BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. – Showtime’s terrorism drama “Homeland” is moving forward from a critically debatable season last year that left some of its viewers jaded and the show out of the running in the prestigious best drama category when this year’s Emmy nominations were announced earlier this month.
Facing questions from reporters here at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour on Friday, “Homeland’s” executive producers stood by their twisty-turny storylines thus far and put a positive spin on season 4, which will premiere Sunday, Oct. 5.
What’s coming this year sounds a whole lot like a reboot. (Stop reading if you haven’t watched season 3 yet and still plan to – or else you’ll get major spoilage.)
As we know from last season’s finale, Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is dead. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes, up for her third Emmy for the show) is pregnant with his child. The future for Saul Berenson (the also-Emmy-nominated Mandy Patinkin) at the CIA was left in doubt.
Notes on season 4 …
• Carrie is now an agent based in Islamabad, Pakistan. How is this possible, you might ask, after all her emotional breakdowns, derelictions of duty, duplicitous hospitalizations, etc.? “Emotionally, she has stabilized,” said executive producer/writer Meredith Stiehm. “She’s going into this season very steady. … I think there are some people who are so talented you forgive past deeds.”
• Saul is now a private contractor.
• “Life of Pi” star Suraj Sharma joins the cast; he’s the hot new thing in Carrie’s life.
• Still with us: Agent Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend); and analyst Fara Sherazi (Nazanin Boniadi).
• The role of Islamabad will be played by Cape Town, South Africa, a location that provides a suitable “patina of foreign-ness,” executive producer Alexander Cary said. (Reporters were shown a greeting video from Danes and Patinkin, taped on the show’s set.)
• For a short minute, the producers considered setting and filming the show in Israel. Given the recent news, showrunner Alex Gansa said he’s glad they didn’t. It’s not that the show is afraid of controversy or topical sticky wickets, but they don’t seek it out, either. When “Homeland” closely mirrors world events, Stiehm said, “It feels like you’re writing about something that matters.”
• With Brody gone, so are all the Brody-specific characters and storylines, including his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) and, yes, the perpetually petulant teenage daughter Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor). Will the Brodys ever come back? “Probably not,” Gansa said. (What?! No more Dana? Why, it’s the best news we’ve heard all day!)
• A significant part of Friday’s Q-&-A was spent with the reporters raising and the producers deflecting some of the jumped-shark criticism flung at “Homeland” last year, building on a backlash that can more or less be traced to a devastating “Saturday Night Live” sketch in 2012 that made fun of the characters (including Danes’s “cry face”) and the corners the writers kept painting them into. Gansa was quick to point out “Homeland” is still a ratings hit for Showtime (7 million or so viewers tune in faithfully each week). He said he didn’t know how anyone could watch the last six or seven episodes from season 3 and not judge it “the best show on television.”