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Talent Talk: A Conversation With Actress Claire Danes

8 Feb, 2003 By: Dan Bennett

Having grown up in New York, Claire Danes was familiar with the turf of Igby Goes Down, even if her character isn't anything like the affable actress.

The title, released last week by MGM Home Entertainment, stars Kieran Culkin as Igby Slocumb, a 17-year-old privileged student whose family is wealthy, eccentric and neglectful. Igby explores a variety of ways to escape the strange confines of his unnerving family, including an attachment to the intellectual liberal Sookie Sapperstein, played by Danes. Sookie teaches Igby a few things about life, even if the disaffected Sookie still has a few things to learn herself.

“I'm familiar with the cultures Igby and Sookie each come from,” Danes said in an interview. “Igby has his problems, and Sookie tries to explain things, but she's actually the neurotic one.”

Danes responded strongly to the script, enjoying its dark comic aspects.

“I loved it,” she said. “It was very clever and specific, and I just loved the character. I found her quite compelling and engaging. I was excited by Sookie because she's a real character. I was happy to play someone so arch and exaggerated. She's so cynical and self-involved, and she believes she's more mature than she actually is. I was familiar with that kind of person. A lot of people are deceptively sophisticated. They are exposed to a lot of culture and diverse people, but there's an incongruity between that and their emotional development.”

The development of Danes as an actress and person has been clear to those who have watched her since her days on the television drama “My So-Called Life.” Danes made the jump to film successfully, starring in Romeo + Juliet, The Rainmaker, Brokedown Palace, U-Turn, A Polish Wedding and more.

Danes is also an academic, having finished two years at Yale University. An English major, Danes has a family history at Yale. Her grandfather graduated from Yale and was later a dean at the college.

“I've been approaching my education in a rather piecemeal fashion, but I'm enjoying it tremendously,” Danes said. “It's really difficult to balance career and education and all the other things I want to do.”

Danes said she's quite certain she will pursue acting the rest of her life. Still, she wants other options, as well.

“I've been working professionally since I was 12, so I knew it would be good for me to try other things,” she said. “I was never in classes with kids my own age -- I didn't know what that was like. I had always functioned much like an adult, so it's really valuable to me to develop my social skills around my peers. I also wanted to challenge my commitment to acting, and I find I still want to act very much, while also allowing room for other things in my life.”

Danes was in Los Angeles much of last year, shooting Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“I travel almost compulsively because of my work, but I get terribly homesick for New York,” she said. “I saw a movie scene with Central Park recently, and I almost cried.”

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