Morgan Saylor is a Homeland hero


Lainie Sorkin-Becky

Morgan Saylor tries to give herself a mature image, so that she is not “stuck” as a child actor. Her manager, Lainie Sorkin Becky, agrees that crossing over into being an adult actor is “very diffiicult.” Often, people are surprised at Saylor’s maturity despite the teenage character she plays. “When I come to the awards in my heels and I’m their height, they say ‘Oh wow! You’ve grown up,’” Saylor said.

Audience members erupt into laughter watching Saturday Night Live comedian Nasim Pedrad impersonate Dana Brody from the TV show “Homeland.” Unlike Pedrad, the actress that plays Dana isn’t an adult. She has no need for extensions to make her hair long, and she doesn’t get paid to be funny. No distant celebrity portrays Dana. It’s senior Morgan Saylor.

Saylor moved to Decatur eight years ago, and since then, her career has taken off. After performing a few small plays at local stages, Saylor went to an open call for an agent to pursue a more serious interest in acting. She began with small parts in advertisements and TV shows, auditioning to find her “big break” in the film industry.

“I had a million gajillion audition sand for every one I booked I didn’t book ten,” Saylor said.

Her search paid off when, in seventh grade, she was cast as the little sister in “Cirque du Freak.” Filming took place in New Orleans, where Saylor lived for two months. This was her first experience being away from school for a long period of time.

“I went to a Montessori school until eighth grade and they were very lenient on my schedule,” Saylor said.

With a relaxed learning environment and relatively small part in the movie, Saylor had no trouble managing her school work.

Balancing school and acting became increasingly difficult, though, when Saylor booked “Homeland” in 2011.

“Sometimes I’ll work a 10-hour day and get to my trailer and it’ll be like ‘you gotta do school for three hours even though its dark outside,’” Saylor said.

She needs teacher cooperation in order to stay up to date with assignments on set.

Lynn Hosking, Saylor’s drama teacher at Decatur, sympathizes with her predicament. As a former working actress, Hosking understands Saylor is “living drama class” and needs time to catch up on other things.

“We’ll be in the middle of this giant unit and she comes in and we’re already [involved] in something . . . She gets done what she can in my class so she can keep up,” Hosking said.

Even with help from teachers, for Saylor, some days are easier than others. She said that sometimes after being gone she feels “out of the loop,” while other times she leaves for a week and returns to find she understands more than her classmates.

Without self direction and independence, Saylor knows school work would not get done.

“I keep up with every assignment and talk to every teacher and take every test and its exhausting, but it’s worth it,” Saylor said.

In addition to managing school work, Saylor tries to make time for her friends when she’s not filming.

“An episode [of ‘Homeland’ takes] eight days, and we don’t find out the schedule until the day before we start,” Saylor said.

Seniors Anasha Stevens and Rhiannon Stone-Miller have known Saylor since freshman year. Both agree that Saylor’s acting schedule makes it difficult to spend time with her.

“It sucks that I can’t see Morgan as much as I used to,” Stevens said, “[but] it makes it more special to hang out with her now.”

Her friends encounter paparazzi when they’re out with Saylor, and they are amused by fans’ reactions.

“I think it’s kind of funny and weird that people are starstruck when they see her because it’s just Morgan,” Stone-Miller said.

Saylor was recently featured in “Atlanta Magazine’s” March 2013 issue. She learns how  to handle press from her more experienced co-stars. “Claire [Danes] was on a T.V.  show when she was 16, so she has a lot of wisdom about acting young,” Saylor said.
Saylor was recently featured in “Atlanta Magazine’s” March 2013 issue. She learns how
to handle press from her more experienced co-stars. “Claire [Danes] was on a T.V.
show when she was 16, so she has a lot of wisdom about acting young,” Saylor said. Photo courtesy of Christopher Stanford.
Saylor’s friends don’t think of her any differently because she’s successful. More than anything, her fame just means less time spent together, but she won’t let the distance keep them apart.

Often, Saylor drives to Atlanta from “Homeland”’s set in Charlotte, NC after a day of filming just to spend time with her friends.

“It’s hard [not being able to] hang out with kids all the time . . . The crew and the majority of the cast are adults, so I spend a lot of time with them,” Saylor said.

Saylor has a limited number of young coworkers on “Homeland”, but she is grateful for their presence.

“I have a kid brother on the show, he’s thirteen,” Saylor said. “We’re always in ‘school’ together in the trailer, and it’s nice to have someone else be there.”

Timothee Chalamet plays Finn Walden, Dana’s boyfriend during the second season of “Homeland.” Chalamet was surprised by Saylor’s normalcy, despite her success.

“I was expecting a showbiz kind of kid on the set and I got to hang with a real girl,” he said.

Chalamet not only admires Saylor’s personality, but also her acting skills.

“I think she’s really made her character on “Homeland” unique as far as television teenagers go, which you don’t see very often,” Chalamet said.

Saylor’s manager, Lainie Sorkin Becky, agrees that she is unusual.

“One of the things that is so striking about Morgan is how she holds her own with some pretty significant actors and in a very complicated part,” Sorkin Becky said.

Sorkin Becky is responsible for planning a lasting career for Saylor, and she feels that Saylor has the natural skill and motivation to make it big.

“She is one of the most capable people I’ve ever met,” Sorkin Becky said.

Saylor is already well on her way to becoming a star. This year, she attended the Golden Globes. Meeting Tom Hanks in an elevator and going to exclusive celebrity afterparties all left Saylor starstruck, but despite the bright lights, her most humbling realization was that actors are “real people.”

“I’m there with the people I’m on a show with, who I love and who are my friends and we’re hanging out and dancing and being goofy,” Saylor said.

For her, the most unbelievable part of the night was when “Homeland” won a second Golden Globe.

“The show I’m on wins awards every year and that’s really surreal,” Saylor said.

As “Homeland” gains recognition and popularity, Saylor has to deal with press more often. She said it is easier to just be herself, rather than switching on “actress mode.” The same goes for school, which Saylor feels is no different than before she was famous.

“Someone [at school] came up to me and was like, ‘I saw you on T.V.!’ I was like, ‘oh yeah I’m on T.V. every week’. . . It’s not a big deal to me,” Saylor said.

Although the present is exciting, according to her manager, the future is even more promising for Saylor.

“She did not strike me as somebody who was going to be a flash in the pan,” Sorkin Becky said.

Saylor thinks missing college is not an option. However, with more offers from directors, it may have to wait. Saylor finds true joy in acting as a career, whether she becomes rich and famous or not.

“It’s pretending, to be honest, and I find that really fun,” Saylor said.

Saylor realizes that her accomplishments so far are, as she put it, “so crazy lucky.”

“Lucky” is not the only word to describe Saylor as an actress. Acting is her passion, and because of that, she will not quit even after the director yells cut.