A roundup of articles covering this morning’s TCA press tour.
In Homeland, which presented a panel at TCA press tour this morning, the question is whether the bad guy is in fact a bad guy at all.
In the pilot, an intelligence tip leads to the rescue of an American POW in Iraq (Damian Lewis) who has been held captive for years. Everyone celebrates, except one analyst (Claire Danes) who suspects that the tip came too conveniently, and sees signs that he may be a terrorist sleeper agent. She may be right (there are inconsistencies in his story) and she may be wrong (she has a history of single-mindedly pursuing her own theories and, we learn, of mental illness that may be impairing her judgment).
The pilot screened for critics, is taut, well-performed and psychologically fascinating. But, as Gordon notes, after the killing of bin Laden, there was a flash of worry that a story about a possible al Qaeda plant might be dated. In the end, he decided, bin Laden’s elimination closed the chapter on one section of American history–call it the 24 chapter–and began another one, whose questions and ambiguities he hopes Homeland will address. One issue informing Homeland, he said, is “What was the price of 9/11 to this country?”
The show is less action-focused than 24, though it looks faster-moving than the somewhat comparably-themed Rubicon (whose producer, Henry Bromell, is now a writer for Homeland). But being on Showtime, it’s more raw in terms of language and violence, including several hard-to-take torture flashbacks involving Lewis. “I’ve been hung upside down,” said Lewis, on the challenge of playing these scenes. “I was being peed on three days ago.”
Homeland introduces a lot of “what if” scenarios right off the bat in the pilot, but producers promist that all of the intrigue will pay off by the end of the thirteen episode run of the first season.
Gansa explained that although a person may be turned (and he wasn’t necessarily confirming that Lewis’ character had), “they aren’t a terrorist until they follow through with an act.” Gansa pointed out that the drama and the interest lies in the internal struggle of a man who fought for his country so hard and was then tortured into not only giving up information about his intel but also working against them.
Both Lewis and Danes are playing very damaged characters, though for separate reasons. They both served in various capacities, and she has a mental illness, but he spent years of time being tortured. It is the “collision” of their characters that makes Homeland tick.
“It’s a cat and mouse game, and it’s not necessarily whether or not she’s right but how it affects [the characters],” Gansa pointed out. …
Television allows for character back story to be doled out in little bits and pieces, as well, and for Lewis, one of the major developments will be flashing backs to moments of torture to better understand not only what he went through in the moment but also how it still affects him now that he’s “home.”
“It feeds the psychology of the piece,” Lewis shared. “I really enjoyed [the torture scenes]. I enjoy how it informs the character going forward.”
Howard Gordon, longtime executive producer of “24,” executive produces “Homeland,” which he said asks the question, what’s the price of 9/11 to the country?
Producers promised the question of whether or not the returning soldier is or is not a terrorist will be answered by the end of the 13-episode first season.
“How long can we keep the ‘is he or isn’t he?’ of it alive without feeling like we’re jerking [around] the audience,” Gordon said. “We have found a satisfying way to tell the story in a way that this uncertainty is compelling and we hope we answer this in the right amount of time.”
“We’re not ‘The Killing,'” Gansa assured, adding that the entire cast, including Lewis, will be back if “Homeland” is renewed for a second season.
“An issue we wanted to explore was even if you are turned, you’re not really a terrorist until you commit an act of terrorism,” Gansa said. “You have to resolve in your own mind whether or not you’ll go through with what you’ve been asked to do.”
Lewis talked about the torture scenes his character has to endure in flashback, mentioning that he’s already been beaten with a club, hung upside down, and peed on, but don’t worry about him: “I don’t mind too much filming that stuff, oddly.” He believes that the scenes are “as real and as brutal as those things are,” and that they’re not for shock value, but to show the psychological state of the character. He’s been broken down because “torture feeds the psychology of the piece. . . so it’s important to show it.” Danes joked that after Lewis films the scenes “Occasionally I’ll see him at the craft service table looking very, very distressed.”
Indeed, from a brief clip shown this morning, Homeland promises to be one of the most intense exercises about the war on terror yet to emerge in any medium. Starring Claire Danes as a CIA officer and Damian Lewis as an imprisoned American soldier, the show features wrenching depictions of torture on Lewis’ ultimately rescued character. “I oddly enjoyed it,” said Lewis, a Brit. “Is that wrong? I’d be two hours in makeup and then lay down on the gritty, sandy, dirty, stony floor of some warehouse just outside Charlotte, North Carolina to have a guy pee on me…I’ve been hung upside-down, beaten in the head…We’re keeping it as real and brutal as these things are.”
Unsurprisingly, given Gordon’s 24 background, Lewis will be subjected to lots of brutal torture scenes. But the British actor said he’s had plenty of experience. “I have a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old. It’s like a morning getting up and dealing with the fact of that,” Lewis joked. “I was being peed on only three mornings ago. I’m kind of enjoying this.”