In just two seasons, Homeland’s teenager-in-residence Dana Brody, played by real life teenager Morgan Saylor, has become one of the most polarizing characters on television. Whether you blame it on her propensity to play with her fingers when stressed, or her severe case of perma-bitch-face, it’s clear that the sulkiest teen on TV has reached Skyler White levels of online vitriol. Unfortunately for all the haters, the third season of Homeland promises to be the most Dana-centric yet, as she struggles to come to terms with being the daughter of America’s most wanted. We caught up with the 18 year-old Saylor ahead of Sunday’s premiere, and talked about being famous in high school, her friendship with Claire Danes, and what’s in store for the Brodys after their family’s patriarch was accused of pretty much blowing up the entire CIA. Spoiler alert: It’s not pretty.
Have you wrapped season 3?
We’re on episode 10, so we have a few more.
Have you seen the script for the finale?
I haven’t. We just got the script for episode 11, but I know what happens in the finale. It’s intense.
How were the Emmys?
They were really fun!
A lot of people called them super boring. What did you think?
I thought it was decent. I sat with the boys of the show, in between David Harewood and Rupert Friend, and they had a good commentary the whole time.
Why was Damien Lewis bald?
Were you upset when Homeland lost to Breaking Bad?
Well Breaking Bad is actually my favourite show.
Did you get a chance to chat with the Breaking Bad crew at the Emmys?
I actually didn’t, but I’ve met them very briefly before. Everybody want’s to talk to them. They’re not really just sitting there.
On the show you and Claire don’t shoot together that often. How much time do you actually get to spend with her?
She’s been really busy these days. She had a brand new baby to go home to. But her, Morena and I hang out because we’re the women of the show, which is fun.
You don’t shoot with Mandy Patinkin at all. When do you get to see him?
I see everyone at the table reads. Mandy I really don’t see that frequently. He’s out of town a lot. He’s got his concerts going on.
It almost feels like there’s two separate shows filming.
It’s true. Definitely the CIA stuff and the family stuff is very separate, and every once in a while they’ll intermingle, which is always nice.
Were you aware of the backlash that occurred during season 2?
Sometimes I would get sent stuff, but I think the show has to change. I don’t think it could have been the same thing it was in season 1. I think it’s okay when that happens. You can’t please everyone. I really respect what the writers do and I know that the show’s still being watched so it’s okay.
I read that this season is a real departure from last. Is that something you felt when you started reading the scripts?
Yeah, it’s definitely very different. One of the main players is missing, which you can definitely feel. It’s still the same show in terms of tone, but it’s crazy. It’s a lot of picking up the pieces after the explosion. Everyone has to, the CIA, the family, Carrie. It’s hard.
Now that Brody’s gone, what will make watching his family so compelling?
He ruined their lives, and I’ve decided I can say this now because I’ve seen this in other articles that the writers have said it; Dana tried to kill herself in between seasons, because of where her father left the family and the depression and exhaustion they’re going through. So I think that’s interesting to watch, how the family has to deal with how he’s left them.
Did you research families of criminals responsible for acts of mass violence to see how they deal with the aftermath and try to heal?
I read a little, and obviously I tried to watch all the news that deals with families who’ve been through that sort of thing, which I find very interesting. It’s kind of easy to play just because I’ve been with Dana for so long, and been with her for so many tragic events in her life, that the trauma felt fitting.
Dana’s always been a very angsty character. How do Brody’s actions change her? Does she go into angst overdrive?
I think she’s actually starting to grow up because of it. She’s seeing the world in a more honest and realistic way, and just trying to deal with it head on, as opposed to being a stupid teenager.
In the trailer we see her taking a sexually suggestive photos of herself. Isn’t that what stupid teenagers do?
There’s a new romance. But I do think Dana will make some mistakes this season. She, um, it’s really hard to say without spoiling, but it’s something she needs to do as a way to not be miserable.
You seem to be really worried about accidentally spoiling something. Do the producers make you sign something before you start doing press?
Actually, yeah. Showtime sends out a list of things we’re not allowed to talk about, and how to avoid talking about spoilers. It just comes down to having respect for the writers. But yeah, it’s hard.
Would you be friends with someone like Dana?
I think Dana represents something that teenagers feel a lot, and something that I could definitely relate to. I’m 18 and she’s 16, so I feel older than her, but I can definitely relate to those feelings of alienation within her family and not feeling comfortable with the world, which I believe is something a lot of teenagers go through.
Alex Gansa said recently that she won’t be able to tell the Brody story forever. Is that something you worry about, that once he’s off the show, so are you?
I’m not sure. It’s really hard to predict which way the writing’s going to go. We were told at one point that we probably wouldn’t even be in season 3, but we are. The writers are smart as hell. They know what they’re doing, so I trust them. Brody isn’t even in the first few episodes, and we are, so I really don’t know. And they don’t know.
When you first receive a script for an episode, how eager are you to read it, or does it feel more like homework?
I’m a complete dork. I’ll literally get a script e-mailed and read it on my phone wherever I am. The first few scripts of a season especially are so exciting because you’ve been without them for half a year, and you’re so curious about not only what your characters are doing, but what Carrie’s doing, and what the hell is happening in the world of Homeland. It’s very exciting.
Do your classmates watch the show?
Some of them. Not so many though. It’s more like their parents and my teachers.
Do your classmates every praise you on your work on their parent’s behalf?
Something like that. Sometimes my teachers will be like, “Wow, that episode was really great.” It’s weird though. Once at prom we were taking group photos, and a parent took a photo only of me with their phone. It was my friend’s dad. He came up to me later and was like, “Sorry about that. I’m sending it to my sister, she’s so excited!”
Was staying in school something that was important to you? Did you ever consider being homeschooled?
I definitely didn’t want to be homeschooled. I went to a public school, and it was really, really hard to balance. They were flexible, but not in a way that makes being away for half the year easy. I didn’t start the show until my sophomore year, and I want to graduate with my friends. The show films from June to November, so the rest of the time I’m in school like a normal kid, with my friends. doing the normal high school shenanigans, and I’m very happy I was able to do it..
Claire was a child actor and she took time off to go to college. Is that something you’re interested in doing as well?
Yeah. I really want to go to The University of Chicago. I’ll take a year off and hopefully go there next fall. I talk to Claire actually a lot about it because she took a year off too. She explained to me over numerous conversations about how grateful she is for her time at school, and how it’s exciting to learn things in a non-high school way. You meet people, and have an experience outside of acting. We also talked about how it might be hard to get back into acting, but she definitely believes it’s worth it, and that’s been a big influence on my wanting to go to school for sure.
Are you scared that going to school might ruin the great career that you have?
Yeah. it’s really scary actually. Everyone says, “It’ll be fine, It’ll still be there.” And I know I don’t have to do the full four years. Claire did two, and that’s cool too i think. I think I’ll take it slowly and I’ll see how it goes.