Tagged under:2012, Interview
Posted by on 6 October 2012

via DailyMail:

As she reprises her breakthrough role in the award-winning TV series Homeland, Morena Baccarin talks to Jane Mulkerrins about adjusting to superstardom – and juggling the three men in her life

I do think it is possible to be in love with two people at the same time,’ says Morena Baccarin pensively, her pretty, pixie-ish features looking sombre for a second. Fortunately for her husband of just 11 months, film director Austin Chick, the 33-year-old actress isn’t referring to her own relationships, but those of her alter ego Jessica Brody in the TV drama Homeland, which recently won four Emmys.

‘I don’t think you can blame Jessica for falling; eight years is a long time to wait for somebody,’ she continues, referring to her on-screen husband, US marine sergeant Nicholas Brody, played by British actor Damian Lewis. Missing in action for eight years, presumed dead, Brody is unexpectedly rescued and returned to his family. In his absence, however, Jessica has fallen for his best friend and fellow marine Mike, who has taken on de facto father duties with the two Brody children, Dana and Chris. ‘She held out hope, but I think eventually she decided to bury her husband – figuratively. She just decided Brody wasn’t ever coming back.’

It might sound like a decidedly soapy plot line, but part of what has made Homeland such a
huge international hit, from the UK to Australia, Russia, Latin America, India and even Afghanistan, is that the messy matters of the heart are bound up inside a paranoid, post-9/11 psychological thriller.

‘It is subject matter that the world is interested in right now,’ nods Morena, ‘war, the idea of a hero and the fear of terrorism, as well as the family strife.’

Though Brody is hailed a war hero by politicians and the public, one CIA officer suspects him of having been turned against America by his Al Qaeda captors. And to further ramp up the tension, Brody and the very CIA agent who suspects him of terrorist intent – Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes – become sexually involved. The first explosive season closed with Carrie receiving brutal electroconvulsive shock therapy for her bipolar disorder, and Brody seemingly confirming her suspicions, attempting (though failing) to detonate a suicide bomb.

The show, written by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa – two of the creative brains behind 24 – is back on UK screens tonight. Such is the secrecy surrounding the series that the cast members themselves only receive scripts episode by episode and are gagged from revealing plot lines to the press. Morena, however, is persuaded to divulge a few details.

‘9/11 was the first time in the history of the United States that we realised we were not invincible’

We pick up the story six months on, and Brody has been installed as a Democratic Congressman. ‘Jessica is starting to enjoy the political limelight too,’ Morena reveals. ‘She is getting a taste of what it is like to have influence, to matter. She’s hobnobbing with the political women of Washington and the vice president’s wife has become a close friend. She’s dressing better too – there’s a bit of a Jackie O vibe coming through.’

The wardrobe department hardly has its work cut out, though: Morena would look good in a bin liner. Tall and slim, with a deep olive complexion thanks to her Brazilian heritage, cropped dark hair and delicate, gamine features, she’s like a Latina Audrey Hepburn. In a studio on Sunset Boulevard, facing the famous Hollywood sign, she arrives for our photo shoot and interview early in the morning and make-up free, looking glowing and gorgeous.

Although she has enjoyed a steady, decade-long career in theatre, and with small roles in big TV shows including The Good Wife, The OC and The Mentalist, and independent films such as Perfume and Death in Love, Morena has hitherto been known mainly for her roles in cult sci-fi series such as V and Firefly. The huge success of Homeland has rocketed her to a vastly elevated level of recognition on a worldwide stage. ‘I got a little bit used to people stopping me in the street with V, at least in America,’ she says, modestly. ‘Not that I think you ever really get used to it. It will always be a shock to be recognised for anything.’

Her manner is equally low-key: she is relaxed and unstarry, and laughs easily and often. Laughing is not, however, something she gets to do much of in Homeland. ‘This is probably the best experience I have had in my career, but it is also the most challenging,’ she says. ‘I am definitely not in my comfort zone.’

Some of her most memorable scenes were also the most intimate in the show, showing Brody awkward and unable to make love to his wife after eight years of absence. ‘When we shot that first intimate scene, it was very early on in the filming schedule,’ says Morena. ‘I think we had known each other for about three weeks. But it worked because we were like strangers.’

Nevertheless, it was a nerve-racking moment. ‘I haven’t taken off my clothes for a TV role before – and I have had the opportunity to do so many times,’ she says. ‘I did it once before, for a film that I truly believed in called Death in Love, although that was very quick.

‘But nobody was putting a gun to my head and saying, “Take off your clothes,”’ she continues. ‘I do think that those scenes are vital to understanding who Jessica is and what she is going through. But it was still hard,’ she admits.

‘It will always be a shock to be recognised for anything.’

Happily for Morena, there has been plenty of bonding since those early scenes. For the six months of the year during which Homeland is filmed, her base is an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina, which she and the other cast members, Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and David Harewood (who plays CIA boss David Estes), affectionately call ‘the dorm’. ‘We all live down the corridor from each other – it is a little like being in college,’ she laughs.

