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'Homeland' Season 3: The Writers Offer 10 Big Reveals

Assembled for a TV Academy panel, the creative team behind the Emmy-winning Showtime series' reflect on missing scenes, dashed plot points and what's next.

Homeland Emmy Writer's Panel - H 2013
Dan Steinberg/Invision for The Hollywood Reporter/AP Images
"Homeland" Writers Panel

Had the writers had their way, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) would not have survived Homeland's second season.

During a TV Academy panel at 20th Century Fox’s Zanuck Theater, the CIA drama’s writers confessed that it was Showtime who urged them to reconsider, just as the network had during the series’ first season when the staff envisioned a similar fate. “That guy is like a bad penny, he keeps turning up,” co-creator Howard Gordon quipped of Damian Lewis’ character, who finished out season 2 alive and on the run. It was one of several reveals featured in the Aug. 13 panel, moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s TV Editor Lacey Rose, which was accompanied by a screening of the Emmy-winning series’ hotly anticipated third season premiere.

VIDEO: Homeland Season 3 Trailer

Below are 10 secrets spilled by writer/producers Gordon, Alex Gansa, Meredith Steihm, Alex Cary and composer Sean Callery.

1. Showtime saved Brody’s life – again!
Though the show’s creators already copped to plotting an untimely end for Lewis’ character way back in season one, that is until more merciful voices at Showtime prevailed, Gordon admitted that, going into season two, the writers intended to send Brody to the chopping block yet again, and were once more persuaded otherwise by the network.  “We had sketched out this plan in the early parts of season two which called for Brody’s demise, which may have been premature, and they asked us to reconsider,” which Gordon credits as “the happy accident of having very good partners.”

2. Will she stay or will she go?
According to Steihm, who has since left Homeland to run FX drama The Bridge, the writers all wanted Carrie (Claire Danes) to go with Brody across the border in the season two finale instead of returning to the CIA.  In fact, in the first draft, she did. After much debate, they ultimately decided it was more in character for Carrie to stay and carry out her mission with the Agency after helping Brody escape safely to an underground network.

3. Season Two’s Trouble Episode
Though eventually nominated for an Emmy, the episode “Q&A” was by far the most debated in the writers room, particularly because of the now infamous interrogation scene. Originally they had it so Carrie was placed in the interrogation room with Brody leading up to the moment when Quinn (Rupert Friend) famously stabs Brody’s hand into the table, but the writers weren’t getting the level of tension they needed from the scene that way. After several drafts they finally decided they would wait to put Carrie in the room at the end, creating more tension between her and Brody and imbuing every word between them with more meaning. The writers acknowledged that the scene was shot non-traditionally, with cameras facing both actors simultaneously so they could do the scene together as if onstage, thereby heightening the electricity of the moment.

Q&A:  Fox 21's Bert Salke Reveals What's Next for 'Homeland'

4. Writers' Regret
When asked what scene he would go back and change if he had the opportunity, Cary recalled the one in episode three when Brody and the tailor who made his suicide vest are alone in the woods. The scene went through several drafts
as the writers attempted to better get inside the heads of both men, but Cary still fears it "can be read the wrong way.”

5. The Scenes That Never Made It
Newcomer Daniella Pineda, who played Quinn’s ex-wife Julia Diaz in season two, made such an impression on Mandy Patinkin in rehearsal that the writers remember him leaving rehearsal saying “oh my God – that’s the real deal.” So taken with her performance, they wrote and shot three more scenes in three separate episodes for her and Quinn together but unfortunately none of them ever made it to air. Steihm particularly mourns the character’s disappearance from the finale, during the scene in which Quinn spies on Carrie at her cabin. The script had originally included a sad phone call from Quinn to his ex-wife in between his spying and eating cans of tuna fish. Fearing overkill, Gansa, the series’ showrunner, ultimately made the tough call that “him alone in the woods eating tuna said it all.”

6. Character or Creator?
When asked which character most resonated with him personally, Gansa replied, “I don’t have a beard and I’m not Jewish, but I kind of channel Saul.” Comparing his role as showrunner to Saul’s new responsibilities as acting director of the CIA in season two, Gansa diagnosed himself as someone “temperamentally unsuited to running a television show” and who hates making decisions. Gordon chimed in that “the showrunner doth protest too much,” noting that Gansa is in fact very good at being the boss. Added Gordon, “I too feel a special affinity towards Saul, but I am an old Jew.” (Steihm, the series’ lone female writer for the first two seasons, suggested she felt most at ease writing for Carrie, while Cary acknowledged he preferred writing for Brody.)

7. The Big Picture – and Big Shoes to Fill
Though there were many holes to fill in story-wise, Gansa said the one “big idea” they had going into writing the second season was that “at the end of season one, Carrie was the only one who believed Brody was guilty. Everybody else believed that he was innocent. And at the end of season two, we wanted to get to the point exactly opposite.” They didn’t quite know yet how to connect those dots, only that “every television show is a miracle when it works” and thus the challenge of repeating the magic of the first season was more than daunting.

8. Nazir’s Last Laugh
The idea of Abu Nazir executing his attack “from the grave” came to Gansa and the late writer Henry Bromell over a brainstorming session partway through shooting the second season, when they were debating the finale and Bromell asked Gansa, “wouldn’t there be a memorial service for Walden?” To which Gansa replied, “there would be a memorial service for Walden, and wouldn’t that be the perfect time for an attack of some kind?” That’s when they knew that the idea of Nazir acting from the grave was exactly the finale they had been searching for.

9. What can we expect next?
When asked if season three will feel different from the first two, Cary explained that “in the first two seasons you see Carrie and the CIA on the defensive, and now you see them on the offensive,” which he hopes will be especially interesting paired with the unfinished love story. Gansa added that a big theme of the new season is the toll that being an intelligent officer takes on Carrie and Saul, especially now that the stakes are so exponentially high.

10. What shouldn’t we expect?
By now the news is already out: viewers will not see Brody in that first new episode in September.  Why the decision to leave him out?  Though it wasn’t always the plan, Gansa ultimately felt that “his presence wasn’t required in the episode,” though he was quick to admit that, in the end, “the audience will be the judge of that.“