Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser is one of the most intelligent, intriguing, unique, courageous, and iconic characters ever written. Yeah, I know I’m not the first person to claim that, nor will I be the last. I simply wanted to state it for the record before I continue.
Upon the moment Diana Gabaldon (author of the Outlander series and creator of the aforementioned character) announced Caitriona Balfe would be playing the role of Claire Randall, Ms. Balfe took on the role with all the gusto she could muster to satisfy herself, Ms. Gabaldon, Ron D. Moore and the most loyal of literary fans. Perhaps it was a good thing she went after the part without full knowledge of exactly what madness she was entering.
Since that second . . . minute . . . hour . . . day, people have not stopped tweeting her, writing about her, taking her picture, and interviewing her. What a whirlwind she has faced. And she’s done it with a charming grace, sense of humor, and sincere appreciation.
As has been said by wiser and more authoritative figures than me, Outlander is a show about Claire which means Ms. Balfe has some heavy-duty shoes to fill. I’d even go so far as to say her job is tougher than the actor (we won’t mention HIS name in this article because he’s already getting plenty of attention) playing Jamie Fraser. Not only does Ms. Balfe have the responsibility of bringing to life one of the greatest literary – male or female – characters of all time, but she has to do it amid promoting the show, photo shoots, birthday parties, Highlander shenanigans, and constant rain. And according to her co-star, she’s done it without a single complaint.
When the exciting casting news broke, one of our first glimpses of Ms. Balfe was most likely this picture:
Your first thought may have been similar to mine – “Wow! She’s gorgeous.”
Never did it enter my mind that she didn’t look the part because I’m used to seeing actors make transformations all the time. But looking the part is only the first step and perhaps the easiest. Talking the part comes next, followed by moving and talking the part at the same time – kind of like rubbing your head and belly at the same time. But then, that’s what actors are trained to do, right? Sure. Uh huh.
Next, ask the actor to BECOME a beloved character who millions of people have been living with inside their heads for over 20 years! Not so easy.
Drum roll please . . .
On 25 July at approximately 8:50 PM PST, Caitriona Balfe became Claire Randall to a handful of lucky fans in San Diego, myself included. Then on August 2nd at 12:00 AM EST, Caitriona Balfe did it again for the rest of the United States.
Yes, I know she was Claire to Ms. Gabaldon, Mr. Moore, Maril Davis, Terry Dresbach and the rest of the amazing team producing Outlander for us long before those days. From the start, Ms. Gabaldon expressed her support of the casting choices made for the show – thank goodness. I shudder to think what would have happened if Herself had not been drawn in by the actor(s). Because of that and to a certain extent, Ms. Balfe has been Claire to most of us.
But I don’t think Caitriona Balfe really . . . actually . . . truly . . . historically . . . unquestionably BECAME Claire Randall until we all saw her full-length, uncut, up close & personal in Episode #101: SASSENACH.
One of the fans watching Ms. Balfe transform into Claire the night of August 2nd was my friend, Gina MAC. The day after watching SASSENACH, Gina sent a tweet to Caitriona Balfe with two simple words: Our Claire! With those two words, she summed up what we were all thinking.
To Gina’s pleasant surprise, Ms. Balfe not only noticed but gave her a twitter ‘thumb’s up.’
Shortly after, Gina asked me to create a piece in honor of “Our Claire.” More than happy to take a part in this momentous event, I put my brain to work. The first thing I did was ask myself – What does “Our Claire” honestly mean?
In the simplest of terms, it means we accept Caitriona Balfe unconditionally as Claire Randall Fraser. On screen, she IS Claire. Bye, bye, Caitriona! Hello, our favorite heroine! Claire now has an actual voice and a tangibly beautiful face and a real-life, feisty personality. She has become the woman we all wish we could be.
Over the months, years, and decades, Claire has belonged to each of us in our own way. It may have been more nerve-wracking for those of us waiting over 20 years for this to happen, having such an ingrained idea of who Claire is, but all fears have been alleviated equally among veterans and newbies. <breath sigh of relief>
“Our Claire” belongs to each of us now and to all of us. One character. One actress. One woman. One Icon. All the same.
Post Scriptum: At least now we know why it took so long to bring the Outlander story to live action fruition. Destiny was waiting for Caitriona Balfe.