Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan Say Outlander Sex Scenes Don't Work Without These Rules

The fourth season of Outlander has officially premiered on Starz with — Outlander being Outlander — one hell of a steamy nighttime romp in the wilds of America for new settlers Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan). But as much fun as that and the show's other NSFW sex scenes are to watch, there's a lot of serious thought that goes into how they're filmed.

"From day one, we always set out this path for ourselves that if we were to do sex scenes, they have to tell you something about the relationship, [and] they have to tell you something about where these two characters are," Balfe tells POPSUGAR. She explains that this is obviously "very easy to weave into a plot when you're a new couple falling in love," but "it gets more difficult as seasons go on because you're constantly trying to find interesting ways to show something."

She adds that — especially because Outlander is a show with a strong female fan base, that has a strong female lead, and is based on a series of books by a female writer — these scenes shouldn't be shot "from the typical male gaze that we're so used to seeing always on TV."

Heughan brought up another issue about these scenes: they also have to make some sort of sense. The scene in the woods from the fourth season premiere, for example, is hot. But it can't be too elaborate because it would leave Claire and Jamie vulnerable to intruders. He says sometimes "it's cold or it's night and we're always like, 'We can't really do a scene here with our clothes off because it'd be freezing.' There are so many dangers, especially [in colonial America]."

Not to spoil the fun, but Heughan is only being pragmatic when he says "the actual truth of it is that it probably wouldn't be all that sexy. It'd be fumbling under some [blankets]." That said, Balfe is particularly pleased with one tryst that happens later this season and is teased in the opening credits, something she describes as a "bathtub scene that I thought was so beautiful and romantic."

"It's not so much a sex scene; it's more of a romantic scene," she says. "I think that, to me anyway, that can be more erotic and more exciting than probably some of the more explicit sex scenes."