Well, that took long enough! Two years after it wormed its way into anxious Beltway hearts, Showtime’s terrorism drama “Homeland” made its first pilgrimage to Washington, the place that inspired it, for a red-carpet debut of its third season at the Corcoran.
“Wow! Fantastic!” gasped a starstruck man in a suit and tie standing a thrilling few feet away from Claire Danes, who plays the bi-polar CIA agent at the center of the show. Why so giddy? “I used to be on the National Security Council for Reagan.”
How had this never happened before? Despite its niche of Washington superfans — VIPs who turned out Monday night included Rep. Henry Waxman, Bret Baier, Van Jones, Bob Schieffer, Gwen Ifill and the CIA’s deputy director, Michael Morrell — “Homeland” had never done a splashy star-studded screening here.
Nor, despite its Langley and Capitol Hill backdrops, does it even film here: That’s leafy Charlotte, N.C., standing in for our fair metropolis.The show’s producers maintain they’d love to shoot in D.C. — “this show tries very hard to get the culture of Washington right,” said Showtime President David Nevins, a Bethesda native — but that the complications of motorcades, protests and a patchwork of jurisdictions here make it hard to reliably pull off production on the tight turn-around of series TV.
But all was forgiven. As if making amends for their previous distance, the cast showed up exquisitely overdressed for a Monday in Washington: Danes in an ethereal white halter gown, Morena Baccarin voluptuously pregnant in a slinky chocolate-brown frock, Damian Lewis in a suave gray suit with a blue tie that made his eyes pop, Morgan Saylor (who plays the sulky teen daughter) radiant in backless beaded black.
We’ve always been amazed by how a gorgeous red-carpet butterfly like Danes manages to physically embody such a pinched, high-strung federal-government type. Any D.C. role models?
“I had a mentor, a woman who is a case officer,” she said, who took her around the CIA and showed her the ropes. Which was not to say her mentor was a wound-up mess like “Homeland’s” Carrie Mathison: “I didn’t directly model her on anyone,” Danes said, but she was inspired by “the focus” of agents she met. (That’s about as far as the conversation went. The star’s eyes darted anxiously, her brow knitting as she stammered an apology to us about needing to go talk to her friends. Oh, god, sorry — do we bring out the Carrie Mathison in other people?)
What about you, Mandy Patinkin? Any Beltway inspirations? “I’ve been around Washington,” said the Emmy- and Tony-winner, who plays a weary-but-passionate CIA division chief. “I’ve had a lot of friends here — not in the game, but I’ve been around other games: Causes, fundraising. They are the most intense people I know — their passion and caring for the underdog.” It also helps to study the talking heads on CNN, he said. “To some degree, it’s a performance — but to another degree, the camera does not lie.”
Earlier in the day, the “Homeland” gang took a victory lap at CIA headquarters — a return visit for Danes but a first for most of the writing staff, including executive producer and showrunner Alex Gansa.
“They treated us very well,” he told us. “They were fans of the show” — but did not hesitate to let the showbiz folks know what they get wrong, he said. Such as? “The way people are able to use their cellphones everywhere” at the headquarters.
Earlier: ‘Homeland’: Does it get Washington right?, 11/15/11
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