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Showtime's Best Drama Set for Season 3
July 30, 2013  | By Ed Bark

BEVERLY HILLS, CA — Way back in primitive, pre-Internet times, spoilers used to be too many brown spots on a banana or an apple with a deep, mush-inducing bruise.

But in the here and now, we turn to Season 3 of Showtime's Homeland.

Those attending the annual Television Critics Association summer "press tour" were given the first two episodes of Season 3, which will launch on Sept. 29. A certain key character is absent from those episodes but is in attendance at an early evening panel for Emmy's reigning best drama series and Showtime's most-honored production ever.

Stop reading here if you don't want to know more.

But also know that Homeland's executive producers have no problem at all with fans of Homeland being informed ahead of time that Damian Lewis's on-the-lam Nicholas Brody is heard about  but never seen — except in family pictures — during what proved to be a very compelling and affecting start to the show's 12-episode third season.

Your dutiful TV Worth Watching correspondent asked first — "Do you consider that to be a betrayal if we write that?" — before getting a green light instead of the stop sign that surely would have been thrown up by Matthew Weiner, the notoriously secretive head man of AMC's Mad Men.

"I don't think it's a betrayal to say that he's not in the first two episodes," answered Homeland's co-executive producer, Alex Gansa (far left, with series co-creator Howard Gordon). "But it would be a betrayal for me to tell you when he is in the show."

A clip from Season 3 did show an unshaven Brody in a hoodie. And the actor appeared onstage with his red hair cut very short. So draw any conclusions you'd like while the cast and producers take a brief respite from working on Season 3's episode six on location in North Carolina. (Gansa said it's likely that the closing two episodes will be shot in Israel.)

At the close of Season 2, Claire Danes' ever-fragile CIA operative, Carrie Mathison, helped Brody to escape the U.S. after the cataclysmic bombing of a federal building left 219 Americans dead. Season 3 picks up 58 days later, with Carrie testifying at a closed-door congressional hearing.

"He's the most wanted criminal in the world, arguably. So he has to lay low," Lewis says of his character during the formal interview session. "Hopefully of interest to the audience is what state he'll be in when you do see him. Is he swimming around a yacht off the Cote d'Azure, surrounded by a bevy of Russian beauties — that was the pitch I plugged in — or is he hidden away securely somewhere? Or is he lost?

Afterwards during a brief onstage "scrum," Lewis acknowledges that Season 2 of Homeland was a disappointment to some. Even so,  it again received an Emmy nomination as best drama series and acting nods for both Lewis and Danes after their wins last year.

"There were narrative leaps. It was a bit more of a rollercoaster," he says. "We've created our own world. It may stretch the bounds of credibility. If you want to poke holes in it, you can. But as long as we commit to the story with great conviction and great relish, then hopefully the story is just enough to drive people and to have people hold onto it. Just as you do in Shakespeare."

Lewis still attempts to make light of his buzz-cut, riffing that "I went to a bachelor party and I woke up naked in Vegas with my hair all gone. What can I tell you? Sh*t happens."

He then admits, "I was in those clips. So you know what it's for."

Danes, for her part, was the butt of a much-publicized Saturday Night Live sketch in which guest host Anne Hathaway portrayed her Homeland character in constant "cry-face" mode.

She initially got a heads-up from Hathaway while in Toronto with her husband, Hugh Dancy, who was shooting an episode of NBC's Hannibal.

Hathaway texted her — "So I'm hosting SNL and I really hope we can still be friends" — before following up with a "big bouquet of flowers," Danes recalls.

"And this is all before it aired, and I was like, 'Oh sh*t. I don't know if I want to watch this. She's way too nice about it."

Danes said she eventually tried to play the sketch on her computer "and I literally couldn't figure it out because somehow being in Canada created some difficulty. And then so much time passed and I thought, 'I don't think I need to look at that.' But I mean, it's all in good fun. And actually, I was very flattered. To be parodied on SNL means we are relevant. We're in the zeitgeist. We're cool enough to make fun of."

Season 3 begins with Danes' bipolar character off her meds, in a hot seat and encountering further heavy-duty trauma by the end of episode two.

"Carrie is always sitting on her own personal ticking bomb," Danes says. "It's just an impossible dilemma because she is not great on the meds and she's even worse off of them. There's a really great sweet spot in the middle of those two states where she's always trying to land. But it's pretty bleak in the beginning."

It's also an exhausting yet exhilarating undertaking, with Danes even more taxed during Lewis's initial absence. The first two episodes also spotlight the work of Mandy Patinkin (as Carrie's CIA mentor Saul Berenson) and Morgan Saylor (Brody's disaffected teen daughter, Dana). Neither attended the Beverly Hills interview session.

Showtime entertainment president David Nevins says of Homeland, "I see it on our air for many more years."

And Danes is game after initially joking, "Carrie becomes a hairdresser in Ohio — 17 years later."

"I keep thinking there no way they can go any further," she adds. "Their imaginations must be tapped out at this point. But every season is just that much more bold and brave, involved and surprising. I feel so lucky. So lucky."

Read more by Ed Bark at unclebarky.com


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