The stars of time-travel romance Outlander, Caitríona Balfe and Sam Heughan, have been friends for a decade, since the global hit started shooting in 2013. But no matter how dire it gets (and it does!) for their characters, 20th-century surgeon Claire Fraser and her Scottish Highlander husband, Jamie, the actors’ easy rapport keeps them laughing. You can see the evidence in the shot (above) on the set in Scotland during production of the new season.
These lighthearted glimpses behind the scenes barely hint at Season 7’s tumultuous events, which are drawn from An Echo in the Bone, the seventh novel in Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling series on which the show is based. “It’s really epic, expansive. We’ve opened the world out an awful lot,” Balfe says of the 16 episodes (which will run in two blocks of eight). “There are amazing characters, new and old. This is the best one we’ve done since Season 1.”
The premiere picks up almost immediately where Season 6 left off — with Jamie and his crew racing to rescue Claire, imprisoned and wrongly accused of murdering the pregnant Malva Christie (Jessica Reynolds), who had lied that Jamie was the father of her child. “Claire’s salvation comes in the form of someone very unexpected,” Heughan hints.
After that surprise twist and the discovery of the true murderer, the Frasers’ next chapter is dominated by the turbulence of the Revolutionary War. Jamie rises to the rank of general in the Continental Army, on the opposite side of his British friend Lord John Grey (David Berry), who has been raising Jamie’s illegitimate son, William (Charles Vandervaart). “Jamie is fighting against his friends, his family. He’s got a lot to lose,” Heughan says.
Luckily, he can lean on a stronger Claire, who has learned to stop bottling up her emotions and has quit using ether to cope with her past trauma. “She gets to be where she feels the most vital, in field hospitals,” comments Balfe, referencing Claire’s work as a caregiver in World War II and at Culloden in 1746, when the Highlanders fell to the British. “She’s doctoring. She’s back to her old self.”
Looking ahead to the second half (no dates have been announced), the Frasers are on the move and will visit Scotland. According to Heughan, “Jamie has to deal with old relationships and unsettled matters.” We’ll see familiar faces, some beloved, like Jamie’s relatives, and others reviled, like Claire’s friend turned enemy, 1960s time traveler Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek).
Through it all, Claire and Jamie’s enviable passion burns bright. “We’re telling a story of two people who are so connected,” Balfe reflects, adding that this season “their love is stronger and deeper.”
Outlander, Season 7 Premiere, Friday, June 16, Starz
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This story originally appeared on TV Insider