Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Damian Lewis and the creators of the era-defining Showtime drama — now entering its eighth and final season — reveal in The Hollywood Reporter’s oral history never-told tales of a show that smashed records, captivated presidents and predicted everything from terrorist attacks to Russian election hacks.
“What keeps you up at night?” That’s the question Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa annually posed to Washington insiders before putting fingers to keyboard on a season of his Emmy-winning Showtime drama.
What began as a slick spy thriller driven by a potent sexual chemistry, courtesy of leads Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, evolved into an exposé on the greatest dangers to an America that finally had some distance from 9/11. Threats from ISIS, the surveillance state and Russian interference punctuated clandestine meetings with the intelligence community — part of a yearly writers and cast symposium in D.C. affectionately dubbed “Spy Camp.”
The series, loosely developed from an Israeli format by Gansa and longtime collaborator Howard Gordon (24), became an instant and bona fide success when it premiered in 2011 to 2.8 million viewers and unanimous critical acclaim. Boasting a murderers’ row of writers, each a showrunner at one time, the drama catapulted Showtime and studio Fox 21 to an echelon of prestige TV they previously couldn’t reach. It swept its first Emmys (with six awards total) and those first seasons had both the Obamas and Clintons soliciting screeners.
In Hollywood, efforts to capitalize on its early success were dubbed “the Homeland effect.” And despite years of would-be copycats following suit on broadcast and cable, few captured even a sliver of zeitgeist or lasted more than a single season. Indeed, Homeland briefly seized the industry’s and viewers’ attention in a way that only Game of Thrones has since — a feat that now seems virtually impossible in an era with nearly 500 scripted U.S. series airing each year.
As the drama is set to premiere its eighth and final season Feb. 9, Gansa, Gordon, Danes and those closest to the series look back on the show’s legacy and reveal previously untold stories behind their landmark hit — including the battles to hire (then let go of) Lewis, a secret call with Edward Snowden, how the 2015 Paris attacks forced everyone to reassess the series’ portrayal of the Muslim world and why the last batch of episodes, where Danes’ character is now suspected of being a double agent, echoes the first.
PART I: Former writing partners Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, reunited on the last seasons of Fox’s 24, option an Israeli format about two freed prisoners of war and recast it as an exploration of America’s place in the world a decade after 9/11.
ALEX GANSA (CO-CREATOR, SHOWRUNNER) This was unfinished business. Howard and I had always wanted to do our own show.
HOWARD GORDON (CO-CREATOR) We split up as writing partners in our 20s, during the first season of The X-Files. We stayed friends, but we just weren’t seeing a lot of each other.
GANSA And 15 years later, I was on a train on my way out of the business. Howard rescued me from literal poverty and let me come on 24 for the last two years.
GORDON In the middle of the last season, [agent] Rick Rosen, who represents [Israeli studio] Keshet, came back from a trip to Israel, calls me and says, “I have your next show.”
RICK ROSEN (AGENT) I’d gone to lunch with Avi Nir, the chairman of Keshet, and he says to me, “This writer, Gideon Raff, pitched me this show called Hatufim” — which translates to Prisoners of War. He asked, “Do you think that type of show would work in the States?” I said, “Absolutely, and I have the writer.”
GORDON It hadn’t been shot. It had only been written, so we had 10 episodes translated to English. [20th Century] Fox agreed to buy the underlying property, so we could adapt it. In Hatufim, there was no Carrie, no Saul. It was really about two soldiers.
DANA WALDEN (THEN-CHAIRMAN OF 20TH CENTURY FOX TV) Alex and Howard became taken with this idea of what happens if a prisoner of war has turned.
GANSA We completely devoted ourselves to writing the pilot for six months. But this was almost 10 years after 9/11, so there was a fear among everybody — the studio, the writers, the agencies — that no one would be interested in this story. And Dana didn’t want another 24.
GORDON But she really wanted it to go to Fox.
ROSEN Kevin [Reilly], who was running Fox at the time, walks in with the script in his hand and just tosses it on the conference table and goes, “I have no notes. It’s kind of perfect. However, if you’re going to do this here, you really need to pump up the volume on this show.” And the guys basically said, “We did that show, and we’re not doing that show again.”
