‘Homeland’ actress Sarita Choudhury is there when the drama hits home

Sarita Choudhury will never forget the first time she met Mandy Patinkin.

The English actress was in Charlotte to do a photo shoot in 2011 with the Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor to promote the Showtime network’s new spy drama “Homeland,” in which their characters would play husband and wife.

Producers were looking for “happy stuff, frolicking, laughing, (but) I was so shy,” Choudhury says. “I had never met him, and suddenly we were put in a field, and we were just supposed to run and laugh. (But) he’s such a consummate professional – he just started singing and running, and I started laughing and was following him, and it was the easiest day ever.”

Since then, she and Patinkin have become good friends; but their characters haven’t done much laughing, frolicking or happy stuff on “Homeland” over 33 episodes and almost three seasons.

Two-thirds of the way through Season 1, Mira Berenson (Choudhury) packs up and leaves her husband Saul (Patinkin) to make an open-ended visit to India in part because his job as a high-ranking CIA official has left her feeling lonely and unloved. Mira returns to perhaps bring him comfort after the CIA bombing in the Season 2 finale, but then it’s revealed midway through Season 3 that she is having an affair, driving another wedge between them.

Though it may read as soapy, “Homeland’s” depiction of their rocky relationship actually feels far more authentic than most of the twisty series’ plot points. The show – which is set mainly in the D.C. area but filmed in and around Charlotte – also has taken time to pull back from espionage elements and geopolitics to examine the effects on the family of a man believed to be a traitor and terrorist by the U.S.

“I just feel like it really is dealing with every person’s nuances and job and personal issues on a real level,” Choudhury says. “What (the writers) wanted to deal with this season is: What are these people’s lives like when they open their home door and leave behind the work?”

For Choudhury – who was born in London and raised in Jamaica, Mexico and Italy – “Homeland” is the most visible work she’s done in front of American audiences in the 22 years since debuting here with a starring role opposite Denzel Washington in Mira Nair’s indie romantic comedy “Mississippi Masala.”

She’s had roles in dozens of films and done theater in New York, but this is the first of the TV projects she’s been involved with that has really caught on. “Homeland” has won six Primetime Emmy Awards and has enjoyed an audience of close to 2 million viewers per episode for the past two seasons.

“I’m so in awe,” says Choudhury, who had roles on series including NBC’s “Kings” and A&E’s “100 Centre Street.” “One friend will tell me that a discussion at their dinner party last night was all about ‘Homeland.’ People are so invested. That feels like such an honor to hear. I’ve never been part of a show that that happened with.”