And while she and Claire Danes might be rivals for Brody’s affections on-screen, off-screen the situation couldn’t be more different. ‘Claire and I have these days when we wake up, go to the grocery store, go look at furniture, buy flowers, come home, cook dinner – we do sometimes wonder if we are actually married to each other,’ she laughs. Coincidentally, Morena and Claire were classmates at school in New York when they were 12 years old. ‘I was a dork, and I thought she was really cool,’ says Morena. ‘We had the same nemesis, so we’ve bonded over that.’

Morena was born in Rio de Janeiro; her mother, Vera Setta, is also an actress, perhaps best known for bringing The Vagina Monologues to Brazil, and her father, Fernando Baccarin, was a news editor for Globo, the country’s national television station. Creativity clearly runs in the family. ‘I thought those sorts of jobs were what everybody did for a living,’ says Morena. ‘My whole family is very artistic – my uncles are all actors and theatre directors.’ When Morena was ten her father was posted to New York and, along with her mother and younger brother, she relocated to the Big Apple.

There were some cultural adjustments. ‘The hardest part was being away from family,’ she says. ‘In Brazil, you are very close to your family; we saw our cousins every weekend, and my grandmother lived with us. It was tough not to have that at first. But New York City is a phenomenal place to grow up.’

After living in the US full time from the age of ten, does she feel more Brazilian or American these days? ‘I feel split right down the middle,’ she sighs. ‘I love this country and I’m so happy I grew up here. It afforded me opportunities that I never would have had in Brazil. And I love the sensibility here – that you can do anything you want. But in Brazil there’s a joy in life that people in the US forget because we are so busy being ambitious,’ she continues. ‘I feel like I’ve got both, which is amazing.’

Poignantly, given the themes of Homeland, Morena was living at home in New York on 9/11, only a couple of miles from the World Trade Center, having just graduated from the prestigious Juilliard drama school. ‘Experiencing it with people in New York was a life-changing experience,’ she says. ‘It lives with you, somewhere deep inside. I get goose bumps every time I talk about it,’ she says.

‘My mum was out grocery shopping that morning; she was in the store when the first plane hit, but saw the second go in,’ she remembers. ‘She called me, and I went to the corner to meet her.

‘All we could think was, “Is this a trick someone is playing on us? Is there a movie being shot?” Then we saw the towers fall and there was a collective gasp. That was when we realised it was an attack. I think it was the first time in the history of the United States that we realised we were not invincible.’

In the days following the attacks, Morena volunteered for the Red Cross emergency relief operation. ‘It was really helpful to be involved in some small aspect of it, because being with other people and talking about it, I was able to process what had happened a little bit more,’ she says.

The residual fear was harder to shake off, though. ‘For a long time I had this constant feeling that I just wanted to look behind me. The hairs on my neck were standing up all the time, I didn’t know where was safe. I still have a certain level of that fear.’

And Homeland has tapped into that collective fear which, she believes, can be healthy and unhealthy: ‘The unhealthy being the racial profiling; the suspicion that certain people might be terrorists. But it also gave us a healthy sense that this is what the rest of the world deals with. There are many people who live with terrorism every day. And that was a dose of realism that I think this country needed.’

Several months after 9/11, Morena relocated across the country to Los Angeles to play a high-class courtesan in the sci-fi series Firefly, and has been there on and off ever since. ‘It definitely feels like home these days,’ she says.

She and her husband have recently bought a house in the suburb of Silverlake, ‘but because of my work, we really haven’t been in it yet,’ she says. She met her husband, 41-year-old Austin, through mutual friends and they began dating five years ago. ‘We are solid,’ she grins. The couple will be celebrating their first wedding anniversary at Thanksgiving, next month. I remark that it must be a little odd sometimes, playing a wife in a marriage rapidly breaking down, when she herself is happily newlywed. ‘In a way it gave me a lot to be thankful for,’ she says. Keeping a new marriage on track when one partner is absent for half the year cannot be easy, though. ‘You have to talk…a lot. Which guys love,’ she jokes. ‘You have to keep checking in, being aware of what is happening in each other’s worlds, otherwise you miss things, and then it becomes very hard to go back and connect the dots.

‘But you also need to just know that the connection is there,’ she says with a smile and a shrug. And with that, she heads off back to her new husband, her new home, and her wonderful real life.

Morena’s must-haves

Listening to Lots of Pink. I am in a real pop phase at the moment. And I have a soft spot for hip-hop because that is what I grew up with.

Watching Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey — I’m obsessed! —and I love The Good Wife. I was in an episode, which I was very excited about — I really lobbied for that one.

Reading Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, about Germany under Hitler. I am also working away at IQ84 by Haruki Murakami. It’s so long, I have been reading it for six months.

Saving for Furniture for our new house.

Splurging on A beautiful Afghan rug.

Best holiday I got married in Tulum in Mexico last year — that was a pretty great vacation.

Beauty product I use Lina Hanson Global Face Serum every night. It’s a blend of 100 per cent natural essential oils from all over the world, many of which are produced by women’s cooperatives.

Best person to be stuck in a lift with Barack Obama. I would talk about Homeland with him because I know he likes it. I would like to get stuck in a lift with both him and Michelle, actually — I think she is awesome.