Say what you will about the third season of Showtime's CIA drama, "Homeland," but it didn't take its foot off the gas. Much like one of its stars, (one of only a few left after the shocking season finale) Saul Berenson, "Homeland" wasn't willing to let up -- it kept pushing the envelope with surprises, rug pulls, and general shocks -- including a kicker almost no one saw coming -- no matter how sad.
"It was so sad," said Claire Danes after watching the season three finale at a screening held to garner attention from Emmy voters. "I mean, the tear in the eye, Alex? Come on. I think most of us were [crying]."
"We were going for sad," joked Alex Gansa, "Homeland"'s showrunner who introduced the episode by admitting to crying alone at his home while watching the finale live last December with a tear in his eye as one of the show's favorite characters met an unexpected end. Without giving too much away, the third season of "Homeland" will be remembered for one major event, and it was all anyone could talk about Friday night. The conversation was lead in that direction repeatedly by ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz, who moderated the discussion. Though the awards race was never brought up -- Danes appeared distinctly uncomfortable in the spotlight, sitting in front of a giant For Your Consideration banner -- plenty of secrets were divulged, making it a juicy evening for fans as well as a buzz building event for next season. Read the highlights from the 45-minute Q&A below (SPOILERS to follow):
"Well, truthfully, we've been trying to get rid of the guy since season one."
That's what Alex Gansa had to say regarding the death of Nicolas Brody at the end of season three, a twist evoking gasps, tears, and outrage from fans of the character and actor who's been with the show since day one. Emmy-winner Damian Lewis saw his character's role diminish last year in a decision no doubt made to prepare fans for a series without the co-headliner in future seasons.
"When we pitched season one to Showtime, our idea was that the first season was really the Brody season and we were very adamant he was going to hit the suicide switch then and blow himself up in that bunker," Gansa said, referencing the fraught scene from the first season when Brody decides not to assassinate a roomful of American politicians with an explosive-rigged vest. "As the season progressed, it became clear that there was a lot of stuff going on between Carrie and Brody on camera."
"Is he really dead?"
Claire Danes brought up the question on everyone's mind -- did Brody really die, or will he make a surprise reappearance to kick off season four? We all watched him die in a scene that left as little room as possible for conspiracy theories, but this is a show built on questioning the truth. So...is he really dead?
"I feel a little bit like these people who are asking, 'Is he really dead?'" Danes said. "Of course, I know that. I was there for the filming of it, but I don't think it's really going to occur to me until we start filming again and Damian won't be making fun of me in the makeup trailer. I mean, I'm going to have to confront the reality of his really being gone, and I think that will probably be true for Carrie. I don't think she's fully processed that. [...] I'm just devastated I don't get to play with Damian anymore. He was my partner, and just so brilliant at what he did. I leaned on him heavily. So I will miss him enormously."
"Can I just say nobody's more upset than we are. This guy, not only Damian, but Brody is somebody that we love and it was it was difficult to say goodbye to him and it remains difficult to say goodbye to him. But honestly the story had reached its end. [...] There was very little narrative runway left for him. How could he come back and begin to fashion a normal life in the United States? The only other option that we toyed with a little bit was him taking political asylum in Iran and just being there, just having a life there."
"Originally we thought XXX was going to kill XXX."
"Nothing turned out the way we thought it was going to turn out," Gansa said. "I mean, originally we thought Saul was going to kill Brody this season. That was our original conception. It morphs and it changes and you have conversation upon conversation and ultimately it became clear to us that Claire's character, Carrie, needed to send her soul-mate into a situation he was not going to come back from, and that says something deep about her character and something deep about the series, hopefully."
Carrie's bipolar disorder came from Showtime wanting the character to be "more cable."
When asked where the idea came from to make Carrie bipolar, Gansa said, "That was not there from the beginning. The show was originally written to be a network show, and when every single broadcast network passed on it, we took it first to Showtime and the first thing they said upon reading the script was, 'We have to make the character more cable.' That's a good thing. That means find something for her. Is she a sex addict? Is she an alcoholic?"
"All of the above!" Danes added, getting a big laugh from the crowd.
Gansa went on to say, "It was really the impetus of the network for us to find something for her that was...and then it was just again, and this goes to the serendipity of it all -- there was something about Carrie's bipolar illness that mirrors the condition of the country post-9/11. The country really became split, and this character sort of embodied that disagreement."
With the fourth season getting ready to start its nearly six-month shoot in South Africa, Danes and Gansa had plenty to say about the upcoming shoot.
"I think it's definitely time for us to see Carrie do her work," Danes said. "I'm looking forward to kicking some ass again."
"That's what Carrie was trained to do," Gansa added. "She was trained to be a case officer. She was trained to go to a foreign city. She was trained to recruit assets there. All of us feel it was a bit of a miracle we were able to fashion three seasons of this character living in Washington D.C. and doing something there that was legitimate. Now we get to see her do what she was trained to do."
"We were all very nervous about what this show would mean without Brody, but we have a very compelling character front and center here, and we're able to sort of cleanse our palette, not do the show in D.C. anymore, go overseas, and really, I think for the first time, tell a story about what it really means to be a CIA officer. Ultimately their job is to go overseas to a foreign capital and break every law that country has. That's an exciting story to tell [...] and the consequences are quite profound for the characters, as well."
"I always hope every time we sit down to have the start of the season...maybe now things have calmed down a little bit for her. Maybe now she's found a little peace and contentment, but no. I think things are going to continue to be rough. [...] I think she shelved a lot of feelings," Danes said in regard to her character's grief over Brody. "I think she's compartmentalized still, and that will dog her probably into the next season. Then, of course, she's going to have this baby and that's going to be very provocative, very unnerving. And she's never really had a life to sacrifice. She's utterly committed to her work and there's been no competition. The only competing force was Brody, and, rather conveniently, he was involved with her work, so she's never been in this position where she has to make a choice or reconcile two things."
"That's what Carrie's going to be living with as we move on to the fourth season," Gansa said about how Carrie sent Brody on a mission in which he had little hope for survival. "What does that say about her, that she sent him into that situation where coming back was very, very doubtful?"
"That sounds like an indictment, to me," Danes added, jokingly. "I mean, it makes for fine drama."