Thursday, September 29, 2011

Claire Danes sets up in 'Homeland'

It's "confusing" to talk about her character, CIA operations officer Carrie Mathison, because there's still so much to learn: Four episodes are left to shoot in Charlotte, and "these are not a casual four," says Danes, 32, who, sitting in the airy penthouse of the Hudson Hotel, has swapped Carrie's sensible pantsuits for something more akin to Danes' downtown homeland: black ice-pick-heeled stilettos and a sleeveless sheath from her "buddy," Narciso Rodriguez. "There's nothing casual about this show."
Thanks to a tip gleaned from a tense meeting with an Iraqi prisoner, Agent Mathison suspects that a recently rescued eight-year American POW, now heralded as a hero in his homeland, has turned al-Qaeda terrorist. Throw in a cheating military wife, a Saudi prince, high-end hookers — and a sexy, premium-cable patina — and you get a plot and a pace that's "cracky," Danes says. "We are dying to know what happens next. We're just begging for scraps — from the boom man, from the hair woman."questions with Claire Danes
If it sounds like 24— if 24 starred, say, Jackie Bauer — that's no accident: The executive producers of Homeland had a hand in the Fox hit. But where Jack's action was hugely hands-on, Carrie's conflict is partly in her head: This spy is secretly battling bipolar disorder. Which doesn't mean she's not packing, says Danes, a 24 virgin who took a field trip to Langley, Va., and dived into psychology books to prepare for the part. Still, Homeland makes "a real point of never showing a gun."
The small screen has been good to Danes, who won TV's triple crown — the Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards — for 2010's Temple Grandin, the HBO biopic about an animal scientist with autism who helped overhaul the livestock industry. And there's her cultishly adored mid-'90s role as introspective Angela in My So-Called Life.
Still, she initially flinched at the idea of returning to her series roots because of the time commitment involved. The Homeland script, however, proved "too seductive." Danes had been mired in a "real fallow period" after the success of Temple. "What do you do after that? Do you play the girlfriend?" Carrie's salty CIA agent was the first role to come along that was "really engaging."
After all, "I'm no longer an ingénue," Danes concedes. "I'm grown up" — with two homes, a Soho loft five blocks from where she was raised and a country house upstate, and a husband, the British Hugh Dancy, her Evening co-star and now, in a "dorky coincidence," fellow Showtime employee 
Likewise, her résumé is growing up: She plays the mom of a droll, Angela Chase-esque teenager in the recently wrapped indie film As Cool As I Am. She's not looking to play the part off-screen anytime soon, but "eventually, yes, I would like to be completely humiliated by my children."


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