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After watching Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe portray Jamie and Claire Fraser on Outlander for the past five seasons, most fans now picture them whenever they read the popular series by Diana Gabaldon. This raises the question if the Outlander stars do the same when they read the books. Turns out, the actors all have people they picture on the pages of Gabaldon’s novels, but none of them are Heughan.

Outlander Sam Heughan Caitriona Balfe
‘Outlander’ stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe | Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

‘Outlander’ kicks off season 5

After an extended Droughtlander, Outlander kicked off season 5 on February 16. The new season picks up with Jamie and Claire further establishing their home in North Carolina and naturally facing a few hurdles along the way.

For Jamie, his biggest challenge in season 5 is a question of loyalty. At the end of last season, the governor of North Carolina ordered Jamie to hunt down a rebellious group of men known as the Regulators.

The only problem is that the Regulators are led by Jamie’s godfather, Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix). Jamie and Murtagh share a strong bond, so Jamie will definitely have some tricky political waters to navigate this season.

Jamie’s relationship with Claire, of course, is still at the heart of the Outlander series. Although the two have been through a lot of hardships over the years, Balfe believes their relationship is stronger than ever.

“I think there is an evolution,” Balfe shared. “I think that this season we really see them as this matriarch and patriarch of a community and extended family and, because of that, we get to see more of the inner workings of their relationship. We see how their marriage works and I think that there are some really sweet and beautiful and some romantic scenes between then, which I think is what everyone loves.”

How much does the series differ from the books?

The new season of Outlander is based on the fifth book in Gabaldon’s series, titled The Fiery Cross. Over the course of the first five seasons, each year has been roughly based on a single book.

Although the series has remained faithful to most of the major developments in the books, Balfe recently revealed that season 5 diverges the most so far.

“I think we will probably diverge from the book mostly this season, but what I think we have done really well is keep the essence of Diana’s story,” Balfe revealed. “We started certain things in previous seasons that have now carried us through a thread that is different from the books, but I think it has added to it in many ways and Diana seems happy.”

One of the biggest changes from the Outlander books is the fact that Murtagh is still alive. In Gabaldon’s original story, Murtagh is killed off at the Battle of Culloden (which happened back in season 2). The show has kept Murtagh alive through the first five seasons, and the character is expected to play a prominent role this year.

Balfe did not share any specifics about what changes fans can expect this season, but at least Gabaldon is happy with how things turned out.

Does Balfe picture Heughan when she reads ‘Outlander’?

Speaking of the books, several cast members of Outlander were recently asked about who they imagine when they read Gabaldon’s books for the show.

According to Entertainment Weekly, a reporter asked Balfe if she now pictures Heughan whenever she reads about Jamie. Although fans would love if it were true, the actress revealed that she does not picture Heughan when reading the books.

“My Jamie is a stud,” Balfe joked.

Outlander co-stars Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton backed up Balfe’s assessment. Rankin even added that his Jamie “looks a lot more” like himself than Heughan.

While the actors obviously don’t see each other whenever they pick up Gabaldon’s books, it is a safe bet that most fans do. After all, who else would you picture as Jamie aside from Heughan?

‘Outlander’ producer talks casting Balfe

With the new season of Outlander officially underway, executive producer Ronald D. Moore recently opened up about casting Balfe.

When Balfe auditioned for the part, Moore and his team had already hired Heughan to play Jamie. So the most important thing to do was make sure the actress who played Claire had good chemistry with him.

To that end, they called in Balfe to do a screen test with Heughan to ensure they had good chemistry. Moore admitted that they believed Balfe was perfect for the role on Outlander, but they ran the test anyway just to make sure.

“So we were looking for a chemistry between the two characters. We really felt that Cait was probably going to be the one but this was the final moment, this was when she literally sealed the deal and got the show. As you see, they sort of already got the shorthand of their characters and there is definitely on-camera chemistry between the two,” he explained.

The test included an emotional scene between Jamie and Claire. But in order to see how they really interacted with each other, Moore had the Outlander cameras continue to film the pair even after the scene was over. They were, of course, delighted to find out that Balfe and Heughan got along great.

Balfe may not think of Heughan when she reads the Outlander books, but it is clear that they are both perfect for the show.