WALDEN We had imagined a smooth path onto the air at [Fox], so Kevin passing was a bit of a setback. But there were so many choices for viewers, even then, that asking audiences to make a weekly serialized commitment on broadcast was getting harder and harder. NBC passed for similar reasons.
GORDON And then FX passed. They thought Damages had been problematic because it was a serialized, but David Nevins had just started at Showtime.
DAVID NEVINS (THEN-PRESIDENT OF ENTERTAINMENT AT SHOWTIME) The first couple days on the job, Rick slipped the script to me.
ROSEN That was on a Friday. On Saturday, David is on the phone saying to me, “If you give me this show, I’ll order it to pilot right now.” I said, “How can you do that? Have you already spoken to Les [Moonves]?” He said, “I have Les’ backing. I’m ordering it.”
BERT SALKE (PRESIDENT, FOX 21 TELEVISION STUDIOS) David was really aggressive and went for it in a way I don’t think anyone had ever seen him do before.
GARY LEVINE (THEN-EXEC VP ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING AT SHOWTIME) He was rabid for it.
NEVINS I had to sell Dana and [then-partner] Gary [Newman], so my pitch from the beginning was we’d get it on the air for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and Dexter, our No. 1 show at the time, would be its lead-in. But I had one big note: Carrie Mathison felt too Jack Bauer. We discussed how we were going to make her a more complicated, less reliable character.
GANSA Carrie wasn’t bipolar in that draft.
NEVINS It’s not that I didn’t want to make her reliable to the audience. I wanted to make her less reliable to the authorities.
LEVINE Our job was to make it belong on premium cable. Having just come off of 24, their spec — which was great — had a lot of plot twists. We needed the character turns to be as surprising as the plot.
GANSA They did an amazing job pushing us to make this character more vivid, but they were also attached to their model of casting movie stars who were on the tail end of their career.
NEVINS It’d be impolitic to mention names.
GANSA They were pushing for Robin Wright or Halle Berry or Maria Bello, who were all already in their 40s.
SALKE Halle Berry was the big deal, and a lot of that was being driven by the network.
GANSA By the time you’re in your mid-40s and you’ve got bipolar illness for that long, everything is calcified.
ROSEN I’d been looking for a project for Claire Danes in television for a while.
CLAIRE DANES (CARRIE MATHISON) I had just done [HBO’s Emmy-winning miniseries] Temple Grandin, and I felt charged up to do something similarly thrilling and scary. There just wasn’t much available.
NEVINS You didn’t want to stop and think too much about the math of how old she was on 9/11 , but you also don’t question the range of Claire Danes, so that was not a hard call.
GORDON And we had called the character Claire in the first 16 drafts.
DANES I still don’t quite know how to take that.
GANSA I had seen Sunday in the Park With George in the ’80s with Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, and it changed my life. But Mandy had such a sterling reputation …
LEVINE Mandy had balked at every other show he’s ever been on. If he had a long-term contract, he would get antsy and bail — including on one of ours, Dead Like Me.
MANDY PATINKIN (SAUL BERENSON) I thought they were all crazy to hire me, given my track record. I never thought I’d work in television again after my last experience [on Criminal Minds]. [Disturbed by the CBS show’s content, he went AWOL after its second season.]
SALKE He’s a beautiful soul. But, yes, I personally got a number of very firm calls asking, “Do you know what you’re getting into?”
LEVINE We wanted him in the role, so we decided not to offer him a long-term contract, just a two-year deal in hopes that he would love it enough to keep re-upping.
PATINKIN They offered me a one-year contract. It’s the only way I’d do it. But from day one, I’d never been happier on a film or television job — except maybe The Princess Bride.
DANES When Mandy and I did the read-through for the pilot, the chemistry was so strong, so immediate, I was really startled by it. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to my best friend’s dad.
GANSA There was the Claire battle, the Mandy battle and then the Damian Lewis battle. There was tremendous resistance to casting him as Brody.
SALKE Alex initially pushed for Damian, but people didn’t see it. Life, on NBC, had just finished. It wasn’t everyone’s favorite show.
