Claire Danes is deep in the trenches of Homeland filming, with three more episodes of season 3 to shoot, and while it’s not clear exactly what Carrie and Co. at the CIA are up to this year, it’s safe to say it’s going to be intense.

In addition, Danes is currently prepping for the Emmy Awards, where she’s up for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama (she won last year). But she still found time to shoot an Emmy-themed ad for Audi, which will premiere during the telecast (the exclusive photo above is from the ad shoot — puppies!). “It’s really kind of goofy and playful,” Danes told EW about the Audi ad. “I’ve been doing Homeland for three years now and it’s pretty intense,” she laughed. “The stakes are preposterously, ridiculously high. So I was looking forward to just goofing off for a few days and having some fun.”

And fun is not really a word anyone would use to describe Carrie Mathison — regardless of what the future holds. Danes may be close to the end of season 3, but that doesn’t mean she has any clue where her storyline is headed next. “I don’t even bother to fantasize about what it’s going to be or cultivate a hope for what Carrie might be in the coming season because I know I’m going to be so overwhelmed by [the writers’] infinitely better ideas [laughs].”

While Danes might not yet have a season 4 plan, EW did get her to tease some season 3 intel (bad for a CIA agent, great for TV viewers!) about the latest in Carrie and Brody’s relationship, why Saul and Carrie may be on the outs, and the moment she’s most proud of from season 2 of Showtime’s drama.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There are reports Brody (Damian Lewis) won’t be in the first episode or two. Can you tease a little about what’s going on with Brody and Carrie this season?

CLAIRE DANES: In the beginning of this show, as you would imagine, they are physically separated. He’s on the run and Carrie’s been tracking his course but isn’t entirely sure where he is at any given moment. She, along with the other people in the CIA, is held on trial. The organization is under serious investigation and is on the verge of maybe ceasing to exist; very vulnerable to being shut down entirely. So she and Saul are having to defend it and keep it alive, which is very stressful. And [Saul and Carrie] aren’t as simpatico as they have been in the past. … Saul has amazing stuff this season, and up until this point, he’s only been presented as utterly sympathetic and kind, and we see a much more complex portrait of him here. That’s great, because he’s such a rich character.

Carrie is going to be struggling with all that happened at the end of last season, and producers have announced she’ll go off her meds. What kind of prep work do you do for the bipolar stuff when that side of Carrie comes out?

Last season, she was pretty stable, so I did have to brush up on my bipolar homework. So I read some more books this year. I found that the most valuable resource is YouTube videos. There are a lot of blogs kept by people with the condition and they are often talking directly to the camera in hypomanic states — observing them is really, really helpful. So I kind of binge on those YouTube videos before I go to work and kind of reacquaint myself with that state of being, and I’m very moved by what that is like, the struggle they have to go [through]. But it’s fun. I like that kind of work. … It’s not very often we [as actors] get to play such extreme states of being. So I get to go really far [and] it’s all justified. [Laughs]

The show has been a hit since it premiered, but it really took off last season with SNL parodies and fans’ by-the-minute tweeting. Does any of that public reaction inform your performance or is that totally separate for you?

It’s totally separate, it has to be. I’m really excited to share what we’ve been up to with audiences — we just had the premiere last night. It was really fun to unveil it. That enthusiasm is hugely rewarding and thrilling — but it is independent of what goes into making the thing. It has to be.

You mentioned the premiere. I read online that you guys met with some CIA agents?

Yeah, we went to Langley earlier that day. We had a field trip. … It was great. My roommate from college actually works at the CIA, so she was able to actually pop down from her office and join us. It was just wild to find ourselves in that context [Laughs], just flashing back to who we were as freshmen. No way would we have anticipated we would find ourselves in that moment. So that was neat to share with her.

Let’s talk about season 2. Can you highlight the episode you’re most proud of?

I really do think the “Q&A” episode is great because it’s such unusual television. It was so brave of the creators to have one scene play out for as long as it did. It was like a one-act play. It was just really unconventional and interesting. … [Damian and I] tackled it like we do every other episode. You don’t have time to do too much prep work; you got to just lay it down, which I appreciate actually. It makes it fun.

I know you said the writers have better ideas that you could ever come up with for Carrie. But do you have any kind of endgame in your head how you’d like Carrie’s story to conclude?

I’d like for things not to be so impossibly difficult for her! That would be nice, if she was afforded a little bit of a break and grace. She’s earned it. I don’t want her to be so lonely, ultimately. But the show’s going to have to be over [laughs]. Or her involvement with the show is going to have to be over to get to that point. Because that’s not what we want to watch, her being balanced and healthy and regular. We don’t want her to be regular.

Homeland‘s third season premieres Sept. 29.

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