“I got an agent when I was 12, and I started working in more amateur productions well before that,” she told NPR. “But even as a kid, I never felt like a kid actor, you know? I always took myself kind of absurdly seriously. My first offer was when I was 12, and it was for a soap opera. And I turned it down because I knew that I was an unformed actor, and I didn’t want to develop bad habits.”
That decision has certainly paid off for Danes, who has often been praised for her intense performances. “I focus on the intention of the character and whatever thoughts and feelings she’s having, and they seem to kind of naturally communicate themselves on the face,” she said. “But I have to say that my dad’s face is very malleable. He’s barely got any cartilage in his face. I think I maybe inherited that Play-Doh-like physicality from him.”
Danes’ acting is also stronger because of the preparation she does for her roles, including that of bipolar CIA Agent Carrie Mathison on Homeland. “I had to do a lot of research for this role,” the actress said. “And actually, I found great material on YouTube. There was a lot of footage of people who recorded themselves when they were in manic states. I think they were probably up in the middle of the night and lonely and, you know, needed to talk. So they talked to the camera. So I gorged on sort of manic confessionals on YouTube.
“They talk at a very fast clip. But, you know, it’s not a strictly unpleasant phenomenon. A lot of people are reluctant to treat themselves because they’re so protective of those manic highs.”
The new season of Homeland airs on Showtime, September 30 at 10 p.m.