Claire Danes Talks Researching Carrie Mathison and Watching My So-Called Life

5 Nov

Claire Danes covers the new issue of Interview magazine and as the format of these Q&A’s has another star performing the role of interviewer the direction of the conversation can differ from the usual cover story fare. Dustin Hoffman is at the helm of this interview and it’s not surprising that it reveals more about the acting process than you would find in either of Danes’ Vogue pieces from this year. The photo shoot has drawn a lot of attention (Danes is topless, but covered in one shot) and these photographs are stunning, but it’s TV focused discussion that has me enthralled as she talks about HomelandTemple Grandin and My So-Called Life.

Claire Danes Interview MagazineWhile I have found Homeland frustrating at times and this season has been incredibly problematic with the reliance on manic Carrie and the big old twist, it seems that Danes also has concerns with how Carrie’s condition is portrayed “Yeah. At first, I was concerned that it would just be a gimmick. I still am. I’m always anxious about it because it’s fun to see crazy Carrie. She’s exciting, you know? And this is entertainment—there’s no way we could see what goes into just the everyday slog for her of remaining afloat.”

When Carrie spirals in season 1 “it was kind of a euphoric mania, and that was interesting because I found that I got a bit of a contact high from it—It was exhausting, but it was also exhilarating.” This year has been more of a challenge and even though Danes has been playing this character for three years it’s a completely different type of mania and Danes’ personal situation is different too “I had just come out of my mommy cocoon and my cushy, mushy love planet. So entering that mania at that point was not as enjoyable.”

Danes is big into her research with this role and when she played Temple Grandin and Dustin Hoffman reveals that he met with Grandin when he was preparing for Rain Man. One of Danes’ best friends is a therapist and so she discussed Carrie’s condition with her, but what Danes really wanted was to witness someone in a manic state. Danes turned to YouTube as a place to research bipolar disorder and she studied videos of people in a manic state she believes that “a lot of these people are also very eager to share what they’re going through because I’m sure it is quite isolating and scary at times.” It’s important to portray something like this with as much accuracy as possible and no one version of this disorder is going to be identical to another. With Temple Grandin it was a less abstract experience as she met Grandin and she could also read her books.


The one character that really required no research was Angela Chase and Danes talks with fondness for this show and this experience:

“It’s kind of fun to watch My So-Called Life when it comes on, though. There are only 19 episodes, which actually seems like a lot now that I do 12 episodes a season on Homeland. But it was a strange, cult thing where we didn’t even do a full season, but the episodes that we did do got picked up and were rerun by a bunch of different cable networks, so the show was on for years and years and years—and was discovered by different generations, which was extraordinary. I guess I knew it was special back then, too, but it was my first big gig, so I had no sense of context. But I became close with a lot of people involved—and I am still. It was a seminal experience for me, both professionally and personally. The writer of the show, Winnie Holzman, is still a very dear friend of mine. She’s kind of my mentor—my fairy godmother, I call her. But that was wild because I was the same age as the character, and there was an incredible symmetry between us—unlike Carrie Mathison, who in no way resembles me. I would be the worst case officer on the planet. I am so ill suited to Carrie’s vocation. But Angela Chase was just another high school student.”

Hoffman brings up a photo shoot that Danes did with Spike Jonze for Interview magazine when she was 15 and while this isn’t the photo they talk about, there is something so appealing about the series of facial expressions in the shot below.

Claire Danes at 15It’s essentially a series of selfies and the one thing that always strikes me about Danes is that she has no vanity when it comes to how she uses her face. Yes she is beautiful, but she doesn’t just go for the shots that make her look this way and it’s why her cry face is much discussed and so damn good. These shots are the kind of dumb shit that most 15 -year-olds with a camera would do and thankfully it’s not a series of attempts at a sexy pout. She does recall this shoot and how Jonze asked her to “Be sexy” and she ended up doing this goofy finger point because she didn’t know how to pose in this way. Those plastic butterfly clips are everything.

Since starting Homeland Danes hasn’t played anyone else and it’s something that she is itching to do “I would really like to play another character to deviate from Carrie for a second just because I’m starting to think that acting is this, and while this is one of the most fulfilling expressions of acting that I’ve found, it’s not why I do it. It’s not it. I think I’d appreciate her even more if I could take a little vacation from her and inhabit somebody else for a while.”

Working in TV can be all consuming because of the long work hours and the high output. This also means learning lines at a rapid rate and Danes shares this process with husband Hugh Dancy who is currently on Hannibal “We’re always running lines with each other. We’ll run lines with each other on the phone. I run lines with him in taxicabs.” I am now picturing a conversation that only involves lines from Will Graham and Carrie Mathison and it’s wonderful.

One general note on the editorial stylings as that is a ’90s looking rose brown lip color that is Danes is rocking.

To read the whole interview head here.

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