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Claire Danes at 40

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

In which we admit that it took this long for TV to catch up to her…almost.

Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin in "Homeland." (Photo: JoJo Whilden/Showtime)

When actress Bess Armstrong turned 40, she was just starting on My So-Called Life as Patty Chase, enjoying what was, at that time, a rare opportunity: the chance to play a complex, mature, well-written female character.

Today, it’s Claire Danes’ turn to hit that milestone 4-0, and she does so having starred for eight years in one of the most accomplished dramas in American television: Homeland. As bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison, she’s given some truly taut, mesmerizing performances, making good on some of the promise glimpsed in her work on My So-Called Life so many years ago.

I say “some of the promise” because as intelligent and well-written a show as Homeland is, it remains first and foremost a plot-driven exercise, albeit one with ample displays of nuanced character development.

One of the best explorations of Claire's life and acting process was provided in a 2013 profile in The New Yorker. (There's also a fair amount in there about My So-Called Life, too.) Strongly recommended.

Claire has given some truly breathtaking performances in the service of this series; you’d be hard pressed to name a better actor when it comes to depicting thoughts and emotions roiling just beneath the surface.

Yet her Homeland work merely hints at the character-driven powerhouse that lurks behind the security clearance. What Claire is so skilled at doing is burrowing deeply into the skin of a character and revealing every human, relatable corner she finds inside. She does this in Homeland, certainly, but only between moments of suspense, tension, and the occasional explosion or foot chase.

There’s a great temptation to say that as fascinating as Homeland is, what we as an audience long for is the actress to find herself with a Winnie Holzman script clenched tightly in hand once again. With Homeland winding down this year, perhaps we’ll get to see that yet. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Claire’s 45th birthday – can you?

'So Beautiful it Hurts' is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with ABC, The Bedford Falls Co., or anyone involved with the making or distribution of "My So-Called Life."  


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