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‘Homeland’ EP Alex Gansa on Keeping the Show Fresh, How Long It Can Last and 7 Other Nominee Questions

”The one downside is when the show airs… we’re a little out of the conversation,“ showrunner tells TheWrap of his series’ awards chances

With four seasons of “Homeland,” 30 years in the TV industry and an Emmy win under his belt, showrunner Alex Gansa still finds the prospect of winning another trophy hard to process.

“I think I will be in such a state of shock if we win,” the executive producer told TheWrap. “My brain would be drawing a complete blank.”

The Showtime CIA thriller starring Claire Danes is a perennial Emmy favorite, and this year is nominated again in four categories, having won for Best Drama Series, Best Actress for Danes and Best Actor for Damian Lewis in years past.

In the midst of production on the show’s fifth season, Gansa talked to TheWrap about his Emmy strategy, the shows he thinks were snubbed by this year’s voting body, and the future of “Homeland.”

Who is the stiffest competition in your category?

Everybody. [laughs] It is a stacked group of nominees, I’ll tell you that. It’s pretty impressive what every one of those shows have accomplished, not just this season but past seasons as well, with the exception of “Better Call Saul.”

Who do you think got snubbed, either on your show or in general?

I think by virtue of the fact that there’s so many good TV dramas, it’s inevitable that some will miss the cut. It’s all so arbitrary and subjective anyway. How do you pit “Game of Thrones,” this fantasy epic, against a show like “Mad Men”? It’s so difficult to compare and contrast. So I guess I personally feel bad for everyone who works on “The Americans” and “The Good Wife.” I’m a fan of those shows and they both had amazing seasons. I would say snub is the wrong word but they certainly deserve recognition of a greater sort than they got.

In terms of who got snubbed on our show, I keep thinking Mandy Patinkin should be nominated and win. His performance over the past four years has just been superior.

Did you have any naysayers when you were first coming up that you want to rub all this success in the face of?
Honestly, I’ve been at this for 30 years. I’ve been on some incredible shows, some have been wonderful experiences and some have been a nightmare. Howard and I are always talking about how we cannot remember a staff we were on that we were the stars of, we were the best writers on. We just weren’t. We just were never the best writers on any show we’ve ever worked on, it’s just a fact. And yet here we are, with one of the top shows on the air now. It’s just a tribute to how stubborn we are and how hard we worked.

What has your strategy been for campaigning? Now that it’s the last week of voting, any last-minute thoughts on how to get voters to vote for “Homeland”?
The one downside is when the show airs. When “Homeland” Season 4 aired, it was almost a year ago. So we’re a little out of the conversation, because it happened such a long time ago. Obviously, “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” have aired much more recently so they’re got the wind in their sails a little bit. On the other hand, we are premiering in a little while, in just a month and a half, so that’s all gearing up right now as well. So many that will refresh everybody’s mind. Honestly, I really hope all the voters sit down and watch the seasons of these shows and really make a determination on the merits, and not just vote for sentimental favorites or big production values or whatever. Just really look at the storytelling and the casting and acting and writing and directing, and try to make a fair assessment at that point.

If you win, what would your victory song be when you’re walking up to the stage?
I’m terrible at this, I have no idea. I think I will be in such a state of shock if we win that it would be the last thing going through my head. My brain would be drawing a complete blank and I would be worried about what the hell I was going to say when I got up there.

How many more seasons do you foresee “Homeland” going for?
It’s a really good question. I think you’ve always got one eye on the finish line. We’re about halfway through Season 5 now, and there are definitely two seasons worth of stories left to tell. There’s definitely a Season 6 and definitely a Season 7, if Showtime will afford us that luxury. Maybe one season past that, maybe eight, but I don’t know. I definitely see a story for Season 6 and 7, and whether that comes to pass is anybody’s guess.

The show’s reinvented itself time and again. Are there more major reinventions planned and what keeps it “Homeland” as these big changes go down?
Howard and I, when we first created the show, always imaged the show would reinvent itself every year. Like “The Wire” did, or “24” did, for that matter. We would be telling a different story every season. And then we cast Damian Lewis as Nick Brody and that relationship [between Brody and Carrie] just became too good to give up, so we told the first three seasons as kind of one story. So now as we begin Season 5 and as we did in Season 4, now we’re back to that original model, every season will probably be a new location and probably be a different story, and we’ll probably find Carrie in a completely different emotional location.

So is Carrie the key, as long as it’s her story it’s still “Homeland”?
I think that’s exactly right. And also, the world seems to be becoming a dangerous place. There’s no better character than an intelligence officer at the middle of that. So, the show does have a relevancy right now. And every year, before we start the season, all the writers and Claire and Mandy, we all go to Washington, D.C., and sit down at an old CIA club in Georgetown and entertain a parade of intelligence experts, former and current officers, White House staffers, journalists, and we really get a reading on what people are talking about and what people are worried about. And that sets the stage for every season. Those four or five days are seminal to each season. That happens every year and the world changes every year and we get to hear it from the horse’s mouth in January of every year before we start writing.