Claire Danes in Cape Town

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - FORD HART ANN A RVIE W INTE



First things first: how are you en­joy­ing your time in Cape Town? Very much. It’s a funny thing, be­cause we’re telling a story that takes place in Pak­istan and Afghanistan, but this place is so com­pelling; my imag­i­na­tion is get­ting lost in it. It’s maybe not ideal for the work, but it’s good for me. I’m hav­ing a lovely time, and it’s ob­vi­ously re­ally beau­ti­ful. It’s dy­namic. What do you find com­pelling and dy­namic? Well, it’s fa­mil­iar, and it’s other. I’m from New York: we were also set­tled by the Dutch and the English, about the same time, but it man­i­fested it­self dif­fer­ently. It’s in­ter­est­ing to see how the coun­try is re­cal­i­brat­ing and heal­ing af­ter apartheid. That’s still vi­brat­ing. That’s been in­ter­est­ing to ob­serve. What is also re­mark­able is the land­scape, how over­whelm­ingly beau­ti­ful it is and how it’s in­te­grated into the ur­ban life. I’ve been do­ing these trail runs that have been in­cred­i­ble.The first cou­ple I did, I was apoplec­tic. Just, ‘Oh my God! How do you han­dle this beauty? How do you cope?’ Since then I’ve sim­mered down a lit­tle. Have you been able to travel around much? I’ve ba­si­cally been work­ing my tuchus off, so I’ve been con­sumed by that.But I’ve taken a few day trips here and there, to Fran­schhoek, Con­stan­tia, Boul­ders beach, Cape Point, Ta­ble Moun­tain. I’ve hit lots of ‘must-see’ lo­ca­tions. I’d love to go on sa­fari but I’d need a few con­sec­u­tive days off, which I haven’t had so far. What are the chal­lenges of be­ing in a hit show like Home­land, keep­ing the mo­men­tum go­ing sea­son af­ter sea­son? The writ­ers are smart and cre­atively am­bi­tious. They don’t want to be work­ing on some­thing that’s rou­tine and cir­cu­lar; they want it to move for­ward. That means we as ac­tors are con­tin­u­ously al­lowed to en­ter new ter­ri­tory and chal­lenge our­selves. That keeps the work vi­tal. You’ve said there’s a huge asym­me­try be­tween your­self and Car­rie. Can you talk about those di­ver­gences?

Car­rie, yes … I’m not bipo­lar. She’s a deeply iso­lated, lonely person, who puts her work be­fore ev­ery­thing else. While I love my work, that’s not so much the case. I’m not sav­ing the world left, right and cen­tre. [Spoiler alert; skip this next ques­tion if you aren’t up to date with Home­land:] Has that asym­me­try changed much, go­ing into the fourth sea­son, now that you’re both new moth­ers? Our at­ti­tudes to our chil­dren couldn’t be more op­po­site.The big theme of this sea­son is that Car­rie needs to grieve Brody’s loss, and ini­tially she’s un­will­ing to do so. She doesn’t know how and it’s mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for her to con­nect to her child. So she uses her work as a way to es­trange her­self from the child. Her arc is that she needs to find a way to feel these ter­ri­bly painful feel­ings, so she can ac­cept her role as a mother, and ac­cept and em­brace her child. There’s been a lot of fem­i­nist anal­y­sis of your char­ac­ter on Home­land. One of the re­cur­ring com­ments has been that the only way we can make sense of her bril­liance is to pathol­o­gise her. What have you made of that cri­tique? There’s no way we can mea­sure the show against the stan­dards of re­al­ity. We have to ac­cept that we’re tak­ing mas­sive creative li­cence here. But be­yond that, I think it’s some­times true – many ge­niuses do have con­di­tions. I think these peo­ple some­times do have moments of in­spi­ra­tion, their brains are work­ing at a very high level, and they can have ac­cess to pro­found in­sights. They can’t put the moments of bril­liance into good, last­ing use. [Car­rie] has Saul to do that for her. You stud­ied psy­chol­ogy at Yale, and in some re­spects your act­ing ca­reer has been a con­tin­u­a­tion of those stud­ies: from play­ing Tem­ple Grandin [in the epony­mous 2010 biopic], who had autism, to Car­rie, who suf­fers from bipo­lar dis­or­der.You once joked that with your char­ac­ters you were work­ing

your way through the [men­tal disor­ders man­ual]

