After Sunday night’s shocking season-three finale, “Homeland” showrunner Alex Gansa took a moment from his vacation in Hawaii to talk about the buzzed-about episode and the future of Showtime’s signature drama.
Q: Tell me about shooting the pivotal scene for Brody in the finale.
Gansa: “It was the very last day of shooting the very last episode of the season. We shot all night, we had 400 extras in Rabat, Morocco. It was scary. It was intense and I really hope that it translated to the episode. It was emotional and powerful and hard to film. When the sun came up and we all said goodbye to each other — it was intense. Actors tend to be more stoic about saying goodbye, but here we all had the feeling we were really saying goodbye to Damian who had been such a central person in our lives. I snuck off into a corner and started crying. I’m not only going to miss Damian, I’m going to mourn his absence and the character’s.
Q: It must have been physically hard on Lewis just to be in that noose, no?
Gansa: It was definitely painful — the harness and the rigging of that thing. It was no picnic for him to do that. The reality of it all was painful – the crowd with the extras yelling. There was this mob feeling like you were lynching this guy and it was a spectator sport. The details of the red noose, the widow spitting in his face, the crane operators starting the engine (to raise the noose) — it was all really amazing. I thought the music Sean Callery composed for that sequence was incredible.
Q: Despite all of the surroundings, the ending for Brody and Carrie was almost restrained — no huge showy moments from Damian Lewis or Claire Danes. Was that by design?
Gansa: We talked a lot about this at the scripts stage and through these last coupe of episodes. We wanted it to feel restrained. This is not the passion of two people meeting. Brody and Carrie have now been in a relationship for a while. It’s not all sex and passion and love-making. It’s complicated and adult and tragic. So it felt restrained for a reason.
Q: You and Meredith Stiehm wrote the finale episode which had some of the best dialogue of the season, particularly the safe-house scene where Brody and Carrie debate the morality of political assassination.
Gansa: We worked so hard on those scenes. Every one of them went through many incarnations. We saw it as kind of their first domestic argument. It was as if they’re sitting around a kitchen table having a marital moment — but it’s so strangely incongruous to be about that topic in the middle of nowhere in Iran.
Q: Did you know how season three would end for Brody when you started production?
Gansa: We knew Brody was going to die from the get-go but we didn’t have the whole Tehran plan in place. When we were thinking about where Brody might actually take refuge, Iran is one of the few places in the world where he could conceivably do that. And then we got to the idea that Saul could use that to his advantage.
Q: What was were some of the other challenges in pulling off season three?
Gansa: In television you’re always dealing with too little time and too little money. But I think certain moments this season came off incredibly well — the twist at the end of episode four when we understand that Carrie and Saul have been in on this rouse together. That scene between Claire and Mandy (Patinkin) at the end of that episode. Brody and Carrie coming back together was a big moment. Introducing a new character, Javadi, was a big moment.
Q: I know you won’t say much, but give us the big-picture themes that you’re considering for season four. You’ve got a lot of re-inventing to do.
Gansa: Obviously Carrie is going to have to deal with the child. We never thought she was going to have a miscarriage or have an abortion. This child is how Brody spiritually remains in the show… The other idea running around our brains is that it will be really interesting to see Carrie do what she was trained to do — be a case officer in a foreign country. That seems to us like a really interesting place to start to reinvent the show.