How ‘Homeland’ Reached 8 Seasons by Re-Inventing Itself

Co-creators Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon deployed the same methods they used for “24”

To keep “Homeland” alive, co-creators Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon used the same playbook they deployed for “24,” the Fox anti-terrorism drama that reshuffled its deck around star Kiefer Sutherland every year.

“You have an intelligence officer out there combating terrorism,” Gansa told TheWrap. “That that can continue for a long time.”

But “24” was centered more around a premise — an entire season that takes place within one day, with each episode spanning one hour. “Homeland” was initially presented as more a specific story: What happens when a POW who had been presumed dead returns, but a CIA officer suspects him being a terrorist?

That narrative propulsion drove the first season to critical acclaim and multiple Emmys wins. But it was short-lived.

The first three seasons of “Homeland” centered around the relationship between Claire Danes’ CIA officer Carrie Mathison and Damian Lewis’ ex-soldier Nicholas Brody. But it appeared to run out of gas during that third season, which finally put an end to the Brody-led storyline, when the character was killed off.

It was retooled for Season 4, moving Carrie to the Middle East and a virtual overhaul of the cast. That would end up being the case in subsequent seasons as well, which saw Carrie head to Germany, then back to the U.S. (first in Washington, D.C. then later Brooklyn). She begins the eighth and final season released from a Russian prison.

After Brody, the show’s creative team re-centered the series around the relationship between Carrie and her mentor, Saul Berenson, who has been the only other main castmember to stick around through the show’s entire run. “Saul and Carrie, actually, really was always the axis of the series,” Gordon says.

Gansa argues that the Saul-Carrie story was “the story we always meant to tell from the very beginning.” He recalled the very first scene between the two in the pilot episode, when Carrie first tells Saul she suspects Brody has been turned against the U.S.

“There was a moment where, I swear, I knew that we had a show. And that was the very first Carrie-Saul scene,” he said. “Five lines into the into the scene, I was like, this is gonna work.”

After a two-year hiatus, “Homeland” kicks off its endgame on Sunday. Though the show has driven so far past its original premise, Gansa found a way to bring Carrie full circle. She is suffering trauma and falls under suspicion from the U.S. government that she may have been turned into a Russian spy, after spending time as a Russian prisoner.

“We had Carrie herself in captivity for eight or nine months. And that just naturally led to the idea that she would become Nick Brody in a way,” he explained. “For her, the roles were reversed. She’s suspicious of herself.” And with Saul now the National Security Adviser, it puts him potentially at odds with his former mentee.

“This would really be the ultimate test of that relationship,” Gordon says.

When “Homeland” ends it run in a few months, it will exit as the only series in Showtime history to win the Emmy for either Best Drama or Comedy, which it did in stunning fashion in 2012 for its much-celebrated first season. It nearly swept the drama category that year, with both Danes and Lewis taking home the lead actor trophies. Danes would win again in 2013 and get nominated three more years after that.

“Homeland took Showtime to another level. It just did,” said Gary Levine, president of entertainment for Showtime. “I think it took TV to another level but it certainly took Showtime along with it.”

“Homeland” Season 8 premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.

Tim Baysinger

Tim Baysinger

TV Reporter • tim.baysinger@thewrap.com • Twitter: @tim_bays



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