The first season of the Showtime drama series Homeland was both critically acclaimed and a hit among viewers, leaving everyone intrigued to see what direction Season 2 would take. Having seen the compelling first episode back, premiering on September 30th, I can say that it’s well worth the wait. The series stars Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Morena Baccarin, Mandy Patinkin and David Harewood.
While at the Showtime portion of the TCA Press Tour, executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon talked about the evolution of the story for Season 2, how important it was for Carrie (Danes) to be elated to be back in the intelligence game, the experience of shooting in Israel, how reality does affect the storytelling, and how the show is ultimately the character study of a man (Lewis) very damaged by his experience as a prisoner of war and how that plays into his reintegration back into his life in America. Gordon also gave yet another update about the possibility of the 24 movie ever happening. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Question: How long did you guys work on coming up with the idea for getting Carrie (Claire Danes) back working with intelligence? Were there any ideas that you thought of, that didn’t actually work?
ALEX GANSA: I’d say we thought of a lot of things, before we settled on what we ultimately came up with. One of the bad ideas was Carrie and Virgil working as private investigators.
HOWARD GORDON: There were not that many. We knew we had to wind Carrie up and get her back in the saddle, but it’s not that simple. She assures them that she understands that this is, by no means, a permanent situation. There’s more to come, on that story.
How important was it to you guys to have hints of Carrie being really elated to be back in the game, injected into the first episode of Season 2?
GANSA: Well, that was the conception of the entire episode. The episode is titled “The Smile,” which is exactly that last moment with Carrie. The whole episode was constructed around someone who was very reluctant and reticent to get back involved. She’s in a much more stable place, emotionally, as the beneficiary of six months of psychiatric care and professional help for a condition that she’s never been treated for before. So, there was this real reluctance to get back in the field, yet a pull to do the work. And then, when she finds herself there, it invigorates her and she gets high on the action. So, the whole episode was constructed around that particular moment.
What countries will you be going to, during this season?
GORDON: We shot huge portions of the first two episodes in Israel, doubling it as Beirut. We talked about possibly going further afield, to Afghanistan or Pakistan, but I think we’re going to stay local for now.
What was it like to film in Israel, knowing that these kinds of stories are part of their day-to-day lives?
GORDON: We shot a much smaller portion of it in a town that’s bisected by the ‘67 border, with all Israeli Arabs. We had shut down the street from merchants whose livelihood depended on foot traffic, and we thought we had paid them and distributed the appropriate funds to all the merchants. Apparently, that didn’t happen, so a fight broke out and Claire was hastened out of there.
GANSA: I was with the Israeli producer as we were paying a significant amount of money to get our equipment off the street and back to safety. It was an adventure.
GORDON: Everyone got their money, though, and it was a happy ending.
Did the idea to do this show originally come about because of the current climate with terrorism? Is it a good idea to give out so much information on Homeland Security, and is there a Homeland Security consultant working on the show?
GORDON: Well, the show was based on an Israeli show called Hatufim, or Prisoners of War. Alex and I did a fair bit of invention from that series, but it really was a way to examine some of the things that we were very interested in, as writers and as people. Ten years after 9/11, what do we have to be afraid of? Who should we be afraid of? What’s the price of national security for our citizens, in exchange for giving up certain rights? Those were the ideas, and then the characters of Brody (Damian Lewis) and Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) help dramatize those things.
Knowing that there are people who might believe that the scenario you’re depicting is possible, does that affect your storytelling at all, as far as who is depicted as a villain and how you tell these stories?
GANSA: Well, it absolutely affects it. We do everything we can, in terms of writing and shooting the scripts, to make this thing feel believable. Whether that has some sort of negative political consequence in the country, I don’t think so, only because we also try, as best we can, to ask the questions rather than answer them. So, it is possible that a marine coming home might harbor some resentment against the United States. It’s probably a very, very distant possibility, but it is this possibility that we’re exploring, in this narrative. If there’s one thing that we’ve tried hard to do, across all our characters, it’s to give them depth and complexity and rationale for behaving the way that they do, so that people will maybe understand a different point of view, even though they may disagree with how that point of view translates into action.
Do you think this show ultimately helps alleviate fears?
GANSA: I think the show does explore the question about how justified our fears are, and if the lengths we’re going to, to protect ourselves and make ourselves safe, are warranted. I don’t know the answers myself, but it is interesting that the amount of surveillance that is going on right now, in the United States, is so pervasive. Are our civil liberties being abrogated somehow, in service to our safety? That’s a question that the show asks.
Is there a similar theme this season, with the limitation of our institutions and our capabilities?
GANSA: I think it’s less about limitations. This season has veered away from that. In our second year, we’re really going to explore the relationship between Carrie and Brody, and how that moves beyond their own personal limitations and their own relationship, and becomes less global and more personal.
Brody’s storyline this season has a lot of dovetailing with The Manchurian Candidate, which this show has been compared to a lot. How do you play in that arena without directly overlapping?
GANSA: Well, there’s an antecedent to The Manchurian Candidate. The show has never been about Brody being brainwashed, or some trigger password that’s going to suddenly turn him. The show has been very rooted. It’s less The Manchurian Candidate, and more a character study of a man very damaged by his experience as a prisoner of war, and how that ports into his reintegration back into his life in America.
Howard, Kiefer Sutherland said recently that you’re looking at 2013 now to shoot the 24 movie, but are your intensive duties on this show going to push that back even further?
GORDON: Things went quiet in a way that I thought didn’t bode well for that, but there’s been some stirrings again, just recently. I think it’s still something that everyone is gunning for. As to whether my duties on the show will impede that, not at all. There’s a script that’s been written, and I think there are going to be more issues about the director and Kiefer’s schedule on Touch.