Did you consider yourself a good secret-keeper before you got the role of Carrie Mathison on Homeland?
I would not say that secret-keeping is one of my finer skills, actually.
Are you able to get feedback from the real-life Carrie Mathisons of the world?
A group of us went to Langley to have a meet-and-greet with some people from the CIA. And actually my roommate from my freshman year of college works at the CIA, and she was at this meeting. That was totally whacked. It was just bizarre to re-encounter each other there.
How did that conversation go?
There was one long table that said Homeland facing another long table that said “CIA”, and we all stared at each other, and neither of us could really speak about what we were doing.
There was no horse trading, like, “I’ll tell you what happens to Brody if you tell me...”?
It was a little senseless and futile. We couldn’t share any plot points, and they couldn’t tell us about anything they were working on.
Has working on the show had any impact on your personal politics?
Growing up in New York City, I was always encouraged to question authority, and I think I confused patriotism with jingoism. I’m not embarrassed by expressing loyalty and commitment to and enthusiasm about my country now. I know I had to take seriously how hard a select group works on behalf of our country
Did you do any background work on the character to learn more about her bipolar disorder?
I read books on the subject. I met with people who have the condition. I talked to some of my friends who are psychologists. I went on YouTube and found these videos by people with the condition. It’s one thing to read about a manic state, and it’s another to observe it — just getting on to their frequency and hearing the rhythm of their voices.
Are you familiar with the phenomenon that the Internet refers to as “Carrie Cry Face”?
Yeah, people talk about that. I mean, that’s just how I cry. That is not an affectation. That’s just how feeling registers on my face.
Can you cry on command?
That’s my job. I better be able to do it on command. I can’t do anything else.
Had the Internet been in full swing in the era of My So-Called Life, and as vocal and cranky as it is now, could you have had the career that you’ve had? I don’t think that the immediate chatter online is all that relevant to the health and success of the show. More people are watching than ever. It’s okay if there are disgruntled voices out there. That’s the aim, to engage audiences — not to get perfect marks at every turn.
My So-Called Life was cancelled after just one season. Are you surprised that television has been so fruitful for you now?
I’m really glad that the lines between the mediums are more porous than they’ve ever been. I always wanted to be invited to whatever party, but I really like television because I like plot, I like story. I read other scripts now, and they’re, like, ruminations on an idea. Come on! I want more. I’m hungry.
Your next part will have to be at least as compelling as Carrie...
So much of my job is about finding another job, and that’s really boring. I got so, so lucky. To be in an interesting television show is just like a jackpot, because it goes and goes and goes. It’s like tenure.
Your husband, Hugh Dancy, is now a star of the NBC series Hannibal. Do you two trade any intel, or are you sworn to secrecy even from each other?
The first season of Homeland started to air as we were filming, and he started watching. I would come home from work, I’d be complaining about my day and mentioning plot points in the show, and he’s like: ‘No, no, no, no, don’t tell me that. I don’t want you to ruin the story.’ I was like: ‘I’m sorry. You married me. This is the deal.’
Popular roles: Carrie Mathison (Homeland); Angela Chase (My So-Called Life); Juliet (Romeo + Juliet); Cosette (Les MisÚrables, 1998); Yvaine (Stardust), Temple Grandin (TV movie Temple Grandin).
Awards: Four Golden Globes (two for Homeland, one apiece for Temple Grandin and My So-Called Life) and three Emmy Awards (two for Homeland, one for Temple Grandin).
More films: Little Woman, Ho me For the Holidays, The Rainmaker, The Hours, Shopgirl.
Plus: Wrote an introduction to Neil Gaiman’s Death: The Time of Your Life. Hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo earlier this month.
(The New York Times News Service)
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