In Homeland’s first season, you had to play the ambiguity of whether or not Brody was a terrorist for most of the season. Now that there’s a definitive answer, do you think about Brody any differently?
I think Brody has many different realities. He’s essentially an abuse victim. Abused by a man who he loved, and who tortured him, which would be very confusing for anyone. The crux of his problem is that he came back wondering whether he was going to commit some sort of act in the name of Issa, this little boy who was murdered. But he also has the alternate reality, where he’s integrating with his family in civilian life—which is happening now, to soldiers as they return from the Middle East.
How did you manage to make both aspects of his character so convincing?
I think my choice as Brody was to play each reality to a tilt—but to play it fully, and display each reality for a time. Really, the mercurial quality and the ambiguity came from the shifts between the two realities.
Brody is such a troubled, fragmented character. You have so much to play in every scene—his anger at the United States government, his reluctance to commit a terrorist attack, his love for his family, his attraction to Carrie [Claire Danes]… How do you make it all come across in your performance?
You have to do a lot of work. You have to do a lot of preparatory, imaginative work—it’s been going on for the last year. You carry it along with you, and you stay with it.
Even when you’re not filming?
I’m always lamenting the time that I have off. I think, “Oh, great, I’ll write my novel in my days off,” or whatever it happens to be. But the strange curse of acting is that you have to stay engaged with it, even in your days off. You can’t really drop it, so it remains with you. […] You know, I joke with Claire sometimes, she’s disconcertingly professional. She has the facility to turn it off. Goes back in her chair and play “Words With Friends” or whatever. It’s just an instant turnaround. It’s really extraordinary to watch.
Read the full interview at The Atlantic.