How I'm Living Now: Lesli Linka Glatter, 'Homeland' Director

Lesli Linka Glatter -Publicity - h 2020
Courtesy of Lesli Linka Glatter

Part of the DGA's coronavirus task force, Glatter shares the funny (if crass) piece of advice she and her fellow 'Homeland' producers got from a stranger while filming the series finale in Los Angeles.

With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense of how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood's writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.

Lesli Linka Glatter, the director and executive producer most recently known for her near-decade tenure on Showtime's Homeland, was all packed for a a seven-month shoot in Hungary when COVID-19 grounded her latest project. Now, the TV veteran is working with the Directors Guild of America's coronavirus task force and collaborating with other Hollywood leaders on a project to provide financial relief for out-of-work crewmembers. Glatter recently spoke with THR from her Pacific Palisades home about her ambitious quarantine watch list — as well as shooting the April 26 Homeland finale, which marked her first series finale as a director. [This story contains spoilers from the series finale of Showtime's Homeland.]

How are you holding up?

I'm safe and I'm healthy, so I’m grateful. I’d call myself a realistic optimist — but, boy, am I ready to be on a set again!

Were you supposed to be shooting right now?

I had my four suitcases and three boxes packed. I was headed to Budapest for the next seven months to shoot The Banker’s Wife for Amazon. And, uh, we got the call the day before I flew that it wasn’t happening. Meredith Stiehm [also of Homeland] is rewriting scripts now, we’re still casting, so I’m optimistic that we’ll be in great shape when we can film — whenever that happens.

What is the directing community talking about, in terms of when shooting might resume?

We're just starting to talk about it. I am on a DGA task force with Steven Soderbergh, which I am very much looking forward to. A lot of it will be just hearing people's thinking. Obviously, we all want to go back to work, but we have to go back to work safely. What does "safely" look like?'

Aside from development and prep, what are you working on?

I've been doing a bunch of teaching — a USC class and I'm about to do an AFI master class. And this is a good time to give back. I got involved with an amazing group of producers, writers, directors and actors to help all of the crews who are out work. It’s called It Takes Our Village, and we’ve raised almost $1 million in the first week. All of the money goes to crews, in partnership with The Actors Fund and The Motion Picture & Television Fund — who were already doing that work. You see David E. Kelley and Michelle Pfeiffer put in $50,000, but then you have other crewmembers who are putting in $5. It's all incredibly moving.

What's been the most difficult adjustment?

I am so used to working in the field and being out in the world — as we all are, but I’m really in a team sport. Working without people around is difficult. I actually got an email from Tommy Schlamme the other day that made me laugh out loud. He said “Remember when our biggest problem was losing the light?”

Are you cooking or ordering in?

I am not a cook — never learned how to cook. All of my friends are really worried about me. (Laughs.) I was cutting vegetables during a FaceTime and my AD, Sunday Stevens, and she was just staring at the way I was doing it...horrified.

What have you been watching?

I have been watching some things that relate to The Banker’s Wife, purely for research on look, feel or content. I’ve rewatched The Insider, All the President’s Men, The Constant Gardner, Spotlight, Zodiac — movies that juxtapose the political with characters.

Any pleasure TV?

The third season of Fauda and Orthodox, on Netflix, which makes it seem like I’m only watching things in Hebrew. (Laughs.) I also watched The Plot Against America, and I just started Mrs. America, which I’m really liking.

Homeland ended this week. What was your first reaction when you read the series finale script?

Well, we had all read the script up until you see Carrie [Claire Danes] in Moscow. It was maybe two weeks before we shot it before anyone saw the ending — and even then, there was lots of discussion. But I think [co-creators] Alex [Gansa] and Howard [Gordon] nailed the ending, as far as the fact that it turns around when you think that Carrie has done the worst thing possible.

This was your time directing a series finale. How did that change your approach?

It’s all about getting that right tone to the very end of the series. I think we really found it in that moment, when Saul [Mandy Patinkin] is sitting at the desk — so confused by receiving this book until you hear Carrie’s voiceover. All of his disappointment over this betrayal by a woman who was basically his daughter, it goes away in this look that he gives. Mandy is such a talented actor.

Series finales are really tricky. What do you hope the episode accomplishes?

I hope that it lands for people, emotionally — the depth of this relationship between Saul and Carrie. Yes, it's Homeland and it's about these big picture, global issues and asking questions and looking at both sides issues. But TV still has to have characters that you love. Theirs is a complicated relationship. They truly love each other, but they’re both dedicated to a mission.

Logistically, what was the biggest challenge?

We were told at the last moment that we could not get American military equipment in Morocco, without it costing astronomical amounts of money, so we had to pivot and come back to America. Homeland had never shot in Los Angeles. We had to find a theater that felt like it was in downtown L.A.

Any funny stories about finally shooting the show in L.A.?

During our last concept meeting, we were in that park in Beverly Hills just off of Sunset. There are about 30 of us sitting in a circle, having lunch, and it looks like an AA meeting. This guy comes running by and asks us what we’re doing. Sunday Stevens says, “We’re shooting Homeland, the TV series. It’s actually the last meeting of the series finale," He goes, “I love Homeland. It’s my favorite show.” Then he turns to Alex and says, “Well, don’t fuck it up.”