Claire Danes is promoting the new season of Homeland. She was interviewed yesterday by Howard Stern. And Howard asked her about the time she had an affair with Billy Crudup and he ended up leaving Mary-Louise Parker when she was 7 months pregnant to be with her. And why aren’t we sh-tting on Billy Crudup for it? Good question. Because he’s the asshole who abandoned the mother of his child during her pregnancy. And he should wear it, of course he should wear it. At the same time, Billy Crudup doesn’t headline major television shows. Billy Crudup has a healthy career as a supporting actor. Claire Danes, however, as you know, emerged from their relationship and went on to great acclaim. And she hasn’t really addressed the situation until now.
Specifically Howard was referring to how people judged Claire and how she dealt with it. Here is her response:
"That was a scary thing. That was really hard. I didn’t know how to not do that. I was just in love with him. And needed to explore that and I was 24... I didn’t quite know what those consequences would be. But it’s okay. I went through it.”
Please also listen to the audio because you can get a lot from the tone:
Some people think she sounds flippant, unremorseful. To me she just sounds uncomfortable – like, who would want to talk about this – and maybe defensive. “I was in love and needed to explore that.” It’s her version of the saying “the heart wants what it wants”. I’ve written about this before, about my problem with “the heart wants what it wants” as an excuse.
Because that’s what it is. An excuse. Do you ever say “the heart wants what it wants” when no one is mad at your heart for whatever it is that it wants? Note, people only say “the heart wants what it wants” when they’ve been perceived to have crossed a line. It’s a justification for a negative. It’s never an affirmation for a positive. It’s also a way of undermining agency, taking choice out of our hands in the face of something so overwhelming, we can’t stop ourselves even when we know we are hurting people in the process. It absolves us from the responsibility of inflicting pain.
In the moment, sure. When she was 24 with the maturity of a child actor adjusting to adulthood? I guess I could be persuaded to understand. But now, 12 years later, with the benefit of hindsight and even more personal growth, I wish the answer was as simple as, “I was selfish”.