'Homeland' creator talks about season 3
Alex Gansa describes writing process
Mention Showtime's "Homeland" to just about anyone and two things will happen. One, they'll tell you they watch it religiously and two, they won't stop talking about it to you in painstaking detail.
To say the show has a cult following is an understatement. The series has over 2 million viewers weekly, won four Emmy awards this year and received seven Golden Globe Nominations just days ago, including Best Drama, Best Actress in a Drama Series, Best Actor in a Drama Series and Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-series, or Television Film.
The creator of "Homeland" and former co-executive producer of "24," is Alex Gansa.
Before the Season 2 finale airs on Sunday, December 16, CNN caught up with Gansa to talk about the writing process, the "SNL" spoof and the long wait for Season 3.
CNN: You wrote the season finale with Meredith Stiehm -- what is it like in the writers' room?
Alex Gansa: We sit around in a room and there is some fun in concocting some stories because we only have to do 12 episodes. The load is less than, for example, "24" so you have an opportunity to really focus and to try and really make them better because you are only doing half as much.
CNN: How long does it take to write one episode?
Gansa: The episodes take different amounts of time. Some are a real bear and they are difficult to break in the story room and they are difficult to idealize on the page and they go through many incarnations. While other episodes just come more easily, where the story lays out in a more cohesive way sooner and they don't take that long. We obviously have time constraints.
These things have to get done and they have to get in front of the camera, but in general a story will take about two weeks to break in the story room. And it will take roughly three weeks to write a first draft and then will take about a month after that to really hone into a script that we can put in front of the camera.
CNN: Someone dies in the season finale -- what can you tell us about it?
Gansa: Rather than corroborate or dismiss any rumors out there, I just encourage people to watch the last installment of the season this year. People have been spoiling episodes and sometimes they are correct but most often they are not.
CNN: Did you see the "Homeland" sketch on "SNL?"
Gansa: (laughs) I did! Everybody here just thought it was hysterical. First of all, to be on "SNL" means that we are in the national conversation and so it's an honor. People are watching the show and talking about it and talking about Claire (Danes) and Damian (Lewis) and Mandy's (Patinkin) performance and therefore it's easily parodied. But that is just a compliment to what they are doing and I thought they were brilliant. I thought the people that portrayed them were just hysterical and I know that Anne Hathaway and Claire are friends so it was fun. It was well done.
CNN: Why do you think people are so addicted to "Homeland?"
Gansa: That is a very difficult question to answer and it's a question that we are asked all the time. I don't think you can narrow it down to one thing except to say that the show is greater than the sum of its parts. It's one of those amazing instances where everything seems to come together -- the writing and acting and the directing all complement each other and make each other better. But if I did have to narrow it down to one detail or one element, I would say that it is the chemistry between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis on camera. There is something compelling about watching these two damaged people fall in love with each other.
CNN: Who would be your dream guest star?
Gansa: We kind of already have that dream person. We all loved F. Murray Abraham here and he seems like a perfect character for this clandestine world and a really good antagonist for Mandy's character Saul. So, we already have our dream person in the cast.
CNN: Have you gotten any negative feedback or heard from people that didn't like the show?
Gansa: You know, we existed in this anonymous little bubble last year for the majority of the season and the show gained an audience and critical acclaim as we went forward. We were just all so shocked and surprised that we won the Emmy so I think there was a bit of a target on our back this year. People were worried whether we were going to live up to the first season. There are some people who don't think the second season is as good as the first. I, frankly, don't agree with them. I'm in the middle of it right now and it's hard to be objective so when this season is over we are going to take a long look at what we did and decide for ourselves.
CNN: What can we expect in Season 3? And since people will be going through withdrawals after the finale, when is season three going to air?
Gansa: Everyone is going to have to watch the season finale before I start talking the particulars of Season 3 in terms of the narratives and the story, but we will begin filming Season 3 sometime in the third week of May and the show will air in the last week of September 2013. Everyone is going to have to just take a chill pill during our time away.
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