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Claire Danes cries while hearing a ‘very sad’ story about her grandmother

The actor learns the "very difficult" way her grandmother came into the world in an episode of the PBS show "Finding Your Roots."

Claire Danes is brought to tears while learning about two of the women in her family during an episode of “Finding Your Roots.”

With the help of the show’s host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Danes discovers that her maternal grandmother Catherine was born amid tragic circumstances.

As it turns out the actor's great grandfather Peter Ebbert died in World War I, leaving behind a wife and an unborn child, Catherine. Claire was always close to her grandmother while growing up, but she never knew that she was born just weeks after her father died.

During the conversation, Danes gets emotional while thinking about what it must have felt like to welcome a child into the world right after your husband died.

"I’d like to think that (Catherine) brought joy to (her mom)," the 43-year-old says while fighting back tears. "It's very sad. That must've been very difficult."

Danes, who recently announced that she's expecting her third child with husband Hugh Dancy, reflects on what must have been going through her great grandmother's mind at this time.

"It’s provocative, right? Because there are so many contradictory forces at play: relief and kind of the ultimate happiness and the ultimate loss," she says.

Although Catherine never met her father, she did visit his grave in France at the age of 13.

"I'm sure it was a useful pilgrimage, a useful ceremony, but it's abstract because how do you experience grief of someone you never knew?" Danes says.

While hearing about Catherine’s childhood, Danes also discovers that her grandmother was into the arts, just like she is.

“That’s really lovely,” she says. “I really loved her. She was a wonderful grandmother.”

The actor's paternal grandmother, her own namesake, was also a fan of the theater, but Danes didn't know much about her: She died at the age of 42 from a brain aneurism.

With the help of Gates, the star learns that her grandmother wrote a master's thesis about William Shakespeare. Danes, who played an aspiring actor in Elizabethan era England in the movie "Stage Beauty," calls the news "profound."

"That's really, really meaningful," she says. "I mean, obviously, I'm named after her and I wonder about her a lot. I have a portrait of her that my parents loaned me and I stare at it all the time. Who were you? But I think we would get along because I think we have common interests," she says.

According to several newspaper records from the time when Danes' grandmother was in grad school, she dabbled in directing and was selected to supervise costumes for a local play.

"That's very moving," the actor says through tears. "It's amazing."