Claire Danes knows a thing or two about growing up in the spotlight. The Homeland star sky-rocked to fame in 1994 for her cult-classic TV show, My So Called Life. Though it was short-lived, teens everywhere fell in love with the drama for its realistic portrayal of adolescent life and its ability to tackle tough topics like drug abuse, homophobia, and sex. Danes was 15 years old when the show aired and quickly became an icon of the 1990s, starring in films like Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio.
So when Danes met her then 15-year-old co-star Morgan Saylor on the set of Homeland, she immediately related to the young star's experience. "The first time we met, [Claire] came up and said, ‘I started my show when I was 15. Isn’t it weird to be doing this? Isn’t it weird to be away from high school and with your mom and working?’” Saylor told us while at the Sundance Film Festival last week, where she was premiering her own true-to-life teen drama, White Girl. “Claire’s been a really good friend. She’s still around, I still see her.”
Saylor and Danes worked together for three years on Homeland and Saylor said she watched Danes and learned an important lesson: “That you are in control of what you do—on set and off set, but especially on set because you’re surrounded by a lot of people and you're this like, commodity, really. You're the performer. But you get to make the choices no matter what at the end of the day, and that’s something really important to know, because it doesn’t always feel like that.” Saylor added, “I saw Claire and Morena [Baccarin] do that on set. I would see them argue for their character and from a young age that was something I noticed and took note of, and I think I learned from them both.”
When Saylor took on her current role in White Girl, with its graphic depictions of a college freshman spiraling out of control during her first summer in New York City—drug addiction, rape and violence are dealt with in the raw, poignant film—she turned to other industry friends, including Zoe Kazan (who Saylor said did “some kind of crazy roles when she was younger”), for help.
“A lot of actors I’ve worked with started young and had different experiences and turned 18 and were alone in New York or L.A. or different places and tried different things. Probably not as extreme as Leah [Saylor’s character in White Girl], but were able to kind of help me. No one feels like a parent but everyone feels like a friend and is able to kind of give advice.”