Tag Archives: Temple Grandin

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.

From My So-Called Life to Homeland: The Dichotomy of Claire Danes

4 Sep

In this week’s New Yorker there is an extensive Claire Danes profile which explores her desire to act from an early age, the inherent contrasting elements of the characters she plays and how she got the lead roles on Homeland and as Angela Chase. It’s not surprising for anyone that reads this blog or who has read any of the My So-Called Life discussions over at This Was TV as to how much this show and character mean to me. It came along when I was the same age as Angela and connected in a way that no show had done in the past and this will surpass the time limit on this current spate of ’90s nostalgia.

MSCL ep 2 Angela

The casting process for My So-Called Life and how it was kismet that Danes walked into the audition room and blew them all away at the age of 13 is not something I have previously seen discussed. It was down to Danes and Alicia Silverstone and Silverstone was emancipated and so could work long hours, something that Danes couldn’t do. Despite the advantages of Silverstone’s availability they went the other way and instead turned Angela’s parents Patty and Graham into more central figures; a move that increased the storytelling spectrum of the show. Even though I hated Patty when I originally watched the show, now that I am not a teenager there is something very special about the portrayal of this mother/daughter relationship.

One defining aspect of this profile is the repetition of the dichotomy that Danes possesses in her acting as she consistently plays characters with dueling attributes and she can manipulate her acting style for a multi-layered performance. When they talk about why she was chosen over Alicia Silverstone they mention that Silverstone was too pretty and that “You can’t put that face in what’s been written for this girl.” Alternatively with Danes “her face could transform in an instant from beautiful to ordinary.” The relationship between creator Winnie Holzman and Claire Danes developed from this place Richard Kramer (who worked on MSCL) remarks “Winnie wouldn’t be Winnie without Claire. And Claire wouldn’t be Claire without Winnie. There was something mythological about their meeting.”

MSCL angela bed

There’s another aspect of duality when it comes to Claire Danes and Angela Chase as Danes was experiencing the very same teen issues as her character. Quite often someone who is much older plays a teen role (generally this is due to the legal working hours) and so it is rare to find a teen character played by a teen actor – there are exceptions of course such as Aimee Teegarden of Friday Night Lights and Taylor Momsen on Gossip Girl. This allowed Danes to channel her bad experiences through Angela “I remember being so relieved that I had an opportunity to voice my complaints about my time at school so perfectly and so eloquently, with the right amount of rage and humor.”

Carrie Mathison Season 3 Homeland

Homeland returns for season 3 in a few weeks and the “tsunami of emotions” that Danes brings to Carrie Mathison will be back in full force. The article reveals that Homeland creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa had seen Danes in Temple Grandin and were impressed that she “walked the razor’s edge between competence and unbalance.” This was something that their heroine required and the timing was perfect as Danes was suffering a slump in the projects she was being offered (this reiterates the point she made in her recent Vogue interview).

homeland photo

Dealing with personal and professional problems is at the heart of who Carrie is and her interactions with Brody are an extreme version of this. Carrie is constantly being second guessed and while at times she is completely unreliable, she is also incredible at her job. It’s about the marriage of both of these things and there is a reason why Danes has won so many awards as she gives such a believable and heartbreaking portrayal of a character teetering on the edge of oblivion. While Homeland had a dip in form last season, Danes has always been consistently brilliant. There is no holding back when it comes emotional intensity and this can be seen throughout Danes’ career; it’s why she can deliver a variety of striking performances that have the ability to make your soul hurt.

One final contrasting element that you might not expect from someone who picks such intense characters is that Claire Danes loves arts and crafts. This never fails to makes me smile especially when you factor in who her husband is and picture Carrie Mathison and Will Graham creating exotic Easter eggs together.

To read the rest of this extensive profile head here.

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