'Outlander': Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan Say Season 7 Is 'Biggest' One Since Start of Series (Exclusive)

The stars of the time-travel drama offer an early glimpse at the series' final chapter.

The Droughtlander is over! Outlander is gearing up for a supersized seventh season, and stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan promise it's every bit worth the wait.

"It's probably the biggest we've done since season 1," Heughan told ET's Will Marfuggi of the anticipated season, which kicks off Friday. "A lot of water has gone under the bridge since that first season. But this one is tying up a lot of loose ends. We've finally got to the War of Independence that we've been talking about. There are a lot of returning characters, a lot of new characters. So it feels like we've really progressed this season. And it's just jam-packed as well. There's so much that happens this season. So hold on to your hats."

Split into two parts consisting of eight episodes each, season 7 of the time-travel drama picks up with Jamie (Heughan) and young Ian (John Bell) racing to rescue Claire (Balfe) before she's tried and wrongfully convicted for the murder of Malva Christie. But their mission is complicated by the beginning of a geopolitical firestorm: the American Revolution. Jamie, Claire and their family are caught in the violent birth pains of an emerging nation as armies march to war and British institutions crumble in the face of armed rebellion.

The land they call home is changing -- and they must change with it in order to survive. In order to protect what they've built, the Frasers must navigate the perils of the Revolutionary War and sometimes defending what you love means having to leave it behind. As the conflict rages on, Jamie, Claire, Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin) are faced with impossible decisions that have the potential to tear their family apart.

"What we've discovered throughout this show is that they can't really change the major events. These things are sort of predestined or preordained," Balfe said of Claire and Jamie's ongoing saga. "What they can do is they can change within their own little purview, I suppose."

Added Heughan: "Jamie and Claire, they've always -- in the past -- tried to change history, but realize that that isn't something that is manageable, and now all they can do is sidestep it or try to come out on the right side of history. And I think that's exactly what's happening this season."

The upcoming season will also reintroduce Jamie's now-adult son, William Ransom (played by new cast member Charles Vandervaart), whom he fathered in season 3 after being blackmailed into a one-night stand. As Heughan teased, bringing William into the fray will add another layer of complexity.

"I think the William story is fascinating," the 43-year-old actor said. "[It] is one of the stories that we follow this season. For Jamie, [being a father is] something that he obviously wanted to be in his life and knew that it was dangerous to be. And without giving too much away, they will meet and we will explore that relationship a bit as well. We're always getting new things each season to play. And this one is no exception. There are a lot of very interesting relationships and storylines to explore."


Balfe also dipped her toe with directing during season 7, taking the reins on filming with the second unit in preparation for a proper episode next season, which would mark her directorial debut.

"This season I've only done a little bit of second unit, which was honestly the most fun," the actress shared. "I've been very fortunate. They're going to let me direct the whole episode next season. So, part of my training and my steep learning curve was the second unit, but it's like I've been doing this show now. We've been doing it for almost 10 years. I think part of what keeps it exciting and fresh is that they're very, very generous with allowing us to try new opportunities and to grow within our roles. We've become executive producers and this was another thing that I was really excited about trying my hand at. It's a different part of your brain to use so it's great."

Heughan expressed excitement for his co-star's turn behind the camera next year. "I think she's going to excel at it," he praised. "It's a natural progression. I think we both want to do other things in our careers and this is the perfect proving ground for that."

While Outlander is far from over, the end is approaching after Starz picked up the series for an eighth and final season in January. (A prequel spinoff centered on Jamie's parents, Outlander: Blood of My Blood, has already been given a series order.) Balfe took a moment to reflect on the last decade she and Heughan have spent living in Claire and Jamie's shoes.

"This has been such an amazing gift and an amazing ride. When you sign on to do a show, at least where I was at my point in my career, I was just lucky to get a job. I was like, 'Oh my god, somebody's gonna pay me to actually do this. This is great,'" she recalled. "And to have a year of that was fantastic, to then be picked up for a second year was amazing and to be this deep in with this wonderful fanbase that we have that are excited about a new season coming out, it just feels like such a privilege. It's changed our lives and we've been so lucky."

As for what's to come in Outlander's final chapter, the pair is hopeful the ending will be satisfying for longtime fans. Balfe noted they've been planting the seeds for the series' endgame. "This season was a bit of book 7, a bit of book 8," she said. "Landing the plane would be a good thing. Let's hope we don't crash."

"We obviously don't know how it's going to end but we're glad that we get the opportunity to end it satisfactorily, for at least most people out there," Heughan said.

The season 7 premiere of Outlander is available Friday, June 16 at 12 a.m. ET on the Starz app, Starz streaming and on demand and internationally on the Lionsgate+ streaming platform in the U.K., and will air at 8 p.m. ET/PT in the U.S.