By JUDY SLOANE
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—At 15, Claire Danes starred as Angela Chase on the TV drama “My So-Called Life.” The ABC network series only ran 19 episodes, but became a cult favorite. Danes went on to embody such diverse characters as Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” abused wife Kelly Riker in John Grisham’s “The Rainmaker” and the title role in the HBO biopic about an autistic professor “Temple Grandin,” for which she won an Emmy.
The 33-year-old recent Emmy winner currently is starring as Carrie Mathison, in “Homeland,” a CIA operative with bipolar disorder. Her character believes returning POW Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) has been brainwashed by the enemy and is a serious national security threat.
The Showtime drama’s first season ended with a disturbing sequence where Carrie agrees to an ECT procedure, formerly known as electric shock, for her bipolar disorder, which induces a seizure.
Married to actor Hugh Dancy and pregnant with their first baby, Danes spoke at the Television Critics Association Summer Tour about her critically acclaimed series. The second season premieres Sunday, Sept. 30 at 10 p.m.
Front Row Features: Given what Carrie went through in the last episode of the first season, are you playing her differently this season?
Danes: Yeah, for sure.
Front Row Features: As a result of the character’s brain trauma?
Danes: No. But she is changed in that she’s pretty stable. There was a crescendo of mania at the very end, but throughout that first season it was simmering, and she really has taken responsibility for her condition.
Front Row Features: For those unfamiliar with the series, can you bring us up to date on what’s happening with Carrie going into the second season?
Danes: She’s been outed as this person with this condition, and that has altered her in a pretty fundamental way. She’s not hiding to the same extent, and she doesn’t have that same kind of panic and defensiveness.
Front Row Features: Does she feel a little freer because she no longer has to hide?
Danes: I think she is freer. I think she’s a little bit less paranoid, a little less high-strung.
Front Row Features: One of the things that was so fascinating about Carrie in Season One is that her illness is part of what made her so amazing at her job. Does getting medical treatment impact her ability to be a great intelligence analyst?
Danes: That’s an interesting question. No, but I think that’s something she really needs to learn herself. And she’s really confronting herself here and taking responsibility for herself in a more complete way.
Front Row Features: In what ways has she changed?
Danes: I think she probably did have some suspicion that maybe her condition was responsible for her genius, and I think that’s probably true for a lot of people with the condition. But I think she will find a deeper confidence, that she can tame it and remain as brilliant and forward-thinking as she would like to be.
Front Row Features: When you take on these amazing roles like Carrie Mathison and Temple Grandin, how easy or difficult a person are you to be around while you’re shooting them?
Danes: If I took my characters home with me, half of my life would be misery, I think. I tend to compartmentalize work from my life. I’m not terribly Method.
Front Row Features: Is that easy for you?
Danes: The acting isn’t easy, but I have figured out how to let it go. That was hard earned, actually. That took some time to work out. As a kid, I was much more superstitious, earnest and fearful, and thought I had to sacrifice my happiness in the most extreme way. I realize now it’s a discipline and it’s a job.
Front Row Features: Some of your most intense scenes in the series are with Mandy Patinkin. What can you tell us about him as an actor?
Danes: He’s just so wonderful. I adore Mandy as a man and as an actor. I kind of marvel at what he’s capable of. But those scenes are challenging.
Front Row Features: How does his Saul Berenson character compliment or conflict with your character?
Danes: Mandy’s character is, in a lot of ways, Carrie’s conscience, and there’s no one she trusts or respects more. She can’t get away with much with him, and therefore those scenes can be quite confronting for her. They are explosive and intimidating as an actor because they’re rigorous. But I always remember that I’m going to be playing those scenes with Mandy, and I find that very reassuring, because he is so present and he will never let me falter. That’s a huge gift that’s not very common to find in another actor. He’s very generous and loving.
Front Row Features: Congratulations on your happy personal news that you’re expecting.
Danes: Thank you.
Front Row Features: Where exactly are you in filming the season?
Danes: We’re midway.
Front Row Features: As far as the physicality of it goes, were there any concerns?
Danes: Yeah. I think we were a little concerned. We raised those questions for sure. But it’s proven to be a nonissue, and all is well. Carrie remains fervently non-pregnant.