If you’ve seen the first two episodes of Season 3 of “Homeland” on Showtime, you know big things are happening with one of the show’s female stars.
She tried to kill herself. She’s having sex with someone she met in rehab. She’s clashing with a parent.
No, these aren’t things happening to Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). She’s got her own troubles. But Dana Brody – teenage daughter of a fugitive the CIA is working to hunt down – has moved further into the spotlight this season, as the plot thickens on the most prominent TV series ever filmed in Charlotte.
Morgan Saylor, who plays Dana, recently wrapped her scenes for the 12-episode run that will conclude in December, after several months of living in the NoDa and Dilworth neighborhoods.
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Just two weeks shy of her 19th birthday, the Atlanta native spoke to the Observer Wednesday about her expanded role, her real parents’ reaction to her first on-screen love scene, and her off-camera relationship with her TV mom.
Q. When you got the scripts, were you surprised to see how much you figured into the first two episodes?
A They had given me a little warning. I grew up in Atlanta and I lived there until this summer, so I was there finishing high school when I got the scripts. It was crazy and exciting and weird. My character’s obviously grown a little more each season. And the writers like me. One of the main reasons is that they have kids my age.
Q. What was your reaction to the direction the writers are pointing your character toward?
A I liked that she tried to kill herself. I thought that was really fitting and intense and devastating, because Brody (her father, played by Damian Lewis) really broke her heart – in the most traumatizing way, especially for a teenager. So I was very pleased and surprised by it.
Q. Dana has had a complicated relationship with her dad from the moment he returned from captivity. What do you think Dana’s feelings are about him?
A Sometimes she’s been very close and sometimes she’s had a weird feeling about him and his actions. Now she just plainly hates him. And it’s a justified hate. I don’t think it’s immature. She says in the end of Episode 2, he’s ruined her life, the family’s life. And she 100 percent believes that. I think the little prayer mat scene is a way of her saying goodbye to him.
Q. What do you think Dana’s father would think of her having irresponsible laundry room sex with a young guy who clearly has his own troubles?
A Well, when you ask that question, it makes you think of his irresponsible sex with Carrie, who he didn’t know much about. Their first time was in a car. That’s kind of a funny parallel. But I’m sure he wouldn’t be very happy.
Q. What did your real-life parents think of that scene?
A This year I was 18, so I was in Charlotte all by myself and they didn’t really know about it. The other day they watched it. It was my whole family (her parents and her 21-year-old brother) watching the scene, and I made them all cover their eyes. Showtime is known to have those sorts of scenes, but mine wasn’t too-too bad.
Q. There are some fans who’ve been vocal about their dislike for Dana. Last time we talked, you said people have come up to you and said, “Oh, your character’s a bitch.” Does that bug you?
A I don’t mind it that much because it’s about Dana – though I am a little protective of her, in the same way I’d be protective of my friends. I feel sorry for her because her life is so messed up.
Q. What do you have in common with Dana?
A I had just turned 16 when I started the pilot. And I’m almost 19. Dana and I started at the same age, but (the time elapsed in) the show has only been about a year, and real-life has been three years, so I’ve grown up more than her. We started in a similar place, of being a young teenager, annoyed at the world. We’re both determined – and maybe that means stubborn as well – and don’t tolerate b-------.
Q. I know that you and your TV mom (played by Morena Baccarin, who is 34) hang out a lot and have lived together in Charlotte. Do you view her as a maternal figure, or as just a regular friend?
A It’s somewhere in between. She’s about to be a mom of her own. And her and her husband, Austin (Chick), I’ve kind of become their kid. We’re a funny little family. ... She’s younger than my own mom, so I feel like I can talk to her about everything. The other day I was sick, though, and I was over at their house for dinner and she gave me all these Emergen-Cs and vitamins and medicine and made me take it home, and then texted me the next day to ask me how I was feeling, which is a very mom thing to do.
Q. What do you think you’ll miss most about Charlotte?
A The peacefulness. Now I’m in LA shooting something (“McFarland,” a movie with Kevin Costner) and I can’t stand the traffic. And how ready to make a movie this town is. Charlotte was easier. A lot of the places we filmed had never been filmed. It’s a wonderful place to work and film.