DSM-5. What draws you to these roles? I’m fun­da­men­tally in­ter­ested in how peo­ple work and what mo­ti­vates their choices. When you’re play­ing some­one who is de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent from your­self, you have to stretch and reach to meet that person, and in the process you can do in­ter­est­ing work.It’s al­ways amaz­ing when you get to that other side to re­alise there’s still this great sense of con­nec­tion and con­ti­nu­ity. You were a child star, but you haven’t suf­fered the fate of most child stars. What’s your re­la­tion­ship with celebrity? I don’t love celebrity. It en­ables me to get more, and of­ten bet­ter, work. It’s a good means to an end. But it, of it­self, is not very in­ter­est­ing. Was there never a mythol­ogy about it, even when you were young? I think when it first hits, and you first get a blast of it, it’s in­tox­i­cat­ing, but that thrill wanes pretty quickly.It’s val­i­dat­ing, it’s nice and peo­ple on the street are usu­ally so sweet; they’re just ex­cited. It’s some­times a lit­tle strange, be­cause you’re not al­ways in that same headspace. Your kid has a dirty nappy and you’re rac­ing to a bath­room or some­thing; you don’t want to get lost in con­ver­sa­tion. Have you ever been over­whelmed when meet­ing another celebrity? For sure. I met An­gelina Jolie, and I was like, ‘That’s An­gelina Jolie!’ You turned down a role when you were 12.You al­ways seem to have had an amaz­ing faith that the right roles would come along. Where did that come from? I had the faith, and then I lost it for a while. But I’ve al­ways been an earnest person. I ex­per­i­mented with not be­ing earnest, but it didn’t work. I was al­ways in­ter­ested in act­ing in a re­al­is­tic way. I re­mem­ber see­ing So­phie’s Choice or Wall Street, and think­ing, ‘That’s what I want to do!’ You once took a two-year break be­cause you didn’t feel that enough com­plex parts for women were com­ing along. Do you think that’s chang­ing, es­pe­cially now that tele­vi­sion is be­com­ing a ‘re­spectable’ way to ex­tend your ca­reer? Tele­vi­sion is a very happy land for ladies. It’s su­per-fer­tile ter­ri­tory. It’s so in­ter­est­ing that in the last decade there’s been this huge flip. I re­mem­ber when there was this mas­sive stigma at­tached to TV, and it’s now been re­or­gan­ised. So that’s great, and there are more roles for so­phis­ti­cated, com­plex women in TV. But there’s also room for so­phis­ti­cated, com­plex sto­ry­telling in TV right now. You’ve had many iconic roles, from An­gela Chase [ My So

Called Life] to Juliet [ Romeo + Juliet] and now Car­rie. Who do you find you’re most of­ten con­flated with? An­gela Chase was the first role that peo­ple saw me play. That had a big res­o­nance. Peo­ple of a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion still as­so­ciate that role with me, but now Car­rie hap­pens to be onTV so she’s at the fore­front. In all the early pro­files of you you’re de­scribed as an ‘old soul’. Do you feel like you’re be­com­ing younger with age? It’s a strange thing to be­come an ac­tual old fo­gey, when you’ve been this ‘old soul’ all your life. Now I’m just ‘old’! I grew up in New York with par­ents who are artists, who never con­de­scended to me. That might have con­trib­uted to my seem­ingly pre­co­cious char­ac­ter­is­tics as a younger person. While you could eas­ily have been type­cast as a ‘pretty girl’ ac­tress, you have avoided that for most of your ca­reer. How do you deal with Hol­ly­wood’s ob­ses­sion with phys­i­cal beauty? It is a def­i­nite thing. I love act­ing, be­cause it’s where I can ad­mit to some of my darker, or less ‘seemly’, im­pulses and feel­ings, and not only is that okay, it’s ap­pre­ci­ated, be­cause every­one wants some­body to ac­knowl­edge those parts of us that aren’t al­lowed to ex­ist com­fort­ably in ev­ery­day life. So that ex­tends to wor­ry­ing about my phys­i­cal form. It de­pends on the story too. If I’m play­ing a beau­ti­ful char­ac­ter, I’ll be mind­ful of that. If I’m not, I’m not go­ing to worry about it. But, you know: I’m mar­ried [laughs]… I have work. I’m fine; I’m not go­ing to spend too much en­ergy wor­ry­ing. I’m be­ing a lit­tle face­tious, but I kind’ve do feel that way. When are you leav­ing our shores? I wrap up here per­ma­nently at the end of Novem­ber.The last cou­ple of years have been about pro­duc­ing a kid [her son, Cyrus, with hus­band Hugh Dancy]. I have a lit­tle free­dom now. He’ll be two when we wrap: he’s more of an in­de­pen­dent dude.


2004 Above, top to bot­tom Billy Crudup in Stage Beauty; Pa­trick Wil­son in Evening; Char­lie Cox in Star­dust; Damian Lewis in real-life hus­band Hugh Dancy.

Claire Danes with, from top Jared Leto in My So-Called Life; Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet; Joaquin Phoenix and Sean Penn in U-Turn; Jude Law in I Love You, I Love You Not; Kieran Culkin in Igby Goes Down.









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