Claire Danes, 36, chats to MiNDFOOD about her Homeland character, Carrie Mathison, whom she’s portrayed since 2011. Thankfully in real life she doesn’t have much in common with her Bi-Polar alter ego, but they do have one thing in common – becoming parents in the last couple of years.
The Yale-graduated actress lives in New York City with her son, Cyrus, 3, whom she is raising with her husband of 6-years, actor Hugh Dancy.
You’ve played this very compelling role in Homeland for some years now. In what ways has it changed your view of the world?
Well, I wouldn’t say that I’m a natural political beast. I’m much more curious about human behaviour and psychology but this is absolutely a political show. I guess I had no idea how sophisticated and how robust the clandestine service is. It really is like another dimension and that was a profound realisation I came to understand. One of our writers, who actually died about 3 years ago, his father was a spy and worked for the CIA so he grew up in that environment and his cousin still works for the CIA. So through him, he organises a 3-day workshop, a symposium and we all congregate in February in (Washington) DC and talk to various people from that world.
It’s pretty intense and illuminating and informative. That’s where they do all of their mining when they’re just starting to think about how they’re going to shape the next season.
They go and just get the material that they need and that’s been a great privilege of being on the show.
I see how interwoven nations really are and how incredibly complex these relationships are and the shifts in power. It’s so elaborate now. It’s gotten a lot more abstract and a lot less clear who you’re fighting and why. It’s pretty harrowing actually to see it up close.
Where would you like to see Carrie in the next two years?
I want her to be okay. (laughs) I want her to have a more sustained happiness. I mean, maybe that’s just me being a little Pollyanna-ish but I think she is powerful and she should be able to assert that power. I think one thing that’s been really fascinating to see is her with the Saul character (Mandy Patinkin) and see his character change when he had more power.
He could afford to be more questioning, more liberal, more empathic when he wasn’t the boss and then he had to make harder choices and be less reflective. That was damaging in a lot of ways to his personal relationships. He broke up with his wife, and then Carrie and he became estranged, and that is explored again this season. I would like her to figure it out with some success and not die.
I want her to live (laughs) which is never something you can take for granted in Homeland.
She experiences motherhood and is coping with it in her own way. You have a three year old at home – how is it for you? Is it very chaotic? Is he easy? Does she take after you or Hugh?
I mean, he looks like us both (Laughter). Yeah, it’s wonderful. He really is a fairly easy guy. I mean, we just got really lucky. He’s always slept well. He’s always eaten well. He’s a pretty kind of chill person, you know, curious and engaged, knock on every bit of wood on the planet (laughs) but so far so good. We have weird lives. We’re in very heightened circumstances a lot. We travel constantly. His passport has been so thoroughly stamped and he’s 2-1/2 but we try to keep his routine very, very consistent. We have a nanny who travels with us so his world even though we’re in a different city every other week is actually very stable and very intact and predictable.
There’s a lot of structure within the maelstrom and the chaos. But we’re just making it up as we go along.
What have you learned about yourself and about Hugh through being parents?
Hmm. That’s a big question. What have we learned? Well, that oh gosh, we like it! We’ve learned that!
(Laughs). Yeah, it’s startling to see yourself reflected back, you know, and it’s this little mirror. There’s so much of our behaviour, so much of the way we speak that we have no sense of and then suddenly it’s echoing back at you and I don’t know. It’s just a big shift in the dynamic too. I mean, it was us and then there were 3, you know (laughs)
And might there be four?
Oh, oh, I mean one day I hope. We’re not there yet. Let’s not just further complicate it for now! (laughs). Yeah.
When the hell are you going to do a comedy? And do you still have the same enthusiasm or do you feel trapped in a way? As Carrie do you think you’re the victim of your success?
Oh, I don’t feel trapped. It’s kind of amazing and what a profound relief really. I mean, that was always a concern when I was deciding to do this but our writers are so gifted and they’re also so determined to keep it fresh and interesting for themselves that that it becomes true for us as actors. There are new themes, there are new cities.
The characters really do change and I am not playing the same Carrie.
She has new facets that are being kind of revealed and explored all the time. I am not antsy. I really love what we’ve made so far. It’s very ambitious and I’m very motivated to get to the end and sustain that level of commitment and passion and hopefully excellence.
It’s an inspiring challenge.