As the son of a lobbyist, he continued to be exposed to the inner workings of the government. He understood it just enough to be intrigued. Rather than follow in his father’s footsteps, however, Nevins took his appetite for politics to Hollywood, where he has launched a successful television career highlighted by shows that bring Washington to life on the small screen.
Nevins championed the development of Aaron Sorkin’s brainchild, “The West Wing,” oversaw production of “24” and, in his first major move as president of entertainment at Showtime, shepherded the launch of “Homeland,” a spine-tingling CIA drama that’s become the network’s biggest new hit and will air its season finale Sunday night.
“In all my shows, I’m not interested in the iconic shots of the Capitol and the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial,” Nevins says. “I’m always interested in trying to get the culture of the place — trying to get it right.”
Nevins, 44, is sitting in a dark wood booth at the Tastee Diner, nursing a bowl of vegetable soup. It’s late November and he’s in Washington to visit his father, who lives in an affluent Northwest Washington neighborhood (his parents are divorced and his mother lives in California) . The diner was a regular hangout during his teenage years in the early 1980s at Walt Whitman High School.
Wearing designer jeans and loafers, Nevins has an air of Los Angeles nonchalance and admits in his gravelly voice that Washington no longer feels “like my world.” He is almost certainly the only late-Wednesday-morning patron with a pair of gold cuff links under his pullover. Still, he prefers the Metro to rental cars when he’s in town and joked easily with a fellow diner who interjected repeatedly throughout a 90-minute conversation.
“This is classic Tastee Diner,” he said.
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Growing up in the Washington suburbs, Nevins says, he was always jealous of the city kids. So now, more than 20 years since he moved to Los Angeles, he chooses to live in the center of things, sharing a Hollywood home with his wife of 15 years, documentary filmmaker Andrea Blaugrund Nevins, and their three children. An avid Redskins fan, he returns to Washington twice a year to see family and show the kids his old stomping grounds.
Nevins didn’t dream of Hollywood life as a child. At Amherst College, he focused on English literature and American studies. But during a semester in Scotland, he fell in with a group of students who were obsessed with American films, and they began making amateur movies together. Nevins remembers feeling that his friends would’ve given anything for the chance to move to L.A. and try to build a career in show business. Since he didn’t have the same immigration barriers as his buddies, he decided to give it a shot.