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troubled Caitriona Balfe reveals how she got upset while researching for 'Belfast' role

'It all made me really sad, really emotional, listening to all of this, and listening to all these testimonies of women and interviews with women'

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Catríona Balfe is up for Best Suporting Actress in the film 'Belfast'. Photo: Stefanie Keenan

Catríona Balfe is up for Best Suporting Actress in the film 'Belfast'. Photo: Stefanie Keenan

Catríona Balfe is up for Best Suporting Actress in the film 'Belfast'. Photo: Stefanie Keenan

Caitriona Balfe has revealed how she became upset watching old footage of ‘The Troubles’ while researching her recent role in the Kenneth Branagh movie ‘Belfast’.

The Monaghan actress and Jamie Dornan play the role of parents of a boy whose character is loosely based on Branagh’s upbringing in the northern capital.

“It pulled on a lot of my own emotional experiences,” explains the 42-year-old.

“I grew right on the border. I didn’t obviously have the experience of growing up in Belfast and not having that kind of immediate experience, but growing up on the border, it was very heated in the 80s and 90s

“You are so aware of everything that’s going on in the North and there’s a background to their life, and of my dad being a Garda Sergeant and working on the border for so many years.”

Caitriona has been nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress for her ‘Ma’ character.

“I also had never really read a script that focused just on a family, that wasn’t really about the ideology. There is such a place for those films,” she told an IFTA seminar during the week.

“But at a certain point for me, I never wanted to do something that is sort of glorifying the violence or glorifying certain elements of the Troubles and stuff like that.

“It was such just a gorgeous script, it spoke to me in many different ways. I just felt I recognised Ma.

“There was a lot of my Mum in there. I felt like a lot of Irish women that I knew and I miss. It just spoke to me in a lot of ways.”

She researched footage from that period, which upset her at times.

“I’m very lucky because there is such a wealth of information from the time,” she reveals.

“There is actual footage from those days and those streets, where barricades are going up.

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Lewis McAskie, Caitriona Balfe, Jude Hill, Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds are pictured at the premiere of Belfast at the Waterfront Hall

Lewis McAskie, Caitriona Balfe, Jude Hill, Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds are pictured at the premiere of Belfast at the Waterfront Hall

Lewis McAskie, Caitriona Balfe, Jude Hill, Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds are pictured at the premiere of Belfast at the Waterfront Hall

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“There’s a group of people from one side down here and there’s a group of people from another side up here. There is a British soldier walking back and forth trying to negotiate between them. They were arguing over maybe 20 feet, so a woman could get to her front door, without having to go through the barricades.

“It all made me really sad, really emotional, listening to all of this, and listening to all these testimonies of women and interviews with women. How that was allowed to happen, and how many lives had been allowed to be destroyed over the years.

“I just think it’s so tragic," she adds. "The hatred that was soaked up and the families that were destroyed. It’s heartbreaking. I think you don’t have to be from Belfast, or Northern Ireland, or Ireland, but because we are all from those areas, different places, it’s heartbreaking, it’s really tragic and I think that was one of the things that struck me the most.”

Caitriona has been based in Scotland for the past several years, filming Outlander. She and her husband Tony McGill recently became parents to a baby boy.

“A lovely thing that I can take out of the pandemic is I obviously had my baby,” she reflects. “ I think people have become more thoughtful – well, it felt like people were more thoughtful about how they used their time – I think that’s the big thing people have discovered.

“We were being a lot more thoughtful about our environment, I feel like in the beginning, I’m not sure if that is still the case. I would like to think that people are thinking more like that.”

Caitriona also recalls how she won her role in Outlander, when she had to do a ‘chemistry test’ with co-star Sam Heughan.

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Caitriona at the 24th British Independent Film Awards ceremony at Old Billingsgate, London.

Caitriona at the 24th British Independent Film Awards ceremony at Old Billingsgate, London.

Caitriona at the 24th British Independent Film Awards ceremony at Old Billingsgate, London.

“For that test. I broke one of my own rules. I remember I was running late, because there was road works,” she recalls.

“I was so frustrated trying to get to the place on time and stuck in this bloody road works. So, I arrived in and I was like sweaty, which in a way it didn’t give me time to be nervous. Because, I think if I was sitting outside the room and thinking about what I was going to do and all of that, sometimes when you get too nervous.

"So, I sort of like breezed into the room and was like trying to pat myself down with tissue, because I was just so sweaty.

“That was a really amazing audition process, because Sam is obviously just one of the nicest guys. He was just a nice, calm influence in the room and he was standing there and we started chatting about Scotland.

“I’ve a lot of friends who live there and stuff.”

It was then that things became a bit heavy.

“We just got into the scene. We both really went for it. There was one big fight scene we had to do,” she discloses.

“I remember both of us were so wrapped up in this scene. He grabbed me and I went ‘move, hands off’ and he ended up hitting me in the face.

“But it was good, because our adrenaline was up. I don’t recommend ever hitting anyone in an audition by the way but I guess he had already got the part at that point, so he can get away with it. “

She had not worked for five months before she got the role of time traveller Claire Randall.

“I got that job, so it was a relief to get a job. To be able to pay my rent,” she smiles.

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