DAMIAN LEWIS (NICHOLAS BRODY) Life was terrific, but it was kiboshed by the writers strike. After that, I was told I looked like a guy who’d led a show that only lasted two seasons.
DANES They were thinking of somebody else who I didn’t think was right for it.
GANSA Ryan Phillippe came up. Also Kyle Chandler …
GORDON Then I flew to New York on a red-eye to meet Alessandro Nivola [A Most Violent Year], who famously said no to everything. He turned down Dexter.
GANSA Howard failed that mission [with Nivola], so we were three weeks away from shooting the pilot, and we did not have a Brody yet — and we’re still in the “Damian Lewis will never play this role, please do not bring him up ever again” phase.
NEVINS I didn’t really know Damian.
GANSA Then I remembered [pilot director] Michael Cuesta had told me to watch this movie Damian did called Keane.
LEWIS About five people saw it, but it was the best reviewed movie I’ve ever been in.
GORDON Alex called me at 10:30 that night and told me I had to watch it. I was blown away.
GANSA The next morning we sent it to all the people who said, “This guy is a dead issue,” and, to their credit, they watched it and said, “This is the guy.” Also, we had nobody else …
MICHAEL CUESTA (DIRECTOR-PRODUCER) I came on board to direct the pilot when Ben Affleck fell out. The shoot in Charlotte went smoothly, but for the part in Israel I’d scouted Barta’a on the West Bank for this big traffic jam [scene]. We closed the street and apparently paid off merchants on the wrong side of the street. Fights broke out. People picked up rocks. We got the hell out.
GANSA You start a pilot not knowing whether you have a show or not. But on the second or third day, it’s freezing cold and I’m watching Claire and Mandy in their very first scene together on the monitor — wondering if we’re going to believe this mentor/protege relationship or even buy them as CIA officers. Within the first 20 seconds, I knew we had a show.
CUESTA Then Osama bin Laden was killed, and it was clear we were getting a series pickup.
PART II: Homeland marks Showtime’s most watched premiere in nearly a decade with 2.8 million viewers. A hit in Hollywood and Washington, it’s suddenly the most talked-about show in America, but the battle over what to do with Lewis’ character casts a pall over the second and third seasons.
NEVINS It was a very well-made pilot, but I didn’t have much expectation other than knowing the show was good.
MEREDITH STIEHM (WRITER) They did not have a female writer, so I came on after the fourth episode. It was just Alex, Howard, Chip Johannessen [Dexter], Henry Bromell [Brotherhood], Alex Cary [Lie to Me] and me that first season.
SALKE Each of them had been showrunners. It began the trend of all-star writing staffs.
STIEHM Some people called it a murderers’ row, but I thought we were more of a really cool band that lasted two years.
GANSA After the reviews, we took over the entertainment world for a time. Steven Spielberg would call for DVDs.
WALDEN People in the highest levels of government, of entertainment, of business in general, were calling. Within a two-week period, the Obama administration and Secretary Clinton’s office called for early cuts of Homeland. The number of times in my career that has happened would be exactly one.
DANES Three episodes in, people were literally running out of stores, charging me with enthusiasm. I’d never experienced that before. My So-Called Life had this amazingly rich afterlife, but there wasn’t that appreciation as it was airing.
GANSA Damian went to the White House.
LEWIS Donald Trump and others on the right were peddling this idea that Obama was born in Kenya, so I had this season-one DVD and, tongue in cheek, I wrote him a note.
GANSA It read, “From one Muslim to another.”
LEWIS It was a very British thing to do, but it festered. Two weeks later, I emailed [White House Press Secretary] Jay Carney, “Please tell me that the president got my joke!” Jay said, “Yeah, he got it. Everything’s cool.”
ROSEN I was at some ridiculous dinner where Obama goes from table to table, and his aide is whispering in his ear who everyone is. When he gets to me, Obama looks at me and goes, “You’re involved in Homeland? On Saturdays, Michelle goes to play tennis with the girls and I tell her I’m going down to the office to work. What I’m really doing is watching Homeland DVDs.”
