Irish actress Caitriona Balfe has been cast in the lead role in Outlander, the new Starz and Sony TV series based on Diana Gabaldon's best-selling books.

Deadline.com says that Balfe's casting follows "a very lengthy search and multiple screen tests" and will see her star opposite former Doctors actor Sam Heughan.

Outlander tells the story of Claire Randall (Balfe), a married combat nurse who is transported from 1945 back to 1743 where she is forced to marry Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).

Author Gabaldon said: "Hard to believe lightning can strike twice, but it surely did. The moment Caitriona Balfe came on screen, I sat up straight and said, 'There she is!' She and Sam Heughan absolutely lit up the screen with fireworks."

The show's producer, Ron Moore, added: "The casting of Claire Randall was a long and difficult one because the role is so crucial to the success of our show. Outlander is told from Claire's point of view and we experience the entire story through her eyes, so it was vital that we find exactly the right actor to play her.

"Caitriona wasn't on anyone's radar, she wasn't on any list, but when we saw her audition tape, we immediately knew she was someone special. Then, after we had her read with Sam, we knew we'd found our Claire."

Monaghan native Balfe's other credits include Now You See Me, H+ and Super 8.

Caitriona Balfe starred in Sideline's The Model Scouts:

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