Showtime’s new TV series “Homeland,” scheduled to premiere Oct. 2, has been drawing local buzz since the pilot started filming in Charlotte in January, bringing Emmy-winning stars Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin to town. The psychological thriller centers on U.S. Marine Sgt. Scott Brody, played by British actor Damian Lewis, who returns home after being a prisoner of war in Iraq for nearly a decade. He’s lauded as a war hero, but CIA agent Carrie Anderson, played by Danes (“Temple Grandin”), suspects he is an Al-Qaeda operative planning an attack on America. Patinkin (“Chicago Hope,” “Criminal Minds,” and a Tony for Broadway’s musical ‘Evita’) is the seasoned CIA pro and mentor to Danes’ character. After the series was picked up for a full run, filming resumed around the region in June.SouthPark Magazine caught up with Patinkin recently as he was in Chicago preparing for a concert and planning to return to Charlotte the next morning to shoot a scene – he took a break from studying his script to share some thoughts.On working in Charlotte: “I just absolutely love, love Charlotte. I hope the show is successful because I want to be in Charlotte. I go out hiking every day. Whether we’re shooting or not, I ride all over the place. I’ve been to Crowders Mountain State Park, I’ve been to Latta Plantation. I love walking around the streets and parks. I love virtually every human being I’ve come in contact with. I love the quietness of it. I love that you don’t feel the energy or insanity of New York or L.A. It’s not about any of that. To me, it’s about having a good quality, quiet life. I don’t want to say where I hike every day because I love the privacy when nobody knows where I am. I go out on the trails and I’m all alone and I sing to the trees and I just have the best time. And soon the fall will be here and I’ll see the colors. I’m very grateful to be there, I really am.” On prepping to play a seasoned CIA agent: “I spoke with some real CIA people. I read a tremendous amount of material, several books that are definitive in terms of the history. Then I spoke to a CIA individual who actually had a position similar to the one I play in the TV show, and we got to be friends. I went down to Langley (Virginia, the CIA headquarters) and visited. I met his family, his daughters. They were kids who were in college and one had graduated already. We had this great conversation about what that life meant to them.” On premiering a terrorism thriller less than a month after the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11: “That was a deeply emotional scar on our nation and on the world. It changed the world forever, and I don’t couple it with entertainment. And at the end of the day, what we’re making is a thriller, a psychological thriller that is also entertaining. So yes, there are many comparisons, yes there is much that’s been pulled from the headlines, et cetera. Yes, it is in the vein of ’24,’ written by those brilliant guys who did that, and it has all those brilliant qualities. But it is entertainment.” On his character’s relationship with Danes’ character: “She’s like his child. He feels responsible for her in every way. He loves her deeply for her gifts, her intelligence, her instincts and her human nature. She (is) able to save human beings and understand why other human beings are in a painful place and need to commit certain acts of violence because of how they’ve been treated. He feels somewhat the mentor and somewhat the student at the same time. You never quite know who’s being the teacher and who’s being the student. But he would absolutely die for her.” On a career in television, stage and music: “I feel very privileged. I never made a plan as to what I was going to do. I started off thinking I would be a classical actor, and somebody asked me to do the Broadway musical ‘Evita,’ and then someone asked me to make a record album. We said ‘Now what are we going to do? Just put it in a drawer?’ and so we started singing in concerts. And then that ended up being so much fun. And then David Elliot asked me to do a TV series and I loved that, and people asked me to do plays. I’m just the luckiest guy in the world. The variety of my professional life is more than I ever had time to dream of, and I’ve had the best time, and I’m hoping there’s a lot more to come.”On “Homeland:” “It’s very much a psychological thriller. This show makes you ask questions about human nature and about why we do what we do, why we are where we are, why other nations are where they are, what’s brought us to this place. This makes you ask those questions loud and clear in a very entertaining, sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat fashion, with your heart involved.”
Bringing ‘Homeland’ home
More to know about Showtime’s upcoming series and its connections to Charlotte:
1. Domestic shots of the show were filmed in the Mountainbrook neighborhood near SouthPark, and other filming has taken place in a cabin on Lake Norman. Damian Lewis’ character lives in a one-story ranch home on Knob Hill Court. Production giant Fox 21 also rented space to film parts at the old Phillip Morris plant in Concord and at an empty Clariant plant which once made textile dye.
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2. Why here? Fox 21chose North Carolina because of the competitive tax breaks the state offers the film industry. They picked Charlotte and the SouthPark area, in particular, because the architecture of the homes resembles homes in suburban Virginia, where the show is set. Parts of uptown Charlotte are a good double for Washington D.C.
3. “Homeland” is chock-full of some of Hollywood’s finest minds when it comes to thrillers. The show’s director, scriptwriters and producers have, between them, worked on Showtime’s serial-killer series “Dexter” and Fox thrillers “24” and “The X-Files.”
4. Stallings resident and professional makeup artist John Bayless worked with the cast during filming. Bayless’ prosthetic work on the HBO miniseries “John Adams” won an Emmy in 2008. Bayless’s resume includes dozens of television series, miniseries and movies, including “Cold Mountain,” The Prestige” and “Patriot Games.” Bayless’s wife, June, founded Matthews Playhouse community theater, and John Bayless helps build sets and do performance makeup at the Playhouse when he’s not working on another set.
5. “Homeland” is modeled on “Prisoners of War,” an Israeli TV series about two Israeli soldiers who return to their families after 17 years in a Syrian prison.
Claire Danes, age 32.
1. Danes, who grew up a WASP in Manhattan, got her first big gig portraying 15-year-old Angela Chase on the ABC TV show “My So-Called Life,” which was abruptly canceled after one season but has developed a cult following since. Her first leading role on the big-screen was opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1996 remake of “Romeo + Juliet.” 2. Danes’ most critically acclaimed starring role came with last year’s HBO production of “Temple Grandin,” a biopic that told the story of the autistic woman who revolutionized humane practices in cattle ranches and slaughterhouses. Danes won an Emmy, a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance. Grandin herself praised Danes’ performance.3. In 2009, Danes married actor Hugh Dancy (“Confessions of a Shopaholic”), who also starred as an autistic character in the 2009 film “Adam.”
Damian Lewis, age 40.
1. Lewis, who grew up in London, also tried his hand at Shakespeare for a few years as a stage actor for the Royal Shakespeare Company.2. Lewis is well known in the U.S. for starring as Detective Charlie Crews in the NBC drama “Life,” which was canceled after two seasons. Lewis acted under the tutelage of Hollywood legends Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in their HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” when he portrayed Maj. Richard Winters.3. Lewis married actress Helen McCrory in 2007, and they now have a daughter, Manon, and a son, Gulliver. “Harry Potter” fans will recognize McCrory from her role as Narcissa Malfoy in the final three installments of the “Potter” films.