Claire Danes On Playing Bipolar Character in ‘Homeland’: ‘I Gorged On Manic Confessionals’ Says Actress

  @jiillx on September 19 2012 3:38 PM
Claire Danes
Claire Danes is nominated for an Emmy award for "best actress" for her role on the Showtime drama "Homeland," in which she plays a CIA agent with bipolar disorder. Reuters

Claire Danes says YouTube helped her prepare for her comeback role on the small screen in Showtime’s “Homeland.” 

In an interview with NPR on Wednesday, Danes, who stars as the bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison on the Golden Globe-winning show, admitted to finding some of her best research material for the role on the video-sharing network.

“I had to do a lot of research for this role. And actually, I found great material on YouTube,” said Danes. “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.”

Danes has previously called her “Homeland” character a “nutter” and hinted that the show would delve deeper into Mathison’s mental illness in the second season, which premieres Sept. 30.

In December, in a Q+A with New York magazine, Danes discussed her hesitations about taking on the role, anticipating how demanding and engrossing it would be.

“I had my reservations just because it is such a profound commitment, and she's tough, this Carrie Mathison lady,” said Danes. “I didn’t know if I wanted to be tortured for a decade. But as distressed as she is, she's also really, really fascinating, and I don't have many opportunities to play people this surprising and this complex.”

In the NPR interview, the 33-year-old actress described her research process, saying that when she watched the YouTube clips she paid special attention to the expressions, mannerisms and cadences of the people speaking.

“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,” she said.

But not everyone who heard the interview appreciated Danes’s comments regarding bipolar disorder. “I hope this doesn't contribute to yet more misinformation about bipolar disorder,” wrote one commenter named Elza Morse. “I am therefore disappointed that the actress portraying a person with bipolar disorder says she prepared by ‘gorging on manic confessionals on You Tube’. That's like studying diabetes by visiting the morgue, instead of talking with those who control it with medication and diet.”

Another commenter echoed Morse’s complaints, saying, “Like Elza's comment, I was concerned that the actress chose ‘youtube’ as a source of information. I have watched many of those videos and it is important to understand that for those of us living with loved ones who struggle with Type I bi-polar, the ‘youtube’ examples actually appear mild.”

“Homeland” is nominated for several Emmy awards, including best drama, best actress, and best actor. 

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