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Interrogating the Creators of "Homeland"

Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa on Claire Danes, illegal surveillance, and what they regret about "24."

| Fri Nov. 4, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

HG: Oh, absolutely. I'm surprised right now by the impact Homeland seems to be having so quickly out of the gate. But 24 was absolutely stunning. Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Bill Clinton would talk about it, and we knew they were among our fans. I guess when people used it as propaganda for their own ideas—you know, when Justice Scalia mentioned Jack Bauer—that would make me feel uncomfortable.

MJ: Did it give you pause?

"There were just certain things that we needed to portray in order to make it feel thrilling—and real, even."

HG: No. I think the one thing that we all felt very confident about—although we had a vigorous behind-the-scenes debate—was at what point are we loyal and beholden to good storytelling, and at what level do you hold yourself accountable for things like stoking Islamophobia or promoting torture as a policy? There were just certain things that we needed to portray in order to make it feel thrilling—and real, even.

MJ: Do you have these debates at Homeland?

HG: Yeah. I would say they're not quite as heated, because I think we've just gotten older, wouldn't you say?

AG: Well…Everybody here tilts left of center more than they did on 24. But I think that if there are debates to be had, it's constantly trying to give our characters motivations and psychology that are understandable and not two dimensional. If Brody carries out an attack, we want to make sure everybody understands why.

MJ: Did you aim for a liberal writing staff?

AG: No, we picked the best writers we could find. I would have picked Rush Limbaugh if he could write a good episode!

MJ: Looking back, do you have any regrets about 24?

An ill-thought billboard campaign led to the realization of "how dangerous and potentially incendiary this show could be."

HG: I've asked myself that question. I've never been asked it.

AG: I wrote a couple really shitty lines!

HG: I actually do have regrets about one particular moment, which had more to do with the promotion of the show. In season two, the story involved a Muslim American family, and the father and the mother—and the son—were party to a terror plot. It was sort of a purple conceit in a way. But it was maybe a year and a half after 9/11, and on the 405 freeway there's this giant electronic billboard, and I think the line was: "They could be next door." The writers and the producers were not party to that campaign, but we quickly put an end to it, and realized how dangerous and potentially incendiary this show could be. And I think our awareness of that changed the way we approached the series. So I guess you could call it a regret, but it was really an epiphany.

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