LEVINE A meeting was arranged between the cast, the network and the CIA at Langley. They confiscated our cellphones, and our whole team is just sitting there across from maybe 50 CIA agents.
NEVINS John Brennan, who was running the CIA at the time, came out in the middle and says, “I don’t know what your show is, but I know it matters to my people.”
LEVINE Then he grabbed Mandy and said, “Hey, do you want to see your office?”
GANSA They talked about how similar our professions were — it’s a lot of acting, storytelling and feigned intimacy.
DANES There were parodies on Saturday Night Live and in MAD magazine. That’s a real sign that you’ve made it, getting roasted. There was a porn made about us.
NEVINS One of the most memorable experiences coming out of the show was that first Emmy night.
WALDEN I was so overwhelmed that night. I just kept hearing them name the show.
GANSA It was very funny seeing those guys [John Landgraf and Kevin Reilly] at the Emmys that year. They just looked at me and shook their heads.
SALKE Everybody bemoans turning down Homeland — no one more than Kevin Reilly.
ROSEN My dear friends at HBO were not entirely pleased with me, to put it very mildly, that they didn’t get a shot.
PATINKIN I had never seen anything like that first season. But nothing is ever like the first time. It’s never that good again. The art of living is trying to keep it good enough.
NEVINS Brody was intended to be just a few episodes — but, from the very first script, I said no. We started tinkering with the relationship.
GANSA It was so clear after the first season that there was still story to tell. And the relationship between the two of them in the most unexpected way had become front and center.
SALKE You didn’t know if you’re watching for Brody or Carrie, but you were definitely watching for both of them. It was so fucking compelling.
GORDON Chemistry, whatever that is, they had it.
LEWIS My understanding was always two years. Halfway through season two, having not explicitly said they were killing Brody, they gave Nevins the breakdown: “And this is when Brody dies.” Nevins was like, “No, no, no. Brody’s not dying.”
GANSA I don’t know that they were having conversations. They were just on their knees, begging not to get rid of Damian.
WALDEN They contemplated every conceivable scenario of what happens to the show with him, what happens to the show without him.
CHIP JOHANNESSEN (WRITER) At that point, [keeping him] was not a decision we made. It was a decision that was made for us and we adapted to it.
LEWIS When the critics started saying the show lost its port, I think it’s because the guys had to reimagine and rewrite it just to keep me going.
NEVINS We got hammered on things that we didn’t deserve to be hammered on.
GANSA By season three, the story was running out of steam.
PATINKIN I think they kept the Brody story going a year too long.
LEWIS I wasn’t in every episode that last season, and that confused people. Brody was a problem. You couldn’t keep flip-flopping. “Are they going to kill each other or fuck each other?” was interesting for a while.
DANES We always knew that that was a finite relationship.
GORDON But we’d baked him into the fabric of the thing.
WALDEN Finally losing Brody, that conversation made me a little sick to my stomach.
GANSA There would have been something braver about ending his story sooner. But season three proved so difficult on so many fronts. Henry Bromell died [of a heart attack in 2013], and we were getting rid of Damian even though he and Claire had the most incredible thing.
DANES Alex is actually a really good surfer, which is kind of the best metaphor for television. You’re riding this wave, and you don’t really know where it’s going to take you exactly.
GANSA The praise and the criticism are both overstated. We shouldn’t have gotten that much praise in the beginning. And where we got criticism, from people who didn’t want to watch the show after Brody died or from whatever backlash we had when Quinn [Rupert Friend] died, it’s because people start becoming proprietary about the characters once you’ve been on the air long enough.
RUPERT FRIEND (PETER QUINN) If I remember right, he’d been gassed and in a coma. Alex said, “Well, this has been great, thanks a lot. Bye.” Then, a year later, I got an equally matter-of-fact, “Actually, you’re not dead.” Then he really died.
JOHANNESSEN It took me a while to warm up to Rupert …
GANSA There was a lot happening behind the scenes that I’m not at liberty to share.
JOHANNESSEN But by the time he is apparently dead at the end of season five, we all adored him. Bringing him back [briefly] in season six was driven by some unfinished stuff between Quinn and Carrie.
SALKE There are viewers, especially women, who liked Quinn more than Brody.
