Science fiction visionary Ronald D. Moore has a big year coming up in 2014. After a long hiatus from television, Moore will be releasing two new sci-fi TV shows. The first is an outbreak thriller called Helix for Syfy, while the other is an sprawling epic Scottish romance series with time travel elements called Outlander for the premium cable network Starz. Production on Outlander will begin soon, and now Moore has found his leading lady.
As reported in TV Guide, Irish actress Caitriona Balfe will play the lead role of Claire Randall, a married British World War II combat nurse who is mysteriously sent back in time to the 18th Century. In her new life, Claire is to marry a Scottish warrior named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Outlander is based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling book series, which was first released in 1991. So far there have been seven installments in the on-going book series, with the eighth expected for release in March 2014.
Here’s what Ron Moore had to say about the casting:
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.
Caitriona Balfe appeared as Elizabeth Lamb, the protagonist’s dead mother in J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 in 2011. Balfe had a reoccurring role on Bryan Singer’s web-series H+ in 2012, and she also made an appearance in the magician heist caper Now You See Me, which was released earlier this year.
In other Outlander casting news, Graham McTavish and Gary Lewis will join the cast of the Scottish sci-fi romance series. McTavish and Lewis will play Dougal MacKenzie, War Chieftain of the MacKenzie Clan, and Colum MacKenzie, Jamie’s maternal uncle, respectively. They are also part of the hot-blooded MacKenzie Clan.
Graham McTavish most recently can be seen as the dwarf Dwalin in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. McTavish has appeared in other sci-fi TV shows such as Lost, Dinotopia, and Red Dwarf. He is also the voice for Loki in Marvel’s The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series. Gary Lewis is an actor from Scotland who has appeared in Billy Elliot, Gangs of New York, and Eragon.
Outlander is a genre-bending TV series with elements of romance, time travel, and historical fiction, so it will probably play like a mixture of Game of Thrones, The Tudors, and The Highlander… but with time travel. Considering the popularity of the above, and with Ron Moore’s name attached, Outlander has the makings of a big ol’ hit.
Moore’s other upcoming series, Helix, has been compared to John Carpenter’s The Thing. It centers on a group of scientists from the CDC stationed in the middle of the Arctic. They are there to investigate a possible disease outbreak, only to find something more terrifying beneath the Arctic snow.
Outlander will premiere on the Starz Network with 16 episodes for its first series sometime in 2014.