Casting Claire (or How To Stop #Outlander Casting Bashing)


Wait…are her eyes brown in this picture?

Her hair is brown, curly, and rather unruly.  Her eyes are the color of whisky; they are hawkish and observant[i].  At 5”6, her nose fits neatly in the hollow of Jamie’s chest.  Despite her generous bum and her full bosom, she is trim.[ii]  In the first book, Claire responds to Jamie’s blurted inquiry of “How much do you weigh, Sassanach,” with the unguarded answer of “Nine stone.”[iii]  These are the physical attribute of Claire—this is what she sees when she looks in the mirror.  Although, to be fair, considering the fictional life she lives, she doesn’t always have one to hand.  But that’s perfectly fine, because more often than not, Claire does give a rat’s ass if she looks “proper” or not.

Besides her lack of preoccupation with appearance, one of the things I love best about Claire is that her appearance is not static.  It changes.  She changes.  During times of trial and hardship, she loses weight; her stomach becomes nearly concave.  One cold winter, when activity is understandably limited due to the weather, Claire describes herself as “squidgy.”[iv]  Her hair starts to turn, some strands fade to white while others take on a silvery sheen.  Her ankle is marked by a broken vein.  Faint stretch marks are a testament to her feminine form.

And yet, based on (or in spite of) the words on the page, readers undoubtedly find themselves in Claire:

She is tall like me (…or short like me…)

She is curvy, like me (…or thin, like me…or has a round rear-end, like me…)

This seeing ourselves in the characters may be one of the reason that readers be so emotionally invested in the appearance of their beloved book characters when they do finally make an appearance on the screen.

Unfortunately, whenever a character is cast, it seems that the Appearance Police make their own appearance…

Hmmph, Brianna’s hair is so not that shade of red.  Cant’s they just use the dye they use for Jamie?

Claire’s eyes should be whisky colored.  Seriously, how hard would it be to wear contacts?

Brianna should be taller.  Geez, can’t she just, like, wear some platform shoes?

Roger’s hair should be blacker.  *produces bottle of hair dye and waves it threateningly*

Claire is too thin (…or too curvy).

Jamie’s hair is too short (…or long….or red…or curly…or fuzzy…)  Because, you know, they totally had some great hair products back in the 1700s… Bear grease, anyone?

Admittedly, it seems like the screams of outrage are louder for the casting of the female characters.  Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall having heard too much drama over the casting of Dougal (Disclaimer: I love Graham.  Seriously.  Not hating on Graham.  But, if you want to get picky, he really doesn’t look like Book Dougal.  And yet…no drama.  But geez, let poor Catriona rock her own eye color rather than some boozy hue and OMG! The Skye[v] is Freakin’ Falling!).

It seems that of All The Things I Stage Whisper To My Husband While Watching Outlander, none of these things are about physical attributes.  Mostly, because I tend to read characters and develop a “sense” of them rather than a mental image.  So I’m kind amazed when I see how absolutely rabid some[vi] of the Mental Imagers have with regard to the casting.

I just don’t get it.

But as I read all of the Twitter (and Facebook) outrage over the latest round of castings, it made me want to understand.  The best I can come up with is this:  maybe those qualities that the Casting Blasters believe they share with the main character weren’t retained, and it makes them sad to miss that perceived connection.

Maybe not.

I dunno.

But I do know that Jamie loved Claire when she was bony and when she was squidgy.  He loved her when she was his brown haired lass, when glints of white shone in her curls, and even when her head was shaved.  He loved her pre-stretch marks, and he loved her even more when the marks—these tangible evidence of the life they created– wove their silvery web across her stomach.  He loved her unconditionally.  Because Jamie loved the essence of Claire…not her appearance.

While lovely, Claire was so much more that that.  Jamie knew it.  Hell, even Lord John knew it:

“When he began to speak of you, both of us thought you were dead,” he pointed out.  “And while you are undoubtedly a handsome woman, it was never of your looks that he spoke.”

To my surprise, he picked up my hand and held it lightly.

“You have his courage,” he said.

 *Clears throat.*

*Wipes tear.*

*Drains whisky glass.*

So, I am thinking that maybe it would help if instead of Casting Bashing, we channel our inner-Jamie and wait and see how an actor/actress actually acts before we judge him/her.  We need to give them time to “show us what they got,” so to speak.

This approach works really well with fictional characters…come to think of it, it works pretty well for Real Life People, too.



[i] “She turned to Roger, her gaze an unsettling amber.  Her eyes always reminded him of hawk’s eyes, as though she could see a good deal father than most people.”  Voyager.
[ii] And this is where I would tuck in the quote about her flat belly that I recall from Voyager, when she is appraising her appearance and wondering how she will look to Jamie, after all these years… or at least this is where I would put the quote if I had book to hand and could find it at the moment
[iii] Or 126 pounds.  I rather like that she “owns” each pound; her answer is neither coy nor self-conscious.
[iv] To which Jamie responds something like, “I like ye fat.”  A response that made me crush on him pretty hard, and which every male would be well advised to learn and use when needed.
[v] See what I did there?
[vi] Please notice that I said “some,” not “all.”  If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t assume I am trying to shove your foot into it.

