‘Homeland’ Showrunner Reveals Their Most Valuable Asset in Constructing the Series

Now that the Homeland series finale has come and gone, co-creator, Alex Gansa, revealed a few behind-the-scenes secrets. There are some things dedicated viewers may not even know. Fans likely know that Homeland utilized experts to advise, but there’s one “asset” that’s proven an MVP.

Criticism of ‘Homeland’ was as expected

Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Rupert Friend, executive producer Alex Gansa and executive producer Howard Gordon | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

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The Showtime hit series, Homeland, wrapped after eight seasons. When creators first began, Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon had a few absolute ideas for the story. Most of which, revolved around Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis).

“We had decided that we wanted to tell the last story in Afghanistan, and we already knew two big things,” Gansa told the New York Times. He added that they knew the conclusion would ultimately “put Carrie Mathison in Nicholas Brody’s shoes.”

That said, everything between the first and final seasons became affected by criticism, according to Gansa.

“First and foremost, I think both the praise and the criticism were overblown. We were taking shots from the left for being Islamophobic and shots from the right for being soft on terrorism,” he said.

“At the beginning of Season 5, Peter Quinn is sitting in a C.I.A. briefing room and telling people what it looks like on the ground in Syria. Our intention in that scene was to portray Quinn as somebody who had seen too much battle and whose judgment was impaired.”

The media outlets, he said, took one side or the other and ran with it.

“There was a moment toward the end of Season 5 where we all just looked at ourselves in the mirror. We were telling a story about an impending attack in Berlin, and four days before we shot the scene, the Paris attacks happened,” he said.

“We found ourselves on the set saying, ‘What are we doing? What is the value of telling these stories in a world that felt like it had gone a little crazy? That definitely affected Homeland in Seasons 6, 7, and 8.”

Those changes came due to a larger “vow.” The team would no longer “dramatize” threats that didn’t exist in the real world.

“We were very careful in these remaining seasons that we were not going to be sensational. We were trying to not make it worse,” he said.

Who became an important asset for ‘Homeland’ writers?

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With a show that focuses on fictionalized real-world events, experts are a necessity. In Homeland‘s case, Gansa said they had something called “Spy Camp.” This was a “series of brainstorming sessions the cast and creative staff did each season with intelligence and national security experts.”

The experts included a former C.I.A. director and a rather infamous whistle-blower: Edward Snowden.

That’s why Season 5 was all about the surveillance state, hacking and civil liberties. Bart Gellman, a former Washington Post reporter, told me he was bringing a special guest to Spy Camp, and the next thing you know, we’re Skyping with Snowden in Moscow,” Gansa said.

“This was about six months before Snowden was Skyping with other people, so all of the intelligence consultants we had in the room sat up in their seats, like, ‘Oh my God!'”

He continued: “We had a two- or three-hour conversation with him. He was an interesting cat, for sure. When somebody constantly refers to themselves in the third person, it’s always odd. But he made a compelling case that if he had gone through the normal channels, none of this would have become public.”

The biggest ‘Homeland’ regrets

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With Homeland over, the team has time to mull over the finished product.

After Brody was falsely implicated in the C.I.A. bombing, I wish that we had found a better way to dramatize the impact of that upon his family in Season 3,” he said.

“I just think that if we had been thinking more clearly, we could have devised a better story around how that affected and impacted their lives.”

Another change they’d make had to do with travel. A lot of the show was filmed overseas in places like Berlin and South Africa. Gansa said the actors were tired of the travel.

That said, star, Claire Danes (who played Carrie Mathison), wouldn’t change a thing in the final season.

“I was really happy with the shape of the final season,” she said via Deadline’s Contenders Television virtual event. “I thought it was really smart to have Carrie so directly aligned with Brody in this final season … for her to be unsure of herself if she is a traitor or not.”

However fans felt about any of Homeland‘s eight seasons, not many can say they’ve had Snowden or Spy Camp to thank. The show is a multi-award winner and nominee in nearly every category for good reason. It told stories similar to what viewers already know, both satisfying and terrifying all at once.