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The Lines Blur Between Real Life and ‘Homeland’
January 22, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Homeland’s comfort zone lies right where things get most uncomfortable, says executive producer and director Lesli Linka Glatter.

While talking a few days after the Sunday night Showtime series kicked off its sixth season, Glatter notes a storyline in which a young American Muslim is posting a series of provocative videos recounting injustices Muslims have suffered at the hands of Americans.

“He hasn’t done anything,” she says. “But he’s saying some very incendiary things. And I have to say that personally, I have very mixed feelings about this. He has free speech. He’s allowed to speak out. But we also need to be vigilant. Where’s the line? When do you hit the slippery slope?”

The consolation, for the director of a TV show, is that this kind of gray-area conflict can make for a compelling story.

“It’s one of the things that keeps the show fresh,” says Glatter, who will direct four episodes this season. “I love scenes where you have two characters arguing opposite points of view, and they’re both right.”

That’s become an increasingly urgent occurrence as former CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) has distanced herself philosophically from her CIA mentor, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).

While Saul continues to work at the highest level of the agency alongside Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), Carrie has left and is now working with a Brooklyn organization that promotes fair treatment for Muslims.

That correctly suggests Carrie now fears the U.S. government, and the CIA in particular, misread and mismanaged the post-9/11 war on terror.

“It’s essential to be diligent,” says Glatter. “And there have been overreactions. Carrie has always known a lot about the Middle East, so it’s sometimes like looking at two sides of a coin, and neither is wrong.”

Glatter thinks, by the way, that while Carrie’s views have changed more overtly, Saul’s have evolved as well.

“He’s gone from being a company man to a more independent view,” she says, which doesn’t mean there isn’t increased friction with Carrie.

“They have a complicated relationship,” she says. “He was her boss; she did such good work for him, she’s like his surrogate daughter.

“I just directed a scene between Claire and Mandy. Seeing them work together is amazing. It’s an extraordinary experience.”

Glatter notes that one of the unique aspects of Homeland is its sometimes eerie parallels to real-world events. Carrie has begun working with a Muslim group this season, for instance, at the same time there is real-world talk about keeping Muslims out of the country or starting a Muslim registry.

“That’s another complicated issue,” Glatter says, and while the Homeland team isn’t looking to rip its stories from the headlines, she says that “a lot of our storylines comes from our meeting every year with the intelligence community in Washington.”

She also hopes viewers pay attention to another new subplot with a real-life connection. Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who nearly died last year at the hands of bad guys, has survived this year with serious limitations.

While Carrie tries to help him and steer him toward rehabilitation, he’s angry and retreats to places where he’s easy prey for hustlers.

“Quinn is someone who depended on his wits and his physicality, and he’s lost a significant part of both,” says Glatter. “That’s a huge issue with wounded veterans in our country today. Exploring it is an important part of the show.”

The sixth season of Homeland is set in New York, and showrunner/co-creator Alex Gansa has said it could remain there into Seasons 7 and 8.

While stressing she has no information on where Homeland will ultimately go, Glatter recalls that Gansa has said he envisioned an eight-season arc. That means we could start seeing some moves toward wherever things will end up.

Or, for that matter, who will survive to the end, since some past stories have ended abruptly.

Homeland has a large graveyard,” Glatter says. “I’ve been a little surprised at some of the characters who were written out. I miss them. But that’s part of reinventing the show every year. We move on.”

For the record, Glatter agrees with many viewers that the hardest reinvention came after Season 3 when Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) was executed. That ended the relationship that had become, in many ways, the core of the story, meaning Gansa and company had to find a new core.  

“That was the biggest reset of the series,” Glatter says. “It became a different show. But equally exciting. I’m just thankful to have been part of the process.”

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