Showtime’s Homeland is preparing for its most impossible mission yet: Executing a total creative overhaul for its upcoming fourth season. You already know (SPOILER ALERT: if you haven’t watched season 3, stop reading) that Damian Lewis exited the espionage thriller when his traitor-ish character Nicholas Brody was hanged in the season 3 finale. Coping with the loss of the show’s leading man is difficult enough, but Homeland will use Brody’s departure to radically shake up the show in other ways, too, with a new setting (Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison is working in Pakistan and Afghanistan) and several cast additions (including Corey Stoll, Suraj Sharma, Laila Robins, and Michael O’Keefe).
“There’s so many new roles to be cast, it’s like doing another pilot—which is exciting and terrifying at same time,” says showrunner Alex Gansa. In his first in-depth interview about the new season, Gansa answers EW’s burning questions about outcome of Carrie’s pregnancy, the possibility of Carrie getting intimate with the stoically handsome Agent Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) and even teases the possibility of more Brody to come. And no waterboarding was needed!
Big picture first: What is Homeland season 4 about?
It’s about seeing Carrie Mathison for the first time doing the job she was trained to do – being a case officer in a foreign capital. We’re going to see what an intelligence officer does on the ground. How she recruits assets, how she deals with the foreign government and her country team – the people she works with in the embassy – and the host country’s intelligence services. That is a complicated and murky world, one that we hope is filled with intrigue and drama and adventure.
Are there real-life incidents you’re drawing from?
The whole reason we chose this part of the world is that American forces are drawing down in Afghanistan. So the question is: What were we doing there for 14 years? When we leave is the Taliban just going to swoop back in and take the country over? What was all the blood and treasure spent worth? And when the military does draw down, who’s left behind? People like Carrie Mathison and Martha Boyd (Robins) – the CIA and the State Department people are the ones left on the ground when the military leaves, and it’s up to them to try and keep that country intact. Carrie’s on the ground in a dangerous place trying to break the law which puts her in a very charged situation.
How much time has passed? Carrie’s not visibly pregnant in that photo…
About six months. She has given birth to the child and I’d rather not give away where the kid is, but I will say probably one of the reasons she’s found herself in Afghanistan and Pakistan is it’s a place where you’re disallowed from bringing a dependent.
So she doesn’t have like a child in one arm and a cell phone in the other working espionage.
Scale of 1-10, how emotionally stable is Carrie this season?
On managing her mental illness, she’s quite stable. Where she is managing her grief about her loss of Brody is a different question.
So is Carrie on a romantic break? What about Quinn?
Everybody is clamoring for a relationship between [Quinn and Carrie]. And it is certainly something we’re toying with. However the question is whether Carrie is in any kind of emotional state to be open to a romance of any kind and does Quinn realize that’s the case. But it’s enough to say he watches over her this season because he cares about her so much.
Is Saul is in a lesser role now that he’s left the CIA?
Saul plays a central role this season, albeit a different role, a reversed role. Saul in the past was Carrie’s boss. Now that he’s in the private sector he finds himself working underneath her and at her behest, so there’s a role reversal that takes place there.
Is he overseas with her or back in D.C.?
He finds himself overseas, but I don’t want to give away too much. He’s on the letterhead at a private military company in New York that as a result of the draw-down in Afghanistan finds a significant market opportunity in that part of the world.
No Dana (Morgan Saylor) or Jessica (Morena Baccarin) at all?
Right now there are no plans for those characters, but we’re only halfway through breaking the episodes for the season.
No Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub) I assume?
If we were closer to Iran then Javadi would be a significant player. But we’re in a different part of the world.
Is Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts) coming back?
He’s now the permanent director of the CIA, he is Carrie and Sandy’s boss, so he’s a part of the ensemble this year.
And he’s obviously a tough one, but we saw more to his character at the end of last season.
He’s somebody who has a learning curve and was being educated in this job, a politician now understanding what it means to sit in that director’s chair.
Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) has joined the cast, can you tell us about his character?
He is a medical school student studying in Islamabad whose path crosses with Carrie and becomes a significant person of interest for her.
You also have Laila Robins (In Treatment) and Corey Stoll (House of Cards) …
Corey Stoll is a station chief in Islamabad and Laila Robins plays the ambassador to Pakistan. One of the challenges of telling the season is to make the story relevant to an American audience. So we wanted to establish a little America in Islamabad, all the Americans who come to work in this place and the little community they establish there. They are there doing their work but also having lives there which hopefully are just as interesting. He’s a hard-driving, incredibly ambitious station chief and she’s a career foreign diplomat who comes into conflict with him.
Michael O’Keefe has joined the cast too.
He plays Deputy Chief of Mission in Islamabad, a guy who’s been around forever, but has been passed over the for the role of station chief all his career, but is incredibly capable.
Were you able to resist asking him any Caddyshack questions? Because I would not have been able to.
It’s almost impossible. He’s a great guy and a great actor with such a range it’s amazing to watch him.
And what about Brody – might he still return in flashbacks?
I would always hold out the possibility that something like that could happen. He was such as significant part of Carrie’s life that just to drop him completely would feel wrong, because Carrie is grieving for his loss.