FRIEND Lesli Linka Glatter [director/producer] once told me he’s kind of a perfect man — to which I said, “Lesli, he kills people for money.”
DANES A lot of people died on this show, especially if they ever made out with Carrie Mathison.
PART III: Without Lewis, Homeland re-centers on Danes’ erratic case officer and moves production abroad to Berlin and Cape Town (subbing for Pakistan), as the series becomes more informed by meetings with A-list intelligence experts.
GANSA We were always very interested in what was being said and discussed in the halls of power in Washington, not just at the CIA but the White House, the State Department and in the Washington Post press room. That began to inform us more after season three. Without Brody, we had to pick an idea to talk about over a season. That’s when Spy Camp became really important.
STIEHM The writers would meet in January, knowing we had to shoot by June, but we never knew what the story was going to be. D.C. was really a fishing expedition.
JOHN MCGAFFIN (FORMER CIA OFFICER) Henry Bromell, my cousin, had started calling me and asking, “John, what would happen if …?” After Henry died, Alex called and asked if I’d still be willing to help out.
GORDON We’d already been turned down by the military, which was so cooperative on 24. They wanted nothing to do with a show about a soldier who came home a terrorist. We found that out when Michael Klick, one of our producers, needed some sort of helicopter or something — and they were like, “No fucking way.”
MCGAFFIN The show was greatly popular with intelligence officials, and they became increasingly eager to help us. So I made arrangements with the City Tavern Club, one of the oldest private clubs in Georgetown that a lot of former CIA people frequent, that we would take over the top floor for a week.
GANSA The day would start at 8 a.m., and it would often end after 10 p.m. It was this old place with rickety chairs and the same food all the time.
GORDON Oh God, it’s so disgusting … soggy. But the level of people you would not believe — and they’d come for two hours, two intense hours.
MCGAFFIN Former CIA people, ambassadors, ex-military, journalists, intelligence officers of all kinds would sit down with the writers, Lesli, Alex, Howard, Mandy and Claire. And every source who came in, I told them they were there to answer this question: “What are the national security issues likely to bite the security establishment in the ass over the coming year?”
GANSA The first thing we got was a litany of everything we got wrong: “We don’t talk on our cellphones. We don’t operate on American soil. Carrie would have to take blood tests, so the medication would come up.” But we got the spirit right, and that’s what they appreciated.
PATINKIN Every year, every individual echoed the same concerns, and it really started setting the tone for each season.
DANES It was an avalanche of unsettling information.
LESLI LINKA GLATTER (DIRECTOR/PRODUCER) We had Gen. Michael Hayden, the guy in the Iraq War doing rendition, black sites and enhanced torture techniques — so, to me, he was the devil — booked back-to-back with Dana Priest, who won the Pulitzer Prize for writing the book that exposed rendition, black sites and enhanced torture techniques.
GANSA We had to figure out a way to usher Hayden down one set of stairs and Priest up another set of stairs because you didn’t want them to run into each other. There was so much hostility.
MCGAFFIN We arranged a Skype call once with two senior Mossad officers in Tel Aviv and had a long discussion about spy work with Iranians.
GLATTER And any time we had a new actor who played a spy, Alex and I talked to them about what it means to be a spy. We had this one guy, and we’re going on and on, and he interrupts and says, “I’m so sorry, I really need to stop you. I was in Mossad.”
GANSA Bart Gellman, this Pulitzer Prize winner who wrote the Cheney book [Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency], told me he was going to bring a guest. He shows up with his laptop, sets it up, dials a number or whatever, and the next thing we know, we’re talking to Ed Snowden in Moscow. Very odd guy. But this is before he was doing any talking to anybody.
PATINKIN You knew everyone at the CIA, the FBI and the GRU in Russia were listening in. You just knew it. I tried my butt off to get him to talk about personal stuff, but we couldn’t budge him from his soapbox.
MCGAFFIN I didn’t want to be identified, so I kept sliding Alex notes. I had him say, “There’s a senior intelligence officer here, and he thinks he knows what’s going to happen to you.” Snowden is all, “What do you mean?” And I made Alex say, “Sooner or later, when they’ve gotten everything out of you, Putin is going to have you killed and make it look like the Americans did it.” I hope he didn’t sleep for weeks.
