It isn’t news when Lesli Linka Glatter earns another Emmy nomination for directing “Homeland” (Showtime) — in 2016 she landed two, as well as sharing Best Drama with showrunners Alex Ganza and Howard Gordon and the other executive producers.
Glatter only takes on projects she feels right for, character-driven stories she wants to tell. “I have to come from a place of understanding,” she told me during our video interview, “or I’d be the wrong person for the job.”
From the start, Glatter has deployed the rigorous discipline she learned from being a modern dance choreographer to meticulously preparing everything she does, from storyboards to character analysis.
After her AFI women’s directing program short was nominated for an Oscar in 1985, Steven Spielberg hired her to direct an episode of “Amazing Stories,” a huge-scale World War II battle sequence with soldiers storming a beach and 150 extras. Then there was nothing she couldn’t do. While she went on to direct the 1995 teen classic “Now and Then,” like many creators these days she has found more nourishment from television than movies.
She earned DGA and/or Emmy nominations for her directing on “Twin Peaks,” “Mad Men,” and of course, “Homeland.” Not to mention directing episodes of “E.R.,” “The West Wing,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The Leftovers,” “Walking Dead,” “Nashville,” “The Newsroom,” “Justified,” “True Blood,” “Masters of Sex” and many more.
When she signed on to direct a Season 2 episode of “Homeland,” Glatter said, “I had a total freakout,” because it was “Q & A,” the now infamous face-off between CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and returned POW Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). “It was 40 pages in one room, it was an interrogation,” she said. “I was stuck in this room, but with two amazing actors. I had to embrace that. You have two extraordinary characters in completely different places. He’s been held against his will for 8 years, interrogated multiple times. What will it take him to turn? You have a CIA agent. What is the dance she’s going to do to make that happen?”
You can see why Danes describes her director as “fearless.” From that Emmy-nominated experience, Glatter was invited to come on as an exec producer the following season, and now directs four episodes a year. “Homeland” energizes her, “it feeds me all the time,” she said. “It looks at both sides of an issue, there’s not one right way to look at anything, it exists in the shades of grey and the world of ambiguity.”
Every season, Glatter goes to Washington, D.C. with the series writers, Danes and Mandy Patinkin (CIA chief Saul) for a week of intensive meetings with intelligence experts. “It’s a sobering experience, from 9 am to 9 pm, people from all areas, politically on right and left,” said Glatter. “We have literally one leaving from one exit and another entering on the other so they don’t see each other. Alex Ganza asks intelligence experts what keeps them up at night, their worst nightmare. Listening to what they’re talking about is where each season comes from. It carries a certain responsibility, but it’s still a story we’re telling. No one is revealing classified information.”
Filming the Season 5 finale in the subway tunnels underneath the German government Reichstag the day after the Paris terrorist bombings “was profoundly sobering,” said Glatter. “I felt terrible—it was too close to home.” She had to delicately handle a situation with extras and actors playing terrorists, and the script was altered to refer to Paris.
Glatter makes sure to hire as many women as possible behind the scenes on “Homeland,” and is always being shadowed by one of her mentees as she constantly pushes women forward. “I’m a big believer in balance,” she said. “I’ve been mentored by men and women. I don’t think directing is easy for anyone. It’s not a field for the faint of heart. It should be an level playing field. It shouldn’t be more difficult for our daughters to direct than our sons. I don’t want to be limited in any way. There’s no reason women can’t direct the same things men can direct. It’s just ludicrous that we’re still talking about this in 2016. It’s crazy thinking, as ludicrous as saying men can’t direct women, of course they can. If someone understands the story and wants to tell that story, they will hopefully do a great job.”
Next up, Glatter continues with “Homeland” Season 6 which debuts January 15, and executive produces and directs the first two episodes of the Navy SEAL drama “Six” (A & E/History Channel/Weinstein Co.), written by William Broyles (“Apollo 13”). The pilot was heading for wrap when Joe Manganiello was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy — because the show has eight episodes featuring men in top physical condition, Walton Goggins had to step in.
But no, Glatter has still not been called to direct the next James Bond.