The long wait is over: Claire Randall and Jaime Fraser are finally back on your television screen!

Just not, y'know, together.

That's the bittersweet element for the legion of pining fans as "Outlander" returns for a third season, nearly a year and a half after Starz aired the Season Two finale. As the show resumes, its two central lovers are still separated by over two centuries of time: Caitriona Balfe's Claire is in 1968 Scotland, decades after her return to her original era. Sam Heughan's Jamie is still in the 1740s Highlands after the fateful Battle of Culloden.

Balfe tells Moviefone that the new season -- which is based on "Voyager," the third book in Diana Gabaldon's bestselling novel series -– is all about the build-up to a hotly anticipated reunion, zigging and zagging across time and continents. It also tosses out all sorts of curveballs before Claire and Jamie are at each other's side once more.

"I think anyone who's read Diana's books will say, 'Oh, crap –- I never saw that coming,' because it's just a sequence of twists and turns. I think that's the great thing about this series of books, and it's a great thing about our show," says Balfe. "You're constantly being kept on your toes. I mean, who would have thought we would end up on ships and in Jamaica this season? You never know what to expect. And the great thing about it being a time‑traveling fantasy is the story can go anywhere, and very frequently does."
You've said that to inform your performance as Claire at the age we see her in the new season, you took a look at various actresses with long career spans at dramatically different ages. What was the takeaway for you?

Caitriona Balfe: It's a great way to be able to see someone at a certain age, and then look at them at another age without trying to look back at photos, or whatever -– Julie Christie or Jane Fonda or even Cate Blanchett or Helen Mirren, because I watch their films anyway. I'm like, "Oh!" There is a lightness or a looseness to their physicality then.

I think it's when people mature or they get older, there's usually a confidence that grows within them, and that usually manifests in just carrying yourself a little straighter and owning your presence a little bit more. That's what I was trying to play with.

You even look at films of women who are much, much older -– Emmanuelle Riva or someone like that – and people still stay young inside. Our bodies betray us, but at 50, Claire's not there yet. She may have a creaky knee once or twice, but you're not in a territory where your body really breaks down. Yeah, it was more about how she carries herself.

Interesting, too, is that spirit that she has -– you've got to modify it given her circumstances, age and the era that she's in, but that's always there in some form. Tell me a little bit about playing that.

Well, Claire is a feisty, ballsy woman and she's formidable. I love that about her. But one of the key things to her as well, that we've seen in Season's One and Two, is that she's also very sexually liberated, and she's also very free. She feels very elemental, like of the earth, to me; but when we meet her in Season Three, that's the thing that I tried to put to the side.

It manifests differently within her. She still gets on with her life and makes it a success, but there's just this rigidity -- not necessarily a rigidness to her, but there's a brittleness that you don't see previous. I hope that maybe you'll be able to see that loosen up after she reunites with Jamie again.

Tell me about evolving Claire as a mother.

It was nice to play those scenes. I think motherhood for Claire is so fraught with complications. Obviously, that's not the ideal way she wanted to raise her daughter. She would have much rather raised her with Jamie and all of that, but she takes so much joy in Brianna. But when you keep secrets, then you create a barrier and you create distance.

Unfortunately, because she had to keep this secret from Brianna for so long, there's a tension in their relationship. It doesn't mean that she loves her any less, or any of those things. It's nice to see later on, when Sophie [Skelton] and I got to do the rest of the Claire and Brianna scenes, where -- now that they know the truth -- it's not plain sailing but the begin to be able to dismantle those barriers and have a more honest relationship.
Can you talk about working with Tobias Menzies now more as Frank than as Jack? That's quite a shift.

I think it's so interesting to watch him play Black Jack and to watch that darkness. But, Claire and Frank, I always love playing those scenes. I love working with Tobias. I think he brings such depth to his characters.

Frank could be such a boring, stuffy old guy, but he makes him charming and he makes him sweet and you feel for him. It's heartbreaking that here's a man who only wants to be loved by his wife and that's something she's not able to give him.

Is there quite a big separation of time that you and Sam weren't working together?

Not really. Because we filmed [episodes] one and three together, and then two and eight, so there were a couple of weeks where we didn't see each other but we'd pass each other in the corridors. We'd do tag team of who gets to go on set and do the heavy lifting.

Was there ever talk about keeping you two apart for a long time so that the separation would perhaps inhabit your performance a little bit?

I think initially, of course, the writers, the producers and everyone would have preferred to film chronologically but it was due to another actor's availability that we had to pull something up. So, you know, this is what happens in the land of TV!