Claire Danes loves a lot of things about starring on Homeland, but the thing she loves most is the week she gets to spend at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, each year, geeking out with real-life spies. “It’s so wild, you have no idea,” she says, her eyes glowing. “They curate a group of people who have good stories for us—experts in social media and counter terrorism and drug trafficking—and it’s just fascinating. It’s my favorite thing about the job.” We’re sitting at Cafe Clover in New York’s West Village on a warm October afternoon, and at the moment, Danes couldn’t look less like a spy. Dressed in a yellow cotton blouse, Acne dark skinny jeans, and Chloé snakeskin flats, Danes fits right in with the rest of the stylish downtown crowd—most of whom happen to be staring at her.
At 37, Danes is even prettier in person than she is on camera, with pale, luminous skin; fine features; and a friendly, curious manner. It’s easy to imagine her photo bombing her old friend Lena Dunham at the 2013 Emmys, or running around Soho with husband Hugh Dancy and their 4-year-old son, Cyrus. But get her talking about Homeland—the addictive homeland-security thriller returning to Showtime for its sixth season this month—and flashes of her alter ego, bipolar superspy Carrie Mathison, start to surface. Danes’ eyes widen and her head tilts quizzically to one side like