First Look At.. Homeland

HOMELAND: Coming to Channel 4 in February

A pair of Emmy Award Winning producers like Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, who have already produced global mega-hit 24, could be excused for resting on their very successful laurels. But after watching a sneaky peak of their brand new series, Homeland, it is clear that they have been hard at work.

The series, produced by Fox 21, tells the story of an American solider (Damian Lewis) taken prisoner during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Imagine the nation’s surprise when Sergeant Brody is miraculously discovered alive but a bit beardy, eight years later.

Meanwhile in the highest echelons of US intelligence gathering, Claire Danes plays driven CIA officer, Carrie Matheson. Having recently returned from spending years in Iraq, she has information about a US prisoner who has been “turnedâ€? by his captors. Brody may look like the all-American hero, but Carrie has a bad feeling…

Already a hit in the U.S., this political drama-cum-action thriller is rumoured to be Barack Obama’s favourite TV show and has more breathless action rammed into its first episode than many programmes of this sort manage in a series.

British actor Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers), spoke about his experience on the show at the British press launch last night and admitted that having the leader of the Free World as a fan was probably a good sign for the series.

“We have heard about Obama actually. One article actually cross referenced this [Homeland] with Obama’s foreign policy. It’s exciting when you enter the cultural zeitgeist in that way. But it was a fantastic script. Often I get these scripts through and it’s like…oh. But not with this.â€?

The Holy Trinity of the action thriller: Danes. Lewis. Patinkin.

Alongside Hollywood A-lister, Claire Danes, fellow Brit David Harewood MBE plays the deputy director of the CIA’S counter-terrorism team. A daunting prospect for anyone. But it seems that Harewood’s concerns about taking on the role were of a rather more practical nature. “It’s quite difficult for me watching that pilot because I can just hear this clanking accent. It’s more Pakistani sometimes, I think. But I get much more comfortable as the series goes along and by the last two episodes I really feel like his character comes out.â€?

As a marine returning after eight years in captivity, Brody’s mind is plagued by plenty of dark and sinister flashbacks which invariably involve Damian Lewis hanging naked in a cold room or being beaten to a pulp. “Torture days were flipping coldâ€?, Lewis said. “People were all very sensitive but you just get on with it. I don’t take my work home with me, I’m not a method actor. I’m very happy to engage in the world we create on set and then…I forget about it.â€?

The disturbing combination of fantastical espionage thriller with the cold, harsh realities of war makes for a haunting and engrossing story and Homeland is undoubtedly the latest fine American drama to sail its way across the Atlantic. Unlike many of its predecessors, this one stars two great British actors but that is not enough for Harewood and he is keen to encourage the British TV industry to develop “home-grown, big event television that is perhaps a bit more ambitious”. Tactfully the recent New Year Honours recipient added: “I don’t want to trash this place…but I do think there is a lack of ambition in terms of telling a global story”.

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Here’s a taste of what you can expect…