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How 'Homeland' Relates To Real Life


Over its past six seasons, the fictional Showtime series "Homeland" often tries to mirror real-world political drama. Last season, a newly elected president was given an ominous warning by an intelligence official.


F. MURRAY ABRAHAM: (As Dar Adal) Don't go to war with your own national security establishment. It's a war you won't win.

INSKEEP: That was Season 6. Now "Homeland" Season 7 premieres Sunday night. And Rachel Martin recently talked with the show's creator and executive producer, Alex Gansa, about where the show has been and where it's likely going.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: OK. Let's start with a little bit of background for those who don't know. The main character in "Homeland" is a woman named Carrie Mathison, and she's played by the actress Claire Danes. Carrie is tenacious and troubled. At her core, though, she is a committed patriot who wants to protect America from its foes. Carrie has spent the past several seasons foiling terror plots and fighting radical Islam, fending off threats from the outside. But the election of this highly divisive president changes things. And Carrie is confronted with a new troubling reality - that the bigger threats to American democracy are actually coming from within. Here's Alex Gansa.

ALEX GANSA: This season is really about our divided society and how those divisions make us an easy target for a particular foreign government to attack us and to damage our democracy and to diminish our standing in the world. So, you know, we really focused on a threat that we've actually caused ourselves.

MARTIN: Gansa says part of that threat is the misinformation that's being spread from some corners of the media world, which he then mirrored in the "Homeland" narrative.

There is this character named Brett O'Keefe in the show. He is a right-wing conspiratorial type of guy with a radio show. And the resemblance between this guy, Brett O'Keefe, and the real-life radio show host Alex Jones is pretty spot on. Here's Alex Jones.


ALEX JONES: It will trigger an extended, long-term, bloody, hot war in this country.

MARTIN: And here is your version of him on "Homeland."


JAKE WEBER: (As Brett O'Keefe) To those who say we are headed for a constitutional crisis, I say this - we are not headed for a constitutional crisis. What we are headed for is civil war.

MARTIN: This is a great interpretation of that kind of person.

GANSA: Yes. It's a complete and utter, you know, homage - if that's what you want to call it - to Alex Jones. The interesting thing is Alex Jones has taken some offense at the way he's been characterized and has actually challenged the actor Jake Weber to a boxing match.

MARTIN: For real?

GANSA: For real. What Alex Jones doesn't realize is that Jake Weber is a boxer and has been training as a boxer for the last 20 years, so I think he might want to change the arena of that challenge.

MARTIN: Right. That could be a whole separate TV show, that...

GANSA: It really could.

MARTIN: ...Standoff. So what was interesting to me about how you've handled him - it could be easy to dismiss him as a nut job, but you treat the Brett O'Keefe character in the storyline with a more serious quality, more as a force to be reckoned with. He matters in this storyline, right?

GANSA: He does. You know, he's a spokesperson for that large part of the country that is disaffected and has been left behind. And, you know, that's been a constant challenge for "Homeland" over the seasons, to always try to portray the other side of every question. So he really does get a chance to be a mouthpiece for that perspective.

MARTIN: And since this is a show mainly about the CIA and the power centers of the U.S. government, Gansa needed perspectives from the inside.

GANSA: The writers and producers and some of the actors of "Homeland," we take a field trip every year before the season begins to Washington, D.C. And, you know, this particular year, you know, this is all we heard about. All the intelligence community types that we sat down with were very, very concerned about this new administration and this new president. And we immediately began to see this split.

MARTIN: A split that has become even more pronounced in the last few months between President Trump and his intelligence agencies. But in these same meetings, Alex Gansa and his writing team saw a new kind of alliance.

GANSA: What was particularly fascinating about our field trip this year was that in all previous years, for example, we would have to bring in an intelligence officer and then ferry that person out one exit as we brought in a journalist from another entrance. There was animosity between the two.

MARTIN: Right.

GANSA: And this year, it was completely different. There was a real sense of, you know, a common purpose among people in the intelligence community and the fourth estate. It was fascinating to see.

MARTIN: When you went, it was relatively soon after Donald Trump had been inaugurated, but they were already seeing the split that would become a great crevasse dividing the intelligence community from the executive branch.

GANSA: Well, you know, I'm not at liberty to talk about a lot of it, but a couple things I can talk about - the first was, you know, this sense that, you know, that the president had surrounded himself with a lot of people from the military. And there was concern among those that we talked to that they would be, you know, too committed to the chain of command to resist an unconstitutional order, for example. It was also just around the time when the first real conflict was going on with North Korea. So some of these intelligence officers said the first thing they did every morning was check their phones to make sure that Seoul was still there. And the last thing is - was a real sense that we were headed for a constitutional crisis.

MARTIN: Those words came up in those conversations - constitutional crisis.

GANSA: Absolutely, absolutely.

MARTIN: Where are we going to see Carrie in the next season? What's going to happen with her?

GANSA: Well, Carrie is, you know, in her grandiose way, trying to save democracy. She's also battling her bipolar illness in a very new way this season. And it's interesting how, you know, the divisions in her mind mirror the divisions in society. That's sort of the big idea this season.


INSKEEP: Rachel talking there with Alex Gansa, creator and executive director of the Showtime series "Homeland" in which Carrie is trying to save democracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF "'HOMELAND' - MAIN TITLE THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.