If the dominance of “Homeland” at Sunday night's Emmys hasn’t yet convinced you that it’s the hottest show on television, perhaps Claire Danes can.
In Season Two (WARNING: Season One spoilers ahead), Danes, who picked up the Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama Series, returns to the role of Carrie Mathison, the troubled ex-CIA operative who steadfastly believes that P.O.W.-turned-political darling Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) may have been turned by his al-Qaida captors.
Further, the revelations of Carrie's own deeply hidden struggles with bipolar mania and her subsequent intimate encounter with Brody suggest to her colleagues that her beliefs may not be rooted in reality.
The new season kicks off with a trip to Beirut, with Carrie needing to find a new purpose, while finally giving her mental health the attention it deserves.
Given what Carrie went through in the last episode of the first season, are you playing her any differently this season?
She is changed in that she's pretty stable. Obviously, there was that crescendo of mania at the very end, but throughout that first season it was sort of simmering, and she really has taken responsibility for her condition. And I think she's been exposed: she's been outed as this person with this condition, and that has altered her in a pretty fundamental way. She's not hiding to the same extent, and she doesn't have that same kind of panic and defensiveness. And when we find her at the beginning of the second season, she's been very humbled, and she's suffering from a real crisis of confidence – and she gets her mojo back, but it takes some time.
Does she feel a little freer because she no longer has to hide her condition?
I think she is freer. I think she's a little bit less paranoid, you know, a little less high‑strung.
Does getting proper treatment impact her ability to be a great intelligence analyst?
No – but I think that's something that she really needs to learn herself. And she's really confronting herself here and taking responsibility for herself in a more complete way. And I think she probably did have some suspicion that maybe her condition was responsible for her genius, and I think that's probably true for a lot of people with the condition. But I think she will find a deeper confidence that she can tame it and remain as brilliant and forward-thinking as she would like to be.
Does the seeming outcomes of her first-season mission cause her to doubt herself at any key points?
Totally, totally. And the first three episodes she's actively grappling with that, but she gets a boost of confidence, a much-needed, much-deserved boost. Thank God.
Are you torn between wanting Carrie to be well, but that it's fun to play when she's stressed?
Well, I don't know if the stress is fun to play! That's a little bit too general, but it is true that as exhausting as those manic episodes were, I did get a kind of contact high. I understand why those states are quite addictive and why a lot of people with a bipolar condition are reluctant to treat themselves, for fear of losing those opportunities to ascend to those heights.
There’s a moment in the first new episode where she gets to feel quite proud of herself.
That's really a fleeting moment of satisfaction and intoxication. But, yeah, I think she's still far from feeling kind of composed and assured.
Did 'Homeland' open your perspective to world affairs?
No, not really. I grew up in New York City. I've been traveling around the world since I was young because of this job that I've been doing for most of my life now, so I've been fortunate enough to have had exposure to a lot of different cultures and realities. I'm really focused on her personal conflicts – the politics provide a kind of general stage for these human interactions.
Will your character get her memory back at the end of the season so that she knows she wasn't wrong?
We haven't gotten there yet. I don't know. My memory wasn't completely annihilated. It's a little unclear what I've retained and what I haven't.
Have you heard from any fans suffering from their own mental illness that identifies with your character?
Yes, actually. I think that they seem to really appreciate the reflection of the condition and they apparently recognize their experience in Carrie's and that's a great relief. I was very, very aware of honoring their experience.
As far as the physicality of your current real-life pregnancy goes, were there any concerns about that, and any discussion of how it might play down the line on a plot level?
This hasn't run too much interference. I think we were a little concerned. I mean, we raised those questions for sure. But it's proven to be a non-issue and, yeah, all is well and Carrie remains fervently non-pregnant.