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The finale, which unlike previous season-enders was relatively subdued with Claire Danes‘ Carrie Mathison returning to Washington and questioning her allegiances, cues up another fresh slate for its fifth season. Showtime Networks president David Nevins hopped on the phone with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the future of the show, what he thought worked best during the fourth season and how he reacts to the show’s frequently divided critics.
After losing Damian Lewis last season, how much of a discussion was there between you and showrunner Alex Gansa about killing off another series regular — like Nazanin Boniadi’s character?
This is a show where that’s just going to happen. No one has to come get my approval. There’s an overall arc to the season and a discussion of the episode-by-episode outlines. But Alex is the master of the domain. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. This is a show that’s very changeable, very mutable. Part of that means that people are going to die. It’s always sad and wrenching, but it’s always going to be different. It’s going to be different again next year. Some characters will continue, some won’t. Honestly, we don’t even know yet.
You’ve spoke before about wanting to keep Damian on. Looking back and seeing this season, do you think he left the show at the right time?
I thought they did it well. It was the central pull on which the show was created: Carrie and Brody. We always knew that this season was going to be about building other dynamics to take the place of that one and also showing Carrie Mathison out in the world as an incredibly skilled foreign operative — which the show hadn’t done before. I think that’s what gave the show its mojo this year.
A lot of critics have referred to this season as a comeback for the show. How actively do you consume the weekly reviews and dialogue?
I consume it all. I don’t shy away from any of it. I think there’s really interesting, thoughtful criticism that goes on. It’s not easy to be thoughtful when you’re posting reviews minutes after a show ends. This Homeland finale wasn’t even delivered to us until Thursday or Friday of last week. I find the criticism at various times gratifying and infuriating. Sometimes it points out things that I haven’t thought of, sometimes it points out flaws that I was aware of. … I have a full range of reactions to it. Ultimately, it’s a real positive thing because it means they’re paying attention and watching closely. It’s a show about political, emotional and narrative complexity. It warrants close watching. You can watch it episode by episode or as a 13-hour movie, and it’s a different experience.
How is Homeland watched compared to other Showtime series?
Because it’s so urgent, it’s actually our least-time-shifted series — percentage-wise. It’s the most watched, but it’s audience multiplies by a factor of three or three-and-a-half times from Monday to the following Sunday. It’s a show that people have very strong feelings about. I find the pendulum swings on this show are a little bit exaggerated. “That was brilliant and unspeakably good. That was horrifying and unspeakably bad.” That comes with the territory of a show that’s this closely scrutinized.
Moving production to South Africa made it the third Showtime series to film abroad. Is there any reluctance on your part to having so many of your series so far flung?
I’m comfortable with traversing time zones. Fortunately, in the case of Homeland, the writing and editing is done in Los Angeles. That didn’t really change the way I interact with the producers. And I still communicated with the actors, but more by email than telephone. It’s a small world. American-made entertainment content has a big impact around the world, and I think it’s important that our shows try to reflect the wider world.
Going into the fifth season, have there been any discussions about how long you think the run might be?
No. I think Homeland is ultimately a show about a complicated woman with a complicated job that she does really well. That story isn’t going away. How does the CIA function in the world? What does it mean to be a CIA agent in the world? That’s not something that will lose its relevance. It will just be a question of how long the writers want to keep going, and their ability to stay ahead of current events and engage with current events. I think, at it’s core, what made this season good was that it was about how complicated America’s position in the world is.
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