As fans of the time-travelling television series know, stars Balfe and Sam Heughan portray their characters over a number of different ages. In doing so, the actor explained, she came to realise the beauty in getting older.
When we are first introduced to Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) in season one of Outlander, the pair are nothing but wee things. The year is 1743 and Claire is 26, about to turn 27. Jamie is 23.
As the intervening seasons, and books, unfurl whole decades go past, time during which their characters get steadily older. When season five begins the year will be 1770, which means that Claire is 54 and Jamie is 50.
Outlander has always taken great pains to ensure that this ageing is reflected in its portrayal of Claire and Jamie. When the pair were reunited in season three at the print shop – an episode burned into every Outlander fan’s brain – both Balfe and Heughan stressed how important it was for the scene to reflect not only the passion of the couple who found their way back to each other, but also their maturity and growth as people. Here are two soulmates who believed they would never gaze upon each other’s face again, miraculously finding themselves together once more. Of course, that’s going to be powerful. But it also has to be realistic.
“We wanted to show that they fall back very quickly into that initial passion for each other, that initial love and lust,” Heughan said in an interview after the release of season three. “But then over time they quickly realise that they’ve become different people, and it is awkward, and it is almost teenage-like, nervous and exciting. It’s fun to watch them rediscover each other.”
By the time the show picks up in season four and, soon, season five, Claire and Jamie are very much in middle age. While this won’t impact their chemistry or passion – “We ALWAYS bring the heat,” Balfe joked on Twitter, when asked the very important question of whether the new season of Outlander will have as many sex scenes as previous outings – getting older does impact how these beloved characters look onscreen.
In early images from season five, both Jamie and Claire are pictured with some grey hair and wrinkles, as befitting a couple now in their early and mid-50s. (Heughan and Balfe, lest you forget, are 39 and 40 respectively, and you can read their adorable birthday messages to each other here.)
During a Twitter q&a, a fan asked Balfe whether seeing herself as an older woman on the series, with grey hair and wrinkles, was a difficult pill to swallow.
Her response couldn’t have been more perfect.
“No it’s good,” she wrote. “It helps counter balance all the crap pressure I feel from all the bombardment of pictures and ads about how we should all look like teenagers. We shouldn’t. Wrinkles equals time equals life… Trying to love them”.
Balfe’s response perfectly summed up why we shouldn’t be afraid of ageing, even when society sends us conflicting messages about its obsession with youth. As she said, wrinkles are a reminder of how much wild and precious life we have lived, and we should embrace them.
Fans circulated Balfe’s response, sharing their love for her “wise words”. “I couldn’t luv ya anymore than I do right now for tweeting that!! I want all women and girls to know that what truly makes you beautiful is on the inside and YOU my dear are truly BEAUTIFUL in every way,” one fan wrote. Another added: “Love this soooooo much. Thank you for being such a champion on this issue”.
Balfe’s words come just weeks after the internet erupted when Keanu Reeves attended an event with his new girlfriend Alexandra Grant. Grant, if you remember, has grey hair, and vicious commentators attacked her for ageing “like milk” and looking like Reeves’ mother. (In fact, Grant is nine years younger than Reeves. Hollywood gonna Hollywood!)
Grey hair is one of the last remaining taboos in the world of beauty. Despite all the body neutrality and positivity movements, despite the fact that so many of us are embracing our cellulite on Instagram, despite the fact that we are all learning to embrace natural beauty in all its forms, too many people still believe that a woman choosing to go grey or silver can only mean one thing: that she has ‘given up’ on herself. (Remember the outrage when Kate Middleton was seen with a couple of grey hairs? The tabloids had an absolute field day.)
Most women who are in their 50s have at least 50% grey hair, according to research. By the time women are in their 20s and 30s, spotting a grey hair is fairly commonplace. And yet there is a disturbing lack of grey hair representation among women in the public eye in these age groups. That’s why images of Grant, resplendently grey-haired and gorgeous, caused such a reaction when they hit the internet.
And it’s why television shows like Outlander, a series that is doing its best to realistically and openly portray what it’s like to get older with the person that you love, are so important. Remember, as Balfe said, wrinkles equals time equals life. Let’s all try to love them, and our grey hair too.
Images: Getty, Starz