Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
Is it mere coincidence that Showtime is unveiling the heavy-duty psychological thriller series Homeland the night of Oct. 2, a scant three weeks after the landmark 10th anniversary of 9/11? In a word, yes, says exec producer Howard Gordon, still recovering from his years helping steer the exhausting ship known as 24 on Fox. “Its timing is accidental, significant and fortuitous,” he stressed today during an early morning breakfast panel at TCA. “It’s a confluence of events. Osama bin Laden was killed while we were filming our second episode. In the collision of the war on terror, the story hasn’t been told of the price of 9/11 to this country — after Abu Ghraib, after Guantanamo, after two wars of questionable merit and the price to us.”
Indeed, from a brief clip shown this morning, Homeland promises to be one of the most intense exercises about the war on terror yet to emerge in any medium. Starring Claire Danes as a CIA officer and Damian Lewis as an imprisoned American soldier, the show features wrenching depictions of torture on Lewis’ ultimately rescued character. “I oddly enjoyed it,” said Lewis, a Brit. “Is that wrong? I’d be two hours in makeup and then lay down on the gritty, sandy, dirty, stony floor of some warehouse just outside Charlotte, North Carolina to have a guy pee on me…I’ve been hung upside-down, beaten in the head…We’re keeping it as real and brutal as these things are.”
A question was asked about why it is that audiences need to go to cable — in this case, premium cable — to find most quality, serious drama. “It’s a great, incredibly valid question,” Danes admitted. “I don’t think I have the answer. But it’s true I haven’t read a character this compelling in a movie script in quite some time. There are a lot of essays to write about why television is such fertile ground for drama right now.” Was it the shorter episode order vs. broadcast primetime that most appealed to Danes? “I just think there’s so much liberty one has in cable. You get to curse a lot. You get to get naked a lot. There’s a lot of creative flexibility.”
One critic also wondered how it’s going to seem for viewers who see Danes’ ongoing eyelash ad campaign and then get an eyeful of her in such a hard-edged and unadorned role on Homeland. Not missing a beat, Danes replied, “I’m going to trap those terrorists with my very long lashes.”