Sixteen years after her debut as an adolescent on My So-Called Life, Claire Danes has returned, all grown up and paranoid as hell, in Showtime’s Homeland. This time she’s fighting terrorism—as well as her character Carrie Mathison’s mental illness, not to mention her irresponsible sex drive. As far as Obama-era war-on-terror TV heroes go, she’s the perfect antidote to the killer certitude of 24’s W.-era Jack Bauer.
Do you have to have a top-secret Showtime clearance to know what’s next on the series?
Thanksgiving was funny because my family was just trying to extract information from me. And I can’t give away anything. It’s fun and frustrating to sit on the secrets. Hugh [Dancy, Danes’s husband] started watching the show, but he wouldn’t even allow me to talk about what I was doing at work that day because he didn’t want to have the story be spoiled. I was like, But I need to share my experiences with you! The nice thing is that the writers don’t really know either, [laughs] so we’re safe; we can’t spoil it even if we wanted to.
Had you been thinking about coming back to TV?
Not really. I was aware of it being a potentially good environment for me, but I wasn’t chasing anything specifically. And when they came to me with this I had my reservations, just because it is such a profound commitment, and she’s tough, this Carrie Mathison lady. I didn’t know if I wanted to be tortured for a decade. But as distressed as she is, she’s also really, really fascinating, and I don’t have many opportunities to play people this surprising and this complex. She’s a nutter. I was joking with [co-creator] Alex Gansa and he said, “Can you believe what we’ve asked you to do this season?”
My So-Called Life has had such a long afterlife.
I love that show, so I don’t feel dogged by it, and I’m incredibly flattered that it continues to resonate. I loved Saved By the Bell, but it wasn’t that, it was a very special show. I’m not remotely embarrassed by it. I got a little bit annoyed when people were saying that, you know, Carrie Mathison is just Angela Chase grown up. That is preposterous.
Carrie cares about her job tremendously. Do you think she really would have started sleeping with Brody, a guy she thinks is a terrorist?
Well, I’d say it’s complicated, because yes, she is dead serious about her job. It’s the only thing in her life that seems to have any value. But they both kind of recognize each other. They’re very isolated, they’re broken in similar ways and for similar reasons. I think they do kind of fall in love. It’s perfectly fucked up.
You curse wonderfully on the show.
Oh God, I’m cursing so much more! Hugh is so embarrassed because I’m saying fuck left, right, and center. It’s a bad habit! It’s very enjoyable to do. I take great pleasure in it. It’s probably why I’m at all capable.
An Extended Interview With Claire Danes on Homeland