The Double Life of Morgan Saylor
Morgan Saylor’s role as the daughter of a mutable CIA agent on the Showtime drama Homeland has evolved from a rebellious teenager, fond of moping, to a heedful one, outrightly questioning her family’s moral nuances. The part, like any, requires fluctuation—something Saylor is accustomed to. Alongside developing her acting skills under the inimitable Claire Danes, the 18-year-old devotes equal effort to her academics. Somehow, she’s found her footing juggling the woes of teenhood and the stresses of the spotlight.
You just graduated high school in May, in the midst of filming Homeland. How did you balance it all?
The very first day of Homeland I worked until 11 p.m., drove home to Atlanta, had graduation practice the next day at 8 a.m., and then graduation. It’s the best of both worlds. Could it get any better?
You have plans to attend the University of Chicago. What do you plan to study?
Mathematics. I like calculus best, but probably because it’s the hardest thing I’ve done. I don’t know what’s next. U. Chicago has two years of a mix of everything before you decide on a major.
What similarities do you share with your character, Dana Brody?
When I first started the show, all my friends were like, You play yourself. I don’t mean to sound like I’m an adult now, but I was a hooligan for sure when I was 16. I think I’ve grown up a little since the start of the show—maybe because of the show. I think we’re both stubborn. Or I could say determined. I like calling people out on bullshit and I think Dana does that a lot.
Your character evolved from the rebellious teen in season one to the moral compass in season two. What lies ahead?
It’s a really different season. Dana starts off really unstable—she’s not in a good place. We pick up two months after the explosion so dad is on the run, out of her life. The first episode picks up at a pivotal part in her instability. She thinks she’s doing better but I don’t think she is. It’s been a roller coaster ever since she saw her father admit to the world that he’s [a terrorist]. But then there are some good things too: there’s a new romance, some adventure, and a lot of good family scenes.
You’ve been in several of the most intense scenes in the series. What’s been your favorite scene to film?
I definitely had a lot of fun last season with the Finn scenes [played by Timothée Chalamet]. He’s the only kid my age who works on the show. My first season boyfriend was 24, third season romance is 25, and Jackson, who plays my brother, is 13. And then there are all the adults, who I’m good friends with, but it was cool to have someone my age to hang out with. During some of the school scenes, my friends from Atlanta came up and were extras. They were in the scenes when I was in love and we were giddy on set. That might have been the most fun day.
My past two birthdays were on set, too. Last season, when I see [Brody’s] confession, that was my 18th.
Oh man. That’s a rough day.
Yeah, but it was also kind of easy—it was so intense that it was easy to feel that emotion. It wasn’t out of the blue crying. But I got a cake on that day that said, “No More Tutoring!” because now that I’m 18, I don’t have to be tutored. That was a lovely thing.
Homeland has already won many awards, including five Golden Globes. What was your reaction when the show won that first award?
Dude, it was so weird. None of us had any inkling that we might actually win. It was right after the show had aired for the first time. We filmed in Charlotte—a really small town where no one cares. It’s not a big deal there so it was crazy surprising. Most of us weren’t aware of the impact that the show had made. We thought it was lucky, and then we won the Emmy. It’s still surprising. And then the second Globe was different because we thought we actually had a chance at it. It was weird the second year, to anticipate it.
There are some brilliant TV shows out there, yet our culture tends to obsess over celebrities from lesser-quality shows. How do you feel about being an actress during these times?
I was telling my friend the other day how cool it is to walk into a room to meet with the producer, writer, director, anyone, and to know that they really respect your craft, as opposed to the star in the next teen movie. It’s really cool that the adults I meet really respect the show. America definitely has a fixation on. . . I wouldn’t say not-as-good shows, they’re just different. It’s like reading different kinds of books—it depends on your mood.
What type of characters would you like to play in the future?
I’ve been with Dana for a while now so it’d be nice to play different things. It would be nice to do a movie about being in love. I don’t know how good I am at comedy; I haven’t done much of it. It would be nice to do something very lighthearted. But to me, it’s about the scripts. I’m pretty open, but I have to like the material before I’m interested in auditioning for it.
Are there any current shows you’d be interested in acting in?
I want to play a role on Louie. All his roles are funny characters. Also, Mad Men looks fun. The generation looks like a fun thing to act in.
Do you have interest in doing films, or do you think you’ll stick with television?
Television if it comes along. I definitely think there are a lot of good shows on right now that are really respectable. It might be nice to have a different schedule because I’m so—and I don’t mean this in a bad way—but I’m committed to Homeland from May to early November; I can’t make any plans. Episodes are nine days and you only find out the schedule the day before. Obviously I love being a part of the show—it’s just a part of it.
What do you think are the biggest challenges that young celebrities face?
I think part of being a young celebrity is being able to sell yourself. You’re watched and interviewed everywhere. It’s hard to be ready at every moment. It already sucks being a teenager and it already sucks having your privacy invaded. It’s a weird thing. I think most teen celebrities deal with it really well, but it’s weird to be watched so frequently.
Teenagers make mistakes—that’s what growing up is about—but it must suck to be watched as you make your mistakes.
What is your WILD Wish?
I wish I could move to Germany and become a physicist. That would be the dream.