Outlander - Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan
Outlander - Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) © 2014 Sony Pictures Television

Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, a series of best-selling novels, will be able to see the stories brought to life in a new Starz’s drama, beginning next summer.

The romantic fantasy stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married combat nurse in 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she encounters Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a chivalrous and romantic Scottish warrior.

Sam and Caitriona visited with journalists at the TV Critics tour this month to talk about their coveted roles.

I see you’re wearing a kilt, Sam. Does it take a while to get used to wearing and  acting in it?

Outlander – Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) © 2014 Sony Pictures Television

Sam: Yes, the kilt as you can see is a big bit of the material. This is obviously a modern kilt, but in the show we use the traditional  kilt which is a long bit of cloth.

I can’t remember the actual size of the traditional ones, but ours are about seven, eight foot long, and they are basically used as a tool.

The Highlanders would use them to obviously wear to keep themselves warm. You could use is it as a sleeping bag. You could use it as camouflage to blend into the background. They had a variety of uses.

We even discovered you can use it as a shield. You can wrap it around your arm.  So, yeah, it took a long time to get used to it, but it’s a real joy to work with it.

Has this been a mind-altering dream for you so far? What has been the reaction of the fans, and how has it changed you?

Outlander – Sam Heughan, Executive Producer Ronald D Moore, author Diana Gabaldon, and Caitriona Balfe pose together before the STARZ Winter TCA presentation in Pasadena, Calif., Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 ©2014 Starz, Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision

Caitriona: It’s been really exciting. The fans have been incredibly supportive and really welcoming. I don’t think I was aware of the magnitude of the fans and how enthusiastic they were, but it’s like a dream role. So it’s been only good so far, and I think it will continue to be.

But there’s nothing that really changes you. It’s just that you are finally getting to do the thing that you’ve always wanted to do and love to do, so just happier maybe.

Sam: It feels like we’re at the start of a real rewarding journey. Diana has wonderful books. There’s a whole wealth of background information, stories and adventures there. We’ve filmed four episodes so far, and we feel we’re right on the edge of this roller coaster.

It’s just been a thrill to be a part of it.

Do you feel any pressure to be what the fans want the characters to be like?

Outlander – Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) © 2014 Sony Pictures Television

Caitriona: I don’t. It doesn’t serve you to think in that way. I think there’s a responsibility to do the best job that you can, but that’s with every job. I think it’s just really nice to know that you have this built-in audience who really wants you to do well and they are [very] supportive.

In that sense, I don’t think of it as pressure. I think of it as an added bonus. So often you just start from scratch trying to get your audience and get attention, and we’re so lucky that we have this already built-in.

When you are filming in the Scottish Highlands do you feel like you’re transported back in time?

Caitriona: Yeah, I think that all the time. We were so lucky. We’ve shot four episodes, and we spent about two weeks out on location. We were really lucky with the weather most of the time. It was incredibly cold, because it’s Scotland, but incredibly bright, sunny days.

We were up a certain place called Loch Rannoch, and we shot some of the standing stone stuff. It was this really strange thing.

There’s a point where Claire hears a noise, and whenever we would do [that bit] in the scene, the wind would whip up, and the hairs on my arm would stand up. It really felt like there was something there.

Outlander – Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) © 2014 Sony Pictures Television

Sam: Every time they’d do your close-ups it was sunny, and every time it was mine it rained.

Caitriona: It’s true.

Sam: My Scottish roots coming through. But it feels like Scotland. This is a romance between ourselves, but it also a romance novel to Scotland. We’re filming there, it’s such beautiful landscape.

We’re so lucky to have all these great place to film, it’s  so authentic, and some of the shots have been truly amazing.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane