Caitriona balfe fan year 6 electricity

The downside of adapting books for the screen is that some key moments inevitably get left out because of time (rather, the lack of it) or to suit the creative flow. For Caitriona Balfe, who plays time-traveling leading lady Claire in “Outlander,” the omitted moments aren’t any less significant than what we see on the screen in finding her character.

Taking a break from filming the fourth season of the epic drama, Balfe stopped by The Times’ video studio recently to reflect on the course-shifting third season that saw the show’s star-crossed couple coping with a life apart (for 20 years!) before eventually reuniting.

The first five episodes of the third season work to establish how Claire and Jamie ( Sam Heughan) settled into a life unhappily ever after. Jamie, back in 18th century Scotland; Claire in 20th century America, raising their daughter with Frank (Tobias Menzies) while taking up medicine. The third novel from the Diana Gabaldon book series, “Voyager,” did a lot to set up the journey Claire experiences in those years. Balfe said she infused the detail from the book that the script left out into her performance.

“There’s some scenes I’m devastated we didn’t get to shoot,” she said. “There’s the scene where she’s working all day and Brianna gets hurt and she has to run home and she has all of that guilt. It’s so interesting to see a working mom in that late ’50s, early ’60s time — I was like, ‘What do you mean we’re not filming that? That’s so important to this character!’ We don’t have time to shoot everything. But I have that [knowledge] and you bring that into your performance throughout the rest of the scenes … having all of that stuff — especially when we got to Episode 3, 4 and 5 — you want to show the characters wearing all those experiences.”

“We’re in such a time right now where we’re still battling for equality and we’re still battling for respect as women,” Balfe said. But, looking back at that time, and you see how people would just shut any woman down with an opinion … I look at my mother, my grandmother, you start thinking about all of the things that they’ve gone through in their lives and it makes you understand more how they’ve become the women that they are.”

Some keen-eyed viewers have spotted a tiny “J” carved onto Claire’s palm and a little “C” etched onto Jamie’s hand in the deleted scenes from Outlander’s third season, but there was never an explanation for the appearance of these mysterious initials on the hit Starz drama.

In our quest to cut to the truth, ET caught up with Outlander executive producers Ronald D. Moore and Maril Davis at a special Television Academy panel in Los Angeles on Sunday, and we asked the creative duo to explain the behind-the-scenes secrets of Jamie and Claire’s carvings.

“Yes, our sharp-eyed viewers are at it again!” Moore said proudly to ET’s cameras on the red carpet. “Essentially, there’s a scene in [Diana Gabaldon’s] book — and actually in a different book — where Claire and Jamie carve their initials into each other’s hands. I think it was in the second book, [Dragonfly in Amber,] if I’m not mistaken.”

Moore continued, “We did not do that [scene] in season two, but it was one of those little details that we kept thinking, ‘At some point we’re going to do this.’ So we shot a version of that scene in season three, but we weren’t really that satisfied with it and it didn’t really work, so we cut the scene — but we wanted to still sort of preserve the idea of doing that at some later date.”

“So we didn’t include that scene in the deleted scenes for the DVD, however, sharp-eyed fans found the initials in a separate deleted scene that we had not gone in and digitally erased so it’s like, ‘Curses! They found us!’” Moore added with a laugh.

“I hope [the fans] know it’s something that we really want to do,” Davis explained. “And while you hope that you don’t have those little things happen, on the other hand, it’s kind of a fun, little tidbit for people to see and to recognize that people are actually watching.”

“You know that happens a lot. We shoot a lot of stuff that doesn’t make it into the final edit,” Balfe dished to ET. “It’s sort of in a really organic place in the book and it sort of fits where it was supposed to be. I think it’s difficult sometimes when you’re trying to shoehorn something into another moment, but you know, it’s also a fan favorite. So we do try to do these things for the fans and so you always have to try and find something that works and it has to work for the story.”

Heughan echoed his co-star’s sentiments and said, “I think I was quite excited for the fans to see that because they wanted it from before, but you know, it may make an appearance somewhere else. But you know, that happens all the time. There’s so much that we shoot that doesn’t make it into the show and we can’t include everything.”

For more behind-the-scenes bonus material like this one, pick up your copy of Outlander: Season Three, which will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital as well as on a Limited Collector’s Edition from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on April 10.