Homeland creator Alex Gansa: we “couldn’t ignore” Isis

The US drama's executive producer on Carrie's relocation to Berlin and how Islamic State "crept back into the story in a major way"

Homeland has hit the reboot button once again for series five – this time relocating to Berlin where we find Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison working in private security for a German philanthropist. The decision to place Europe at the epicentre of the show came after the Homeland team’s annual research visit to Washington DC where they meet to hash out each upcoming season.

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“If you’ll recall what was happening at the start of the year, the whole Edward Snowden thing was really snowballing, the rise of Isis was happening, then there were the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris,” explains executive producer Alex Gansa. “It all felt that now that part of Europe was the centre of the world.” 

Hence the decision to put Carrie in Berlin – “the great spy town” – with “Russia banging next door.” 

The relationship between the West and East and “concern about Putin rattling the sabre” plays a major part in the next season, according to Gansa, who reveals the team initially considered restricting the story to Russian and American intelligence operating in Berlin. But how would Homeland treat Islamic State? 

“It has been difficult even to do the research required to portray that jihadist movement and dramatise it,” explains Gansa. “Should we even acknowledge their existence, make them part of the story, and humanise them at some level?”

After those initial discussions about an American-Russian narrative arc, the team decided the threat of Isis is “just so part of the landscape right now that it felt like we were wilfully ignoring something that couldn’t be ignored. So it has crept back into the story in a major way.” 

Quite how that threat will materialise remains to be seen as episode one finds Carrie in the German capital following a two-year time jump – although its not long before a request from her billionaire boss forces her back towards Saul, Quinn and the world she left behind. 

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Homeland series five starts this Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4

Read the full interview with Alex Gansa in this week’s Radio Times – out in shops and on the newsstand from Tuesday 6th October