25 thoughts on “Casting Claire (or How To Stop #Outlander Casting Bashing)

  1. Who can forget that ‘Book Murtagh’ was always described as rat faced! Ahem – NO complaints about
    ‘show Murtagh’, were there??? They’re actors, and damn good ones. Trust their craft and genius!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “I like ye fat”. When I first read this in the book, I about died. I loved it so much. This article is also a great reminder that we should really be working on having the most beautiful essence possible, rather than the best rack, or the best butt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I looooooooved that part. When my great-grandmother was a young girl in Prague, Oklahoma, just off the Sac & Fox reservation, she dated a young Jim Thorpe. I still have their love letters. In one, he is wooing her and tells her that she is “as fat as a little partridge.” Apparently, that was quite the compliment at the time. 😍


  3. I guess people get more twisted as the characters are more primary (ie. Claire as opposed to Dougal) .. I think people have expressed issue with Bree (if that is what you refer too here) because her parentage, looks height etc are more primary to the storyline. But I agree with you.. what is the point of the negativity once the decision is made? Would I have liked them to cast a taller Bree with blue eyes. Sure. But they went this way for a reason. They saw something in this actress that overcame those issues, and now we have to embrace it and give her a chance. Complaining about cast won’t change anything at this point, and it won’t affect the future, so what purpose does it serve? It only festers negative opinion and discourages the cast and crew.


  4. I think the casting has been great for the series. But… I do have issue with eye color. That characteristic is huge in literature, especially stories where genetic features are so very relevent. I didn’t get it with Harry Potter and The Giver either. The eye color was part of who they were, how we defined them. If the author goes to such great lengths to make it a big part of the story, why not honor it with the simple use of contacts?


    • I can understand the disappointment, but not everyone can tolerate contacts. For example I have had several eye surgeries which have resulted in scar tissue on the surface of my eye. I tried to wear contacts but the scar tissue is incredibly sensitive so it caused a great deal of discomfort. So sometimes what we assume is an easy fix isn’t always as easy as we may assume.


  5. P.S. While I have to admit to a bit of disappointment about the eye color thing…my main disappointment where Brianna was concerned, was the quality of the acting by the young woman portraying her. I am willing to reserve judgement since she is still “getting her feet wet”…but I sure hope things improve in the coming season(s).


  6. you nailed it. And it is so true. Not one time I read a bad word about Graham McT., but at least twice a week I read something unfriendly about Catriona look or what ever she is doin. It is disrespectful and I hate it with all my heart.


  7. When I first saw Outlander the series, I too thought Claire and Jamie did not fit the book. Jamie was too short and his hair wasn’t red enough and his whole body was too small. Claire’s hair was not frieze enough. Than I stopped comparing them to the book and watched their amazing acting and I was totally hooked. The acting in the shows are so good, you no longer compare them to their actors but you take on a new prospective as their characters. I once wrote on a wall Tobias, your acting stinks. It is because you are not acting. You are into the character so much you make it so believable one does not look at you as an actor but a real person on the screen. I have read all of the books and I hope she keeps writing more and I have watched all of the episodes and I can’t wait until the shows start up again.


  8. Watching S01E01, I must confess to getting my bloomers in a wad over Catriona’s willowy frame and eye color. I was over it by the end of the episode, just like I was over Sam not being tall enough. The series is lovely, and necessarily not a carbon copy of the books. Diana did a superb job finding the perfect people to put her epic saga on the screen, and was wise enough to stay involved for the process. We need to stop whining and be grateful for the excellence. Remember how long we waited for the production?


  9. It was a little hard getting use to all the Chast , even Jamie as he was suppose to be so tall you could see him over the tops of others heads, and his hair was so red you could pick him out of a crowd. But I think they have done a good job all and all! How hard that must be to find someone with all of Jamie’s fictional attributes! Right! Though Sam is a good Jamie, my Jamie is very Manley and I don’t think their is a man that could come close to him! Had a very hard time with Dougal though! But the hardest is wee Roger, in my mind he was pretty close to Jamie in looks at stature, only dark, and he fallows in his father in laws foot steps. But I’m giving him a chance, he seams to be doing ok. I will miss all the Caratchers that die at Culleden. I love this series and have been reading it over and over for over 20 years. Everyone is doing a great job! Please keep up the good work!


  10. Your critique was spot on. People need to relax, The casting has been spot on and we love Sam and Cait. I’m not the least bit concerned.


  11. O don’t know why but i never manage To imagine a face for my book characters (that i’m Reading about) Just a sense of what they look like. I started do fall um love with the casting in every episode(they are brilliant) and started to forget the little differences( such small details) in face of a great performance.


  12. they could not have picked better for jamie and claire, i sit amazed at the talent the two of them have and how they have made us love the characters even more since they brought them to life before our eyes. a bit different from the book characters but they made them even better which i did not think was possible when the series first started. all the characters have been spot on except one and i’m hoping he will surprise me and that character is roger. knowing the books as i do for i have read them many many times over the years and knowing what all poor roger is going to go through when i watched him in the last episode of season two i did begin to wonder if he will be able to pull it off and make me believe him as sam and cait have. we will see…


  13. Really dont understand how anyone can get so het up over eye colouring and to expect an actor to use contact lenses, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Far rather have an actor who can emulate the spirit of the character in the books than a carbon copy


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