Digital Spy caught up with Damian Lewis, who stars as tortured marine Nicholas Brody, and David Harewood, who plays CIA deputy director David Estes, for an insightful and revealing chat about what to expect from the Golden Globe-winning show.
When you were first cast in Homeland, did you ever expect that the show would be such a massive success?
Damian: "You never know when you're taking a job, ever... but you try to take good scripts. That's all you can do as an actor - take the best thing available. Even then, it's not [really] in your control. Certainly not in film and TV, because there are so many other elements. You just have to take control of your own performance. But it was a good pilot.
"I'd lived in LA for two years and I said to my agent that I wouldn't do any more network TV, because my family and I had just made the decision to live in England. It would be a whole year in LA shooting network TV.
"But I said that if something really interesting in cable TV comes along and I'm lucky enough to be on a list, then send it to me. And lo and behold, this showed up.
"I jumped [at it] so it was definitely a cut above, when I read it. But still then, you don't know [if it will be a success]."
"When I finally got the job, I thought I'd better sit down and read [the pilot]. As soon as I read it, I thought it was fantastic. When you're trying out for pilots, you read a lot of scripts, but this really stood out.
"It was different - it wasn't cops or lawyers. There was something very different about it and I was very happy to be attached to it."
Is it refreshing to be part of a show that has so many moral shades of grey?
Damian: "Yeah, it's what I was drawn to