After five seasons playing Claire Fraser on Outlander, it’s safe to say that Caitriona Balfe has become a power player in Hollywood. But as she recently explained in a chat with her sister for the UK’s City Women Network, it took at least one season for the show to compensate her appropriately for all her hard work — and she had to earn it.
“That first year of Outlander, I was paid abysmally, but I was a new actress and I really had to prove myself,” she said to Anne-Marie Balfe in the webinar chat. “And I worked my -ss off. I worked insane hours and never complained, and showed up and knew my stuff every single day.”
Though Balfe had booked a few parts before landing the biggest role in the Starz adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s beloved books, it was Outlander that firmly cemented her career, and gave her the leverage to stand up for herself when it came to renegotiations for season two and beyond. As she remembered, “I think by the end of that first year, everyone could see that I was a dedicated hard worker and that I was an asset to the show and to the company. And so I think at that point, then you’re in a position when you have proven yourself, to advocate for yourself.”
That isn’t the first time Balfe has had to advocate for herself and her paychecks. As Showbiz CheatSheet notes, the then-model temporarily stopped working with fashion brand BCBG in 2009 when the company was delinquent on paying her. She now credits that education of a “world where you are very much a commodity that is disposable,” with her ability to champion her own worth. And that self-assuredness has paid off: In addition to leading the beloved Starz show for five seasons, Balfe is now one of its producers, a role which nets her even more leverage and say.
“Because I know my value, because I do work hard, and I can see the value in that, I’m quite comfortable with saying what I want, and I think that’s something that all women need to learn,” she said. “As women we have to not be afraid of being difficult, because they’re going to call us difficult anyway.”
Fans are already picking up plenty of inspiration from the conversation. “Thank you so much for this,” one wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for your empowering words. As Anne-Marie said, this was the best hour of my week.”
“The part about learning how to take the emotions out of things, recognizing your value & negotiating for what you feel you deserve was spot on,” another said. “That’s my biggest battle at this point in my career in film & something I have to face when production starts up again.”
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