GLATTER To make sure I got shoots correct, I looked up the most incendiary videos — public hangings in Tehran, how to emigrate to ISIS, jihadi videos, beheadings. And I downloaded it on my home computer, like an idiot, and now I get strip searched every time I go through Heathrow.
MCGAFFIN Another Spy Camp, I told everybody coming that their job was to make the writers understand how serious the threat of Russian election interference was. We did a whole season [season six] about that before anyone was talking about it.
GLATTER That’s when I thought we jumped the shark. Then, of course, by the time we were airing it, that’s exactly what was going on in the news.
GANSA When Trump was elected, all of the sudden we didn’t have to bring these people in through separate entrances. The press and the “deep state,” if you want to call it that, were both really freaked out by this president.
GLATTER Our advisers said that every president-elect who comes in for their first intelligence briefing leaves overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. They thought they understood what was going on in the world, but when you’re told what’s happening on a classified level, they realize how big the job is. That did not happen with Trump.
JOHANNESSEN There was all of this Trump stuff we heard about — Russian connections, the laundering of money into his places in Florida. Some of it became public during the [James] Comey stuff, but a lot of it didn’t, and you’re sitting there wondering, “Why not?”
GANSA One thing that we learned is that you keep American foreign policy consistent from one administration to the next. The worst thing you can do is to backtrack, like to say no to the Climate Change Agreement or the Iran treaty. That is anathema for the intelligence community because it rocks the boat. It makes nobody trust us abroad.
PART IV: Accused of peddling Islamophobia throughout its run, several events during production of the fifth season prompt Gansa and company to take a look at their portrayal of the Muslim world.
GANSA During season five, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to a panicked call from Germany. We’d been punched by a bunch of German-Muslim artists we’d hired to do the graffiti for our refugee camp set. Some of it, in Arabic, said stuff like “Homeland is racist” and “Homeland is a watermelon.”
GORDON There was a central irony [to that response]. In the reductive way that people would say 24 was just executing talking points for George W. Bush and Roger Ailes, a similarly reductive assessment of Homeland is that it’s an answer, an apology or more nuanced story — which it is.
GANSA I thought, “This is the greatest thing that could have happened. We are now going to become the center of a conversation about how America’s power is being discussed.”
GORDON We did go to great lengths to portray Muslim characters who had a broad range of views about the world.
PATINKIN That’s been uncomfortable for all of us, the othering aspect.
GANSA Then the worst thing that could have possibly happened did. I was on the plane, going to Germany to film a terrorist attack on a Berlin train station when the  Paris attacks happened. That was the lowest point of the show for me.
DANES There was always some parallel like that — but the bombings and shootings in Paris, that’s what made me jumpy. I didn’t know that were were always going to be mirroring current events so directly, that that would be such a part of the DNA of the show.
GANSA So it’s just days later, and we were down in this abandoned subway with a bunch of Muslim actors wondering what the fuck we were doing.
GLATTER We talked about it, had a moment for the people who had been lost. It was very important for everyone to be aware and take care of one another.
GANSA Because the actors were like, “Why are we doing this? Are we perpetrating the stereotypes?” Even though the hero of that particular story was a Muslim guy who stopped the attack, it was happening right next door, and it was still so raw.
PATINKIN I’m not an idiot. I know terrorism and violence sells. That’s never going to change. I just want to bring the narrative of the polar opposite to at least move to a halfway point.
GANSA If I had it to do all over again, knowing what had happened in Paris, we would’ve told a different story — but we were at a point where there was no turning back. But it did really influence the next three seasons because we came back to the States.
GORDON And if anything, you showed the rot inside [America] from that hyper correction.
PATINKIN This is a novel, this television series. Certainly, there are chapters that aren’t helpful to one group or another — and there was pushback on that, to say the least. But there was also a lot of care taken to make other people the bad guys — white guys, the government, the CIA. But they didn’t get as much attention as the terrorists.
