Gordon came to TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014 to discuss the series that debuted last month. He was joined onstage by representatives of various groups that have blasted, to varying degrees, the series. They came to discuss the ways in which they have complained about the series and the degree to which they have effected change. According to a network spokesman, some of the people onstage participated in a three-hour conversation with Gordon and others involved with the program which was a “very educational experience.” Their leader seemed to be Cynthia P Schneider, who co-directs the Los Angeles-based Muslims On Screen and Television, and teaches at Georgetown University.
Tyrant was created by Israeli screenwriter-director Gideon Raff (Homeland) and developed by Gordon and Craig Wright. The series tells the story of Bassam “Barry” Al Fayeed (Adam Rayner), the younger son of the dictator of a war-torn Middle Eastern nation, who ends a self-imposed exile to return to his homeland for his nephew’s wedding, accompanied by his American wife and children. This leads to a dramatic clash in which he is thrown back into familial and national politics. “From the moment Gideon pitched me the idea, I felt that this was a tremendous opportunity to humanize and dramatize the faces behind the headlines that we read about every day,” Gordon said back when the project was announced at the network. “We’ll also get to explore on the tension between power and family loyalty.”
“What we found is [Gordon] and his staff have been receptive to every suggestion we made,” said Salam Al-Marayati, who FX says in his bio “works as an advisor to several political, civic and academic institutions seeking to understand the role of Islam and Muslims in America and throughout the world.” He spoke of “cutting to pieces” the original script. Gordon spoke of the input from various panelists having been useful and instructive.
The reference is to Raff, who was partnered with Gordon on the series but who, according to press reports, has distanced himself from the project, citing his very different vision for the series, according to sources and various press reports. Raff is now focused on USA Network’s DIG. Gordon said he did not think his vision was all that different from Raff’s.
“He seems to think so,” the TV critic responded. Crosstalk ensued, in which the critic said to Gordon, “So, you think you are carrying out the show he envisioned?” Gordon said the series is in its infancy.
“This is the way you have seen the project,” the critic said. Gordon said he’d love to hear what other way this story could have been told. “This feels like the only story that could have been told from the premise,” he insisted.
Gordon and Raff both had come to TCA Winter TV Press Tour 2014, to compare the story to The Godfather — as much family drama as political thriller. If there is a larger theme to the series, Gordon said, it is, “What does it mean to be a good man?”
Tyrant is among the scripted TV series that has had to move from Israel amid escalating violence in Gaza. Earlier this month, with two more episodes left to shoot from Tyrant‘s 10-episode first-season order, production was moved to Turkey; the move was said to be temporary, and producers hoped to return to Tel Aviv. USA’s DIG, meanwhile, extended its planned hiatus by week while the network and producers explore alternatives and discuss them with the project’s insurance company; DIG had shot the first of its six-episode order.