Claire Danes Shines as Secret Agent in Series
By Julia Reed
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Watching Danes's nuanced handling of Carrie's personal and professional crises make it easy to see why Baz Luhrmann, who directed her alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet, called her "the Meryl Streep of her generation." By the time we get to the heart-wrenching final episode of the first season, in which Carrie has opted for post-breakdown shock therapy, viewers have grown to understand or, perhaps, even love her. When the scene was shot, Gansa says,"Everyone was so uncomfortable on set. The sight of this brave character we'd created undergoing this procedure was so grim. It's a function of Claire's extraordinary performance that I kept checking to make sure the [electroshock therapy] machine wasn't plugged in. You have to throw every accolade you can at her because she made it seem so real." Equally impressive, he says, is that "very few actresses in LA, or in the world for that matter, would allow themselves to be photographed in that position."
Danes herself credits Homeland's success to the fact that it is so "beautifully written." Lawrence O'Donnell, the host of MSNBC's The Last Word and a writer on The West Wing for seven years, agrees. In Homeland's third episode, O'Donnell plays himself, interviewing the family of Sgt. Brody, the rescued Marine POW who is the object of both Carrie's affection and suspicions, played by the British actor Damian Lewis. "Knowing something about episodic TV and the way a typical third episode should play out, I thought it was a lost mess," O'Donnell says, laughing. "It just seemed like an impossible concept. As of the third episode, your two stars had barely been in the same room with each other. I didn't know how they could make that work, but as I saw it unfold, I had the same fun as everyone else as an audience member. And as a writer, I was just in awe."
O'Donnell's assessment—that the impressive dialogue and the "astonishing execution" of the performances ultimately enables the show to work—leads Danes to make note of her fellow actors, particularly Lewis and Patinkin. "I adore everybody I work with," Danes says. "But it's very intense; we're not whistling while we work." Patinkin, who has been described as difficult to work with on past projects, is "just dreamy," she says. "I'm in constant awe of what he can do. And if I'm nervous about a scene or I think it's particularly tricky, I just trust that he'll see me through. He's a very strong partner."
Patinkin's character (whom Danes describes as Carrie's "besty") has assigned himself the role of Carrie's protector; he gets her sympathetic, if not always lovable, side that the rest of us come to know over time. "Danes has been handed a character with a set of complexities that in the development process would seem unsympathetic, as in, ‘How can we have her as the star when no one is going to like her?'" says O'Donnell. "On commercial television, you watch a character because you know what she's going to do next and you know ahead of time that it is going to make you feel good. That's comfort TV. Here they've come up with a character and you don't know what she is going to do next, and that's what makes it so compelling."
Photography by Jason Bell; Styling by Inge Fonteyne at Jed Root Inc.; Makeup by Tina Turnbow at raybrownpro.com using Diorskin; Hair by Rheanne White at See Management
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.