Since her role as a brooding teen-ager on the critically acclaimed 1990s TV drama, "My So-Called Life," actress Claire Danes has played everything from Shakespeare's Juliet to autistic animal scientist Temple Grandin.
The Emmy and Golden Globe winner returns to television on Sunday, October 2, as a flawed and fragile CIA agent in Showtime's post-9/11 conspiracy drama, "Homeland."
Reuters spoke to Danes, 32, about her new role, her career, and why she almost decided against being an actress.
Q: How did you prepare to portray a bipolar CIA agent?
A: "I met with CIA officers who were generous with offering their time and information and I took a tour of Langley Institute and found this incredibly illuminating.
"I also spent time with author, Julie Fast, who has bipolar and has written extensively about this illness. I also talked to psychologists about their experience working with bipolar patients ... I watched sessions one-on-one with people who have the condition talking about their experience, and I found there was a lot of material as people are up in the middle of the night wanting to talk. I also read a number of books, including Kay Jamison's "The Unquiet Mind," which I found very helpful."
Q: Do you think this show could change the way people view those suffering from mental health issues?
A: "There are a lot of people who suffer with this, and I don't want to misrepresent them, disappoint them or fail them in any way. I think this show might bring a greater awareness to the condition, which will hopefully be a good thing."
Q: How do you think viewers will feel about watching a show that depicts the topic of a possible attack on U.S. soil?
A: "I think it's incredibly murky. It acknowledges the ambiguities that we're now facing now, and it's a very hard war to identify. It doesn't resemble previous wars. It's insidious and really complex. I think we're spooked after 9/11, and we're a little bit confused about this threat and how to go about confronting it and hopefully resolving it. It's very tense and there are no easy answers and every character is right and wrong and it's very compelling. I hope audiences will see it."
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be an actor?
A: "I knew when I was five, although after a certain point, I kind of realized that actors didn't make much money which worried me, so then I decided I wanted to be a therapist and do acting on the side. That was my plan for about a year. Then I made an announcement, that I needed to be true to my art, when I was about 9, and that's when I started studying acting at Lee Strasberg in New York City and began doing films and I had an agent at by the age of twelve. I think my parents were sort of humoring me, and then suddenly it started happening and I got jobs and I started getting work and had this career which was a big surprise for everyone."
Q: What does Claire Danes do when she's not hunting down terrorists? How do you spend your free time when you're not working?
A: "Lately just doing the basics: sleeping, eating, exercising when I can, but there's no greater pleasure for me than eating and drinking with friends. I also like museums, movies and I have a book club."
Q: You've done film, TV and theater. Do you have a preference?
A: "No, not really. There are different virtues for each. I like them all. I'll ham it up anywhere."