More than 15 years after My So-Called Life, Claire Danes returns to television. She’s all grown up and so is television. Showtime’s drama Homeland casts Danes as CIA officer Carrie Anderson, who suspects a returning POW (Damien Lewis) is now a sleeper agent. That’s already a tough sell on the establishment, but she also has a history of bipolar disorder. I got a moment with Danes at the CBS/CW/Showtime party for the Television Critics Association this summer to talk about Homeland.
Crave Online: Is most of the setup established in the first episode, or does each week layer and layer more and explain what’s really going on?
Claire Danes: Each week layer more and more and I know very little. I’m rediscovering what it is to do episodic television. It’s a wild thing to not be sure of the character’s overall trajectory. You’re in a constant state of suspense like the audience. I’m around the water cooler too, but I know enough to know that perspectives continue to shift. Although I maintain that I am right.
Crave Online: Do you have to play that you are rooting this terrorist or can Carrie doubt herself too?
Claire Danes: She’s not doubting herself yet. She might start to. Yeah, it’s really ambiguous. It’s really very tense.
Crave Online: What do you still need to know about her?
Claire Danes: Well, she’s introduced in the pilot as being an exceptionally gifted CIA officer and also being bipolar. So you have to believe both things to be true, so balancing those two things is a big of a challenge.
Crave Online: Does playing Carrie bipolar give you more to play with or make it harder or more complicated?
Claire Danes: Both. It ups the ante, makes it more challenging but I think both worlds fascinate me. I think they could be related. They could overlap.
Crave Online: Is the idea of an interrogation scene really the essence of drama, when you’re just going at it with another actor?
Claire Danes: Yeah, I think that’s why a lot of actors fantasize about playing spies, because it’s all about playing a hand of cards and conning your partner, which is what we do.