GANSA We’re now deconstructing the authorship of things. Sometimes, I’m like, “Do we have the right to write this?” I really don’t know. But if we started this show today…
GORDON Oh, we’d be pilloried! Pilloried!
PART V: Despite pleas from Showtime to continue, producers agree to an endgame for Homeland with a three-season renewal in 2016. After several delays, in part because of Danes’ pregnancy and a lengthy Morocco shoot, the final season sends the story back to the Middle East.
GORDON Ending the show? It was a very short conversation.
NEVINS It was a triangular negotiation between what the producers wanted, what the studio wanted and what we wanted. Alex really wanted to write to an end point.
GANSA The economics of it were so strong that we all decided we could tell three more seasons. And frankly, the advent of Donald Trump really gave us fresh wind in our sails.
SALKE The show demanded money based on how big of a production it became. [In its final season, Homeland‘s budget swelled to more than double the first season’s $3 million per-episode price tag. Danes alone was making north of $500,000 an episode.] When Alex and Howard want to shoot the final season in the Middle East, you’re not doing it in Barstow. You’re going to Morocco.
GANSA We thought we’d go and tell one last story about Carrie Mathison doing what she was trained to do, serve as a case officer overseas. So, we went back abroad one more time.
GLATTER We were told we had full Moroccan military support. So, in one scene we had two C130 [aircrafts] and a bunch of Humvees and helicopters as set dressing. All of a sudden, we get a bill for $230,000.
DANES We actually did the last days in Northridge, California. So the last shot, we’re filming in L.A. [in October] with raging fires. We should not have been filming, but we didn’t have a choice. The crew was wearing masks. Of course, we’re ending this show in an inferno.
GANSA Really, the entire run of the show has asked, “Did America overreact to 9/11? Did we compromise our values? Did we overreach?” I don’t think the world has found an answer.
DANES We were so much about reflecting what was happening, politically, in the moment. How that ages, how we perceived it and what that exposes, in 10 years’ time, will be compelling to see.
NEVINS You can’t get to a finale of a long-running show without answering the dreaded [spinoff] question …
GANSA Every time Howard brings up doing more, I want to punch him.
GORDON I’m really just doing it to irritate him, but never say never.
GANSA Howard gave his 40s to 24. I gave my 50s to Homeland. And it got to a point where everyone wants to do something different.
DANES I need this last season released into the world before it really ends for me, and then I’m sure I’ll surface eventually. It’s going to be a long process of seeing who I am as an actor out of this show — which has defined me for so long. I don’t know where to start, but I should play somebody decidedly sane.
Who’s Who at Homeland‘s “Spy Camp”
The helpful experts — at least those who can be revealed — included generals, Pulitzer winners and an exiled whistleblower
A. ELIZABETH JONES
A foreign service officer for more than 35 years, Jones worked for the State Department in Kabul, Cairo, Amman, Baghdad and Berlin. “Watching the impeachment hearings,” says Glatter, “she’d literally be sitting right there in the gallery. Oh, that’s Beth.”
STANLEY A. MCCHRYSTAL
A retired Army general who was once the head of the Joint Special Operations Command, at one point McChrystal was responsible for leading all U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He now teaches international relations at Yale University.
The longtime Washington Post correspondent has two Pulitzer Prizes, including one for her beat reporting on the more incendiary features of the U.S. government’s counterterrorism campaign abroad — including brutal interrogation techniques.
Washington Post writer Bart Gellman, who ran point on coverage of Snowden’s release of top-secret documents, put the exiled former NSA contractor on an hours-long Spy Camp call before he appeared in a documentary or started giving interviews.
Overseeing the NSA’s creation of domestic wiretaps during the George W. Bush administration, among other controversial moves, the onetime CIA director has since distanced himself from many conservative allies with his Trump criticism.
Homeland: By the Numbers
7M: Weekly audience for its most watched season, No. 3, across platforms
200+: Territories across the globe that have licensed the series
8: Emmy Wins, including two for Danes, out of 39 nominations
6: Countries where the series filmed over its eight-season run
3: AFI Awards for best television program (2011, 2012 and 2015)
1: Peabody Award for the series’ first season in 2011
This story first appeared in the Jan. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.