“Homeland” was Showtime’s breakout new show last season, and it racked up the major TV drama awards shortly before returning for its riveting second season. Back at the Television Critics Association press tour, we caught up with Claire Danes for a relatively spoiler free chat about the second season and her breakout character, Carrie Mathison.
CraveOnline: Are you torn between wanting Carrie to be well but knowing that whenever she’s stressed, that’s really fun to play?
Claire Danes: Well, I don't know if the stress is fun to play. That’s a little bit too general but it is true that as exhausting as those manic episodes were, I did get a kind of contact high. I understand why those states are quite addictive and why a lot of people with bipolar condition are reluctant to treat themselves, for fear of losing those opportunities to ascend to those heights.
CraveOnline: How great was it when she’s so proud of herself for taking out her pursuer in the season premiere?
Claire Danes: Oh, that really is a fleeting moment of satisfaction and intoxication. So I don't know. I haven’t seen the episode so I’m a little bit confused about where we’re at on the trajectory because I’m so busy making it. What happened in the first episode? Okay. No, I think she’s far from feeling composed and assured.
CraveOnline: Given that Carrie had ETC at the end of last season, are you playing her any differently?
Claire Danes: Specifically to do with the ECT, no. But she is changed in that she's pretty stable. Obviously, there was that crescendo of mania at the very end, but throughout that first season, it was sort of simmering, and she really has taken responsibility for her condition.
And I think she's been exposed. She's been outted as this person with this condition, and that has altered her in a pretty fundamental way, I think. She's not hiding to the same extent, and she doesn't have that same kind of panic and defensiveness. When we find her at the beginning of the second season, she's been very humbled, and she's suffering from a real crisis of confidence, and she gets her mojo back, but it takes some time.
CraveOnline: Does she feel a little freer because she no longer has to hide?
Claire Danes: I think she is freer. I think she's a little bit less paranoid, a little less high‑strung.
CraveOnline: Did “Homeland” open your perspective to world affairs, and being around British actors?
Claire Danes: Not really. I grew up in New York City. I’ve been traveling around the world since I was young because of this job that I’ve been doing for most of my life now. So I’ve been fortunate enough to have had exposure to a lot of different cultures and realities. I’m really focused on her personal conflicts, which speaks to what Alex was saying. The politics provides a kind of general stage for these human interactions.
CraveOnline: When you take on these amazing roles like this and Temple Grandin, how
easy or difficult a person are you to be around while you're shooting them?
Claire Danes: I don't know. If I took my characters home with me, half of my life would be a misery, I think. No, I tend to compartmentalize work from my life. I'm not terribly method.
CraveOnline: That's easy for you?
Claire Danes: Yeah. I mean, the acting isn't easy, but I have figured out how to let it go, and that was hard‑earned actually. That took some time to work out. As a kid, I think I was much more superstitious and earnest and fearful and thought I had to sacrifice my happiness in the most extreme way. And I realize now it's a discipline, and it's a job.
CraveOnline: In Season 1 Carrie’s illness is part of what made her so amazing at her job. Does getting proper treatment impact her ability to be a great intelligence analyst?
Claire Danes: That's an interesting question. No, but I think that's something that she really needs to learn herself. She's really confronting herself here and taking responsibility for herself in a more complete way. 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.
CraveOnline: In your film career you made Brokedown Palace in Thailand and you shot the first episodes of “Homeland” in Israel this season. Are foreign locations a special challenge?
Claire Danes: I love working in new environments and new cultures, absolutely. It provides a really special opportunity to get a deeper sense of a different place. It was great. I particularly love Israel. I've had fantastic experiences there. I don't know if we'll shoot there next season. Come April or May, I'll be ready for my annual trip to Tel Aviv.
CraveOnline: Did you get to meet POW Gilad Shalit when he visited the set?
Claire Danes: I met him very briefly. It's always a kind of awkward thing. “Hi, welcome,” and there's nothing to really say beyond that. Of course, I understand he went through an unimaginable experience and there's no way to address it in a fleeting moment like that. But, yeah, it was a great, great honor and I was surprised to meet him.
CraveOnline: What are your specific memories of shooting the episode "The Weekend" when you got to have romantic scenes with Damien.
Claire Danes: I think that still kind of hovers over them. Yeah, they were never able to see that through, and partially for that reason, it remains as compelling as ever. Yeah, it's tricky. But I remember being hot. I remember the cicadas were very loud. It's also the one episode where Carrie got to experience real joy and freedom. So those moments are few and far between.
CraveOnline: Your most intense scenes are with Mandy Patinkin. Are those really intense to shoot or does he keep it light on the set?
Claire 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. And those scenes are challenging. Mandy is, in a lot of ways, Carrie's conscience, and there's no one she trusts more or respects more. So yes, she can't get away with much with him, and therefore those scenes can be quite confronting for her and 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 there. He is so present and he will never let me falter and that's a huge gift and that's not very common to find in another actor. He is very, very generous and very loving. Yeah, he plays around. It's true. I'm never entirely sure what he's going to do.
But he's not pulling stunts for the sake of it. I mean, he's really doing it out of a sense of adventure and play and he's trying to find new ways to make the scene even richer.