‘Homeland’ to move filming from Charlotte to South Africa for new season

Claire Danes as Carrie Anderson in Homeland.
Claire Danes as Carrie Anderson in Homeland. Ronen Akerman/Courtesy of Showtime

The number of Claire Danes sightings in Charlotte will be way, way down this year.

After spending its first three seasons shooting primarily around here, Showtime’s popular TV series “Homeland” – which stars Danes as brilliant but troubled CIA agent Carrie Mathison – is moving for its upcoming season to South Africa, the cable television network announced Friday.

“We’ve been so lucky to work with one of the best crews in the business for the last three seasons in Charlotte,” “Homeland” showrunner and executive producer Alex Gansa said in a statement.

Since production on the pilot began here in 2011, various locations in North Carolina have stood in for various locations in the northern Virginia area.

For example: South Charlotte’s Mountainbrook neighborhood was the setting for the family home of Nicholas Brody (British actor Damian Lewis), a former prisoner of war turned enemy of the state; his daughter’s school was actually Queen’s University of Charlotte; and the Cambridge Corporate Center in north Charlotte’s University Research Park stood in for the CIA headquarters.

But – spoiler alert – Danes’ character was promoted to station chief in Istanbul at the end of season three, after Lewis’ character was killed off.

“We knew going into season four that we would need to move the production overseas to tell the story of Carrie returning to the Middle East as chief of station,” Gansa said in his statement. “We are thrilled to have found a new home in Cape Town and look forward to getting season four production off the ground.”

Beth Petty, director of the Charlotte Regional Film Commission, said the city still might see “Homeland” around from time to time.

“I don’t know if every decision has been made yet,” she said. “I know that potentially they’re still thinking about whether or not part of the show will be shot in the Charlotte area. But creatively, (the move) works for them.”

Over the course of its time here, the production created buzz wherever it went. You never knew when you might run into a film crew, or where you might spot Danes, Lewis or co-star Mandy Patinkin – who has repeatedly expressed his love of Charlotte and had considered buying a home here.

“Homeland” has won five Golden Globes and eight Primetime Emmy Awards.

Filming for Season 4 will begin in mid-June, and although no premiere date has been announced, the series is likely to return to Showtime in late September.

Though producers liked the fact that our uptown looks a little like parts of Washington and our suburbs look a lot like northern Virginia, the main draw was the state’s generous tax credits.

The movie and TV industry can get a refund on 25 percent of salaries and money they spend on taxable items in North Carolina, up to $20 million per project. (This program has lured several notable projects to Charlotte – from 2012’s “The Hunger Games” movie to the Cinemax series “Banshee,” which is returning soon to begin shooting its third season.)

Changes to the current film incentives program are expected to be debated during the 2014 short legislative session that begins in May. Opponents of the existing program argue the cost outweighs the benefits for the state. Supporters say the incentives clearly lure productions, which spend money and create jobs.