If you've been watching Homeland this season, then you've no doubt noticed the striking similarities between the wild drama playing out on the show and the equally wild real-life drama that's been unfolding on the news since the election of Donald Trump. The rise of the alt-right, the proliferation of fake news (and its very real effect on politics), and the rift between President-elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) and her own intelligence agencies all play major roles this season. Ring any bells?
Showrunner Alex Gansa elucidated the fascinating connections between Homeland and the current political landscape during a Television Academy panel discussion with stars Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend, and Elizabeth Marvel on Monday night. "The election of Donald Trump made everyone in the writers' room sit up in our chairs," said Gansa, IndieWire reports. "We realized we were going to have to adjust and change the narrative a little bit."
Luckily, they already had some of those elements in place; they just had to enhance them. For example, they honed in on the plot-point of a giant fake news farm that employs hackers to spread propaganda discrediting the president-elect using fake identities. "The first thing we wanted to address was that our election was influenced by another force, and by fake news,” Gansa said.
They also increased the screen-time for a new character named Brett O'Keefe, a conspiracy theory-peddling, hate-mongering alt-right radio host that Gansa said was inspired by controversial InfoWars host Alex Jones. (The character also bares an uncanny physical resemblance to Steve Bannon, IMHO.) Apparently, the character drew on Jones enough to rile up the far-right host. "The real Alex Jones went on a bit of a tirade," after seeing the show, Gansa said. (Jones went so far as to accuse the show's producers of "stealing his identity," in Gansa's words, and challenged the actor, Weber, to a fist fight.)
Mandy Patinkin, who plays Saul, is glad they focused on the power of fake news to overtake real news, which he slammed during the talk. "This business of lies affects real people. It’s not just a game and a joke on CNN to entertain us, to bore us, or to make us furious. They really affect people’s lives," he told IndieWire.
And then, there's the riveting storyline of the mistrust between Keane and her intelligence advisers, led by Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham). "We were in this incredibly interesting position to make this show even more relevant in the middle of our production schedule," Gansa explained, referring to the troubled relationship between Trump and members of agencies including the FBI and CIA. "[The election] delineated this crazy situation in which the chief executive of the United States does not trust his own intelligence community. What better subject matter for our show than a newly elected president at odds with our own spies?"
Sigh. If only real life didn't make for such ridiculously entertaining TV.
The Season 6 finale of Homeland”airs Sunday, April 9 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.