‘Homeland’ Executive Producer Talks Show’s ‘Terrifying’ Real-Life Parallels

“We are still telling a story — we are not the news,” Lesli Linka Glatter tells TheWrap

Claire Danes Homeland

At five years old, Showtime’s “Homeland” is as nimble and versatile as ever in the care of showrunner Alex Gansa and star Claire Danes. The Emmy-winning series wraps up it most recent season Sunday night, having already been renewed earlier this month for a sixth season.

Executive producer and director Lesli Linka Glatter spoke with TheWrap about this season’s exercise in emotional chaos coupled with a fresh, exciting espionage story, just ahead of Sunday’s finale.

TheWrap: The series has really found a rhythm now, leaning on a sort of franchise but changing up the world for these characters each year.
Lesli Linka Glatter: For me, by changing locales, by dealing with different world events and content, it keeps it very fresh. It’s one thing if you’re always in an emergency room. There’s lots of dramatic things that happen in an emergency room because that’s life or death, but for us the challenge is we’re almost rebooting the series every year.

What are the anchors you’ve found as writers and producers? What makes it “Homeland” year in and out?
It’s certainly Carrie Mathison (Danes), and her journey is at the core of everything. And the other character’s that are always with us, which are Saul and Dar Adal and Peter Quinn. These characters are the constellation, and yet the world [at large] and the story. Alex Gansa, our amazing show runner, has talked about this before but — we have a series of meetings before each season where we go to Washington and meet with a series of incredible people from the intelligence community. A lot of what we learn from that trip is how the season develops.

There have been so many parallels in the actual news and the show this year, from ISIS conflict to an evacuation here in Los Angeles after the San Bernadino shootings not unlike in fictional Berlin. How do you all feel about this?
There’s something quite amazing or terrifying about that. We are still telling a story — we are not the news. And yet, I have to say, I look back on directing the first two episodes, and in the first one — there’s a scene where Rupert Friend (Quinn) goes and has to report on the situation in Syria to a top group of officials including the Secretary of State. It’s pure dialogue, but that description of the situation there is one of the most clear descriptions I’ve read anywhere — and it’s in a TV series. Another thing Alex always asks the intelligence people we meet with in those meetings every year is, “What is your worst nightmare?” Its very interesting.

Carrie is in a really interesting place. When we see her this year, she seems to finally have accepted motherhood but her happiness isn’t long for the day once a plot to kill her is in place.
What was interesting in season four is that Carrie was so highly functional as a CIA agent, and completely disconnected and dysfunctional as a human being. So much of the season was her trying to find balance in her life. This season when we find Carrie, she’s found some sort of peace. She’s searching for atonement for the things she’s done, the people she’s killed including Brody (the departed Damian Lewis) are in that mix. She’s a mom, and she’s in a relationship, but sadly that lasts for about 15 minutes. When she is doing her work, she is brilliant. She is not yet fulfilled, nor has she found a way to bring the real world in. But she made the choice, that life, a dedication to mission — that is done for her. She is over it. But unfortunately she can’t escape it, it’s everywhere.

Mirando Otto is new this year, and that storyline is incredible. The Berlin station chief and Russian spy.
Talk about the most complicated, complex women. And Nina Hoss, who plays (German intelligence officer) Astrid. But with Miranda, what’s so interesting about a double agent is — the thing you need to turn someone is a situation that is just intolerable. If anyone found out what Miranda was really doing … her life would be over. You need to catch someone in a bind where they have no option. But you see how beautifully Ivan (the Russian intelligence chief played by Mark Ivanir) runs her and the choices she makes. It’s so interesting how you can fool yourself, and you must find a way to embrace what you’re doing.

Another really interesting character is Carrie’s private sector employer, Otto During (Sebastian Koch). The mysterious billionaire type who seems to be feeding a lot of different information to different people.
I think he’s very used to controlling situations, and he likes to control people. Around episode seven, he gets a hold of Carrie’s love interest Jonas (Alexander Fehling) and he’s telling him she’s unstable — and then turning around and telling her he’s holding her back. More will be revealed.

Saul (Mandy Patinkin) has a hell of a year, too. He seems back to form in a way, yet more desperate and vulnerable than we’ve seen him before.
I agree. He’s definitely become a company man, and there’s an amazing scene in the finale where — I can’t go into it — but Saul gets back on his game completely.

What did Rupert Friend ever do to you guys? He’s been on the brink of death maybe the entire season, and was most recently used as a guinea pig for the nerve gas a terrorist cell wants to unleash on the public in Berlin.
I love that man, and what an amazing story to be telling. With a character that he loves! I’ll say, in our world, nothing is as it appears to be, but people have been in his situation. This is based on events we’ve seen in videos and that’s just horrible.

There’s such sensitive material here. Do you ever get push back from the intelligence community?
I think the intelligence agents we talk to feel we get it right. This is about dedication to mission.

The Season 5 finale of “Homeland” airs Sunday on Showtime.