don't know, make sure that this was a respectful portrayal because I know how difficult and how painful this is for people. And then, when we were filming, I turned a lot to music. And also, we were filming in Glasgow Cathedral, which was this beautiful old cathedral that's been there in some form or other from the 1100s, and from the first day, between takes, I would go up and I would sit at one of the little chapels. And I'm not a particularly religious person or anything, but I just became very struck by the fact that… for hundreds and hundreds of years, women must have come to this place seeking solace or seeking comfort for similar things and I firmly believe that energy stays in buildings and I just was able to tap into, or I felt like I was able to tap into this collective grief that sort of hung in the bones of this building. So that was a lot of it and… I was very lucky -- Metin Huseyin was the director on this and he is such a sensitive soul. He was just a wonderful help as well when we were doing these scenes.
Access: I have to imagine working with Claire Sermonne [who plays Louise], you have a couple of moments together, which is heartbreaking stuff, [like] when she takes Faith. ... You must have cried together or something? It's hard to shake this kind of stuff off. These are big moments. These are beyond the drama.
Caitriona: She is such a wonderful actress and she just brings such honesty to her performance. It was really beautiful when she came into those scenes, but I tended in that week to just go off on my own between takes and after takes because it just required a lot of focus, but I do think at one point I went and I found someone who smoked and I don't smoke usually, so I think I went and I had myself a cigarette at one point because you do – it's just, they're tough, tough scenes.
Access: Did they keep it a closed set?... Were there only a few people around or did you have to work through kind of a lot going on?
Caitriona: To be honest, I can't--
Caitriona: Well, because I would just go away between takes and I would walk down and I would have my earphones in until the very last minute, I would just listen to certain music on repeat. But our crew is so wonderful and they know exactly when they need to be respectful and they are always, and they're very sensitive to our process. That's probably why I don't actually know how many people were there because they just tend to blend into the background when they know that it's something heavy. But yeah, for moments like that... it's so self-generating in a way. In some of the bigger scenes, you have a partner and you're acting and reacting to what they're doing and they can provoke certain things in you and so you know pretty much what's going to strike a chord with you or make you feel a certain thing. If Sam [Heughan] does something or if Tobias [Menzies] does something you know that that will be a good provocation, but with these scenes, because it is so much internal, you need to sort of go away and just almost meditate on whatever it is that you're doing and then just come into it and hope that that will all come to the surface or that whatever work you've done will come to the surface. Yeah, they're tough, but you definitely relish that opportunity as an actor to do things like that.
Access: Of course a scene people are really going to be thinking about a lot and their hearts are going to be breaking [over] is the Jamie and Claire scene, where he says, are you going to make me beg, and [as the scene progresses], she gets into blaming herself. Were those raw days where you leaving the set just feeling like someone had taken a rake to your heart?
Caitriona: Yeah, that was a really tough scene to film because it's – in many ways it's a reconciliation, but there's still so much anger and shame and pain between them and Sam and I and Metin talked about how we wanted this distance to still remain between them and we didn't want them to touch until the grave scene because there's a line that Sam has that is so beautiful and it's that the weight of this pain is too much for either of them to bear on their own, that it’s only together that they can carry it, and I thought that that was such a beautiful, beautiful moment. But up until that point, for Claire, I think she has been so destroyed by the loss of Faith that in many ways she had built up this wall around her heart and it's so hard for her to let go of the anger, which is mostly at herself. She, in some ways, is showing this anger towards him, but it's because she doesn't even know what to do with all of the pain and anger she has at herself. But then, when he tells her that he forgives and he's forgiven her a long time ago for anything, you see that wall begin to crack and crumble and it's the pathway to her being able to start forgiving herself.
Access: Lastly, on a different topic, we lose all the French [actors] at the end of this episode, because we [are on our way] back to Scotland.
Caitriona: I know!
Access: Did you guys get to say goodbye to everybody?
Caitriona: Yeah, it was tough this season because we obviously lost so many people and TV schedules [don't] really allow for a big blow out celebration after each person, but we had a bit of a party down in Salisbury, just amongst ourselves, which was almost towards the end, so that I think served as a bit of a farewell party for everyone. But I was in Paris [earlier this week] doing some press and I got to see Lionel [Lingelser] and Marguax [Chatelier], so that was very nice. And we all sort of keep in touch and I know that Sam and Tobias have seen some of them as well. Romann [Berrux] stays with us so that was also very nice. It was nice to have him around, but it's sad. It's always sad when people [leave] and I think Sam and Duncan [Lacroix] and I, we just -- we feel like the furniture at this point, where people come in and go, and we sort of stick around.
"Outlander" Season 2 continues Saturday nights at 9 PM ET/PT on Starz.
-- Jolie Lash