Season three of Homeland has proved a physical and mental minefield for Claire Danes, reports Anooska Tucker- Evans
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IT was a surprisingly apprehensive Claire Danes who returned to the set of US hit drama Homeland for its third season. This, despite the fact that for the past two years Danes has captivated audiences and critics alike with her portrayal of the incredibly intelligent and highly- volatile bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison, winning a string of Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
But after playing a more stable version of Carrie in the second season, Danes, mum to nine- month- old son Cyrus, says taking her character back to a manic state was something she felt uneasy about as she approached season three. “I was nervous about it,” she reveals. “I was also a brand- spanking new mum, and feeling like I could not have been in a more antithetical mode. I was so grounded and soft and cushy and in my little euphoric mummy bubble. And then I had to go to the very other end of the spectrum.”
As the third series begins, Carrie is again off her meds as she tries to deal with the shock bombing by Abu Nazir ( Navid Negahban) at the end of last season, which killed CIA boss David Estes ( David Harewood) and multiple agents. With her lover Nicholas Brody ( Damian Lewis) claiming he was framed for the terrorist attack and on the run, Carrie is left trying to pick up the pieces.
“She feels hugely responsible for this devastating loss and is convinced that had she not been on the meds she would have had all of her mental faculties and been able to anticipate Nazir’s moves and thwart this horrible design and attack,” Danes says.
In fact, Danes had to take Carrie beyond the mental depths she descended to in season one, and into a darker place than she’d ever been before.
“I saw a trailer for this season and I was just struck by how mournful the tone is,” Danes says.
“She’s more isolated and more sort of disillusioned than she’s ever been. It’s really upsetting. She’s very estranged.
In this show it’s fair to say that everybody’s fair game to be blown up at any given moment
“In the beginning of the second season she was estranged from her job, and here she no longer has her lover, her mentor, she’s really in the corner.”
Achieving this level of bipolar mania and making it believable for audiences is something Danes says she worked hard at.
The actor read books, spoke to her psychologist friends and watched video diaries of bipolar patients on YouTube.
“There is a lot of material online a lot of videos of people with the condition talking about their experience and often they’re in manic states because they are up in the middle of the night and I think they just need to talk to someone [ and] there’s no one to talk to so they put the camera on themselves,” she says.
“To have that visual aid and to be able to really see and hear what that is like is essential, so I binged on a lot of those videos.”
Playing the role so intensely, Danes says she felt like she got a contact high and was able to relate in some small way to how bipolar patients might feel.
“There’s no way of really simulating it but, I don’t know, I can kind of imagine the thrill of it,” she says. “But those days when I have to play manic, manic, manic, I am pretty pooped by the end of it.”
Carrie’s condition can work for and against her in the show, getting her into trouble, but also leading to moments of brilliance. It’s this double- edged- sword Danes loves about the series.
“Manic states do allow, at a certain point on the continuum, for exceptional thinking,” she says.
“You kind of can achieve this superhuman state, but only for a very fi nite period and it’s not long before it dissolves into a chaotic jumble. But she is hoping to maintain it for as long as possible so she can save the world.”
So will the troubled hero save the planet this season or die trying?
“[ Carrie’s death], it’s always a possibility,” Danes says.
“In this show it’s fair to say that everybody’s fair game to be blown up at any given moment. I’m just going to enjoy the craft services while they last.”