Claire Danes earned rave reviews -- not to mention three major awards -- for her portrayal of an autistic rancher in 2010's Temple Grandin. Surprisingly, those accolades didn't translate into bigger and better parts. "I was stuck," the 34-year-old Homeland actress says in the August 2013 issue of Vogue. "It was confusing. I got a lot of plaudits, and it didn't translate into more work. I was really, really struggling during that time."
Danes -- who poses with costar Damian Lewis in the fashion magazine's photo spread -- says she began to doubt herself during that period. "It was grim. I was very hurt. Two years of not working was brutal," she remembers. "And a point came where I thought, 'I really like interior design.'"
She was, of course, offered roles during that time -- but none of them carried much weight. "I just couldn't play dinky -- you know, the girl," Danes explains. The lifelong New Yorker -- mom to son Cyrus, 7 months, with husband Hugh Dancy -- decided to seek advice from living legends Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Jodie Foster.
Danes shares the lessons she learned from those women with Vogue: "You have to pick your battles on set. You have to come to work from a place of love. You have to stay hydrated when you have crying scenes. You have to go to college. And you have to ask for money because there's always more money and they won't give it to you because you're a girl!"
It's ironic, given that Danes has been a force in Hollywood since her early teens. In 1996, at age 16, Romeo + Juliet director Baz Luhrmann called the budding starlet "the Meryl Streep of her generation." Danes gets embarrassed by such a comparison, shouting, "No! I'm just a big old nerd."
Danes scored the role of a lifetime when she was cast as bipolar CIA officer Carrie Mathison in Showtime's Homeland, which premiered in 2011. Danes won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama in 2012 and 2013.
Even so, Danes admits that she's envious of emerging stars like Jennifer Lawrence (an Academy Award winner) and Carey Mulligan (a BAFTA Award winner). "They have this exquisite taste," she explains. "They are very gifted in their ability to make great choices. I didn't have that rudder."
It wasn't until midway through her career that Danes remembered why she got into show business: because she loved acting, not fame. "There's the movie star that plays herself and the movie star like Meryl that has this wonderful, glamorous persona intact and is undone every time she takes on a new character," she tells Vogue of Streep, with whom she costarred in 2002's The Hours. "I think I'm astounded and titillated by that."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Claire Danes: I Was Out of Work for "Two Years" Before Homeland