Scribe was pivotal player behind slew of prestige dramas
Anyone who watched the last season of “Homeland” remembers the Interrogation.
Unfolding nearly halfway through the episode Q&A, the 15-minute scene finds Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison masterfully breaking down Damian Lewis’ POW-turned-congressman Nicholas Brody piece by piece, until he admits he’s a would-be suicide bomber. Her only weapon in the intense confrontation? Words. Alternately devastating and delicate, the scene stands as a hallmark of the talent of “Homeland” exec producer Henry Bromell, who died March 18 at age 65 of a heart condition.
“That was a very challenging episode, closer to a play in some ways than a TV script,” says “Homeland” exec producer Howard Gordon. “Henry understood just how gripping two people in a room talking could be, and he really lived and breathed it until he nailed it.”
Three months after his death, the “Homeland” writers’ room is still grappling with the loss of Bromell.
A novelist and former short-story contributor to the New Yorker, Bromell had a distinguished run on such dramas as “Northern Exposure,” “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “Chicago Hope” and “I’ll Fly Away.”
“Homeland” struck a particularly personal chord for Bromell, whose father had been a CIA station chief in the Middle East during the 1950s.
“The fact that this was Henry’s last job kind of brought everything full circle,” said UTA managing director Jay Sures, Bromell’s longtime agent. “He loved every moment of being able to write (about) the world where he got so much of his inspiration from. He’d never been happier at any point in his career.”
Landing the Amherst-educated New York native for the writers’ room at “Homeland” was a coup, according to exec producer Alex Gansa, who credits Bromell with such “out-of–the-box” ideas as the season-one episode that finds Brody taking his family on a road trip to Gettysburg and making a pit stop to pick up his suicide vest.
“He was amazing in the story room,” Gansa said. “He was a fountain of ideas, he’d cut right to the heart of what a story was, and he could take the top of your head off with a line of dialogue. He made everybody on staff a better writer, because we were all trying to impress him. He was the eminence grise.”
Dana Walden, chairman of 20th Century Fox TV, had often been impressed by Bromell’s leadership skills after working with him over the course of two decades.
“He had a very professorial feel. You definitely got the sense if you were a younger executive or writer, that he was someone you could learn a lot from,” Walden said.
Bromell was also the guy who, rather than get caught up in the pressures to sustain the success of “Homeland,” encouraged his co-workers to slow down and appreciate the moment. “He’d roam the halls saying, ‘Tell Gansa not to worry so much,’ ” Gansa remembered with a laugh. “He called me ‘fearless leader.’ ”
Bromell’s influence will continue to be felt in the third season of “Homeland,” which producers started plotting in January. He will be credited as an exec producer for the full season, which begins Sept. 29. Bromell’s eldest son, Will, is set to complete the script for the third episode from a detailed outline by his father.
Friends and colleagues take comfort knowing that Bromell, who was raising a 4-year-old son with wife Sarah, went out on top.
“Henry was at peace with himself,” Walden said. “He was really pleased with where all of his choices had ultimately led him. He really loved his life.”