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Ron Moore's 'Outlander' Sets Female Lead

Caitriona Balfe will play Claire Randall in Starz's adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's best-selling books.

Caitriona Balfe Headshot - P 2013
Starz
Caitriona Balfe

Ron Moore's Starz adaptation of Outlander has found its female lead.

Caitriona Balfe (Super 8) will play Claire Randall, the woman in love with two men in two different time periods in the cable network's adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's best-selling books, the cabler announced Wednesday.

The drama, from Battlestar Galactica's Moore, revolves around Fraser (Sam Heughan), who strikes up a passionate affair with Balfe's character, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743 and thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. Claire is pulled between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

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Claire is described as quick-witted and stubborn. The character has been a fan favorite since the first of the seven-book series debuted in 1991. (The series has sold more than 25 million copies and graced the New York Times best-seller list six times.)

"Hard to believe lightning can strike twice, but it surely did. The moment Caitriona Balfe came on screen, I sat up straight and said, ‘There she is!’ She and Sam Heughan absolutely lit up the screen with fireworks," Gabaldon said. 

Added Moore: “The casting of Claire Randall was a long and difficult one because the role is so crucial to the success of our show. Outlander is told from Claire's point of view, and we experience the entire story through her eyes, so it was vital that we find exactly the right actor to play her. Caitriona wasn't on anyone's radar, she wasn't on any list, but when we saw her audition tape, we immediately knew she was someone special. Then, after we had her read with Sam, we knew we'd found our Claire. At its heart, Outlander is the story of two people -- Claire and Jamie -- their loves and losses, their adventures and tragedies, and now we finally have them both."

She joins a cast that also includes Heughan, Game of Thrones alums Tobias Menzies (Frank Randall/Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall) and Duncan Lacroix (Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser), as well as Scottish natives Graham McTavish (Dougal MacKenzie) and Gary Lewis (Colum MacKenzie). Annette Badland (Mrs. Fitzgibbons) and Stephen Walters (Angus Mhor) are also onboard.

Moore will write the first two episodes and executive produce alongside Jim Kohlberg. The drama hails from Sony Pictures Television and is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Co. and Left Bank Pictures. Starz picked up the drama in June with a 16-episode order for 2014. John Dahl (Dexter, Breaking Bad) will direct. Production will begin in Scotland, where the series is set, in the fall.

Balfe's credits include Bryan Singer and Jason Taylor's digital series H+ and Summit/Lionsgate's upcoming Escape Plan. She's repped by Industry Entertainment, Emptage Hallett in the U.K. and attorney Darren Trattner.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit