Sunday, 4 March 2012

Homeland: Key points from an interview with its writers and creators Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa

Clare Danes was first choice to play Carrie
Howard: Claire Danes was our first choice from the moment we sat down to write the pilot. She had just appeared in Temple Grandin and we were blown away by her performance. We even named the character Claire in our first draft. As much as Alex and I were fans of Damian's from Band of Brothers, he became our first choice when we saw him in an independent movie called Keane.

'As the season unfolds, we'll learn how his eight years in captivity changed him'
Carrie has an extraordinary passion for life; her mental illness gives her an unparallelled intuition and appetite. But the highs give way to crippling lows, and that can be an intensely lonely experience. Brody trained as a sniper. He's focused. He has incredible will. He's survived an experience that would break most people. He's also a soldier with a strong sense of duty and justice. As the season unfolds, we'll learn how his eight years in captivity changed him, or just uncovered something he always carried inside him. Carrie and Brody are a great match in this season-long cat and mouse game. Each harbours secrets. And each understands the other in a way that no one else can. They have an intense connection - despite the fact that they might have radically opposing goals.

On how long the 'is he/isn't he' a spy storyline might last
Howard: This is a very, very interesting narrative experience. We've all discussed it. The first conversation we had with Damian and Claire was, how long can we keep the "is he or isn't he" of it alive without feeling like we're annoying the audience. And I think we have found a really satisfying way to tell that story where this uncertainty is actually compelling. And the answer is that we hope we answer those questions at the right time.

'Plotlines are authentic when the characters are authentic'
Howard: Alex and I have very different processes when it comes to [making plotlines authentic]. Alex tends to do a lot of research, and I tend not to because I'm lazy and I prefer to keep my imagination unencumbered by the facts - and usually find myself able to retrofit reality to what I need the characters to do. I find that plotlines are authentic when the characters are authentic - which is to say, act like people you recognise.

: At the writers' office, we do a significant amount of research in order to get the details right - and given the subject matter, it wouldn't be a surprise to find that we'd been flagged for the terrorist watch list. We're very lucky to have a few official consultants, including a contact at the CIA and the representatives of Muslims On Screen & Television. We even have an imam on set to work with non-Muslim actors to perfect their salat prayer rituals. But, as Howard says, the authenticity of the characters comes first.

Charlotte in North Carolina is doubling as Washington DC
Howard: The production is set in Charlotte, North Carolina, which will double as Washington DC and Virginia. For the pilot, we were able to film in Israel, which doubled as Baghdad. We hope we'll have the chance in the future to do some more remote shooting in that part of the world.

Homeland allows them to explore some of the same themes that are in 24 but in a 'more nuanced way'
Howard: [Homeand] felt like an opportunity to explore some of the same themes which we are still grappling with ten years after 9/11 - national security versus civil liberties, the nature of real threats versus imagined threats which we create out of our fear - but in a more nuanced way than we would ever achieve in the relentless pedal-to-the-metal narrative that 24 required. And while 24 was born and came of age in the shadow of 9/11, so much has changed in the world since then, the complexities and tangled consequences of our military actions being one of them, and Homeland lives in this far more complex world we now find ourselves trying to navigate as a nation.

But 24 and Homeland are also 'very different'
Howard: Although the real-time format of 24 gave it a certain energy and a seeming realism, the fact that it told a story inside the course of a single day inevitably made it embrace improbabilities. So the idea of exploring themes like national security, terrorism and politics was subverted to the rigorous requirements of an almost impossible format. Because Homeland isn't bound by the real-time format, we're able to dramatise relationships and story arcs that take place over a longer time period, which has given us an opportunity to explore some of the same themes in a deeper and more nuanced way.

The heart of the show 'is psychcological'
Alex: We also wanted to address the experience of veterans. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are arguably the longest wars in U.S. history. Members of the armed forces are struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress and physical disabilities in record numbers. How will their experiences overseas find a context once these soldiers are back home? Brody's journey is a way to ask that question in depth. What was he was fighting for? Just what are the values of his homeland? "24" existed in a real post 9/11 world. And Jack was an action hero. In response to that, ten years later, things have become deeper and more complex. And the heart of this show is really psychological, how America is dealing with that ten year period. And now it's post Osama bin Laden.

Related stories:
- Homeland episode 1: It's all in the finger tapping, probably
- Homeland episode 2: Who can we trust, and is that Lynne doomed or what?
- Homeland: Key points from an interview with its writers and creators Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa
- Homeland: Well that'll teach her to take her men-folk back to the country cabin, won't it

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