Claire Danes reveals how she overcame her phobia of female friendship

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Kayleigh Dray
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Claire Danes has made a point of playing complex and interesting women throughout her career; she rewrote the narrative for the traditional damsel in distress as Stardust’s Yvaine, brought Little Women’s Beth March to the silver screen in 1994, and, nowadays, compels viewers as brilliant CIA agent Carrie Mathison in Homeland.

So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that the 37-year-old actor, for many years, suffered from a self-described ‘phobia’ of female friendships.

The award-winning star’s feelings of anxiety stemmed from her childhood, when she attended a “really progressive” school with very few rules.

Opening up about her experiences, Danes recalled: “I think the kids compensated for [the lack of structure] by creating a really strong social structure.

“It was cliquey as eff, [and] that was hard for me.”

Danes went on to admit to Harper’s Bazaar that she would often find herself “targeted” by her classmates, and explained that it made her extremely mistrustful of female friendships.

“I just retreated and became pretty isolated,” said Danes.

Thankfully for the Homeland star, things changed when she left school and enrolled at Yale university in 1998.

The actor went on to study psychology – and, in the process, met with a number of like-minded women, many of whom she still is friends with today.

“They all do their different things,” she said. “One’s a therapist, one is a doctor, and one is a graphic designer. We could be a great non-profit organisation!”

Nowadays, Danes and her pals meet up at least once a month for their book club sessions – although she admits that this is really just an “excuse to be amongst each other”.

She added: “There’s an energy shift when it’s all women. It feels so replenishing.

“I mean, I love men, obviously, but it feels really good… [and] we do start talking a little differently. We’re allowed to say we have certain grievances, that we’ve had a hard time because we’re women. It’s also just really fun.”

It is not the first time that Danes, who shares a child with husband Hugh Dancy, has opened up about her past emotional struggles.

In November 2015, she discussed her ongoing battle to find peace with her body during an interview with Allure magazine.

“It's just so ingrained in us, the idea that we should take up the right amount of space, literally and figuratively,” she said.

“I've wrestled with this my whole life, as just a person in the world and as somebody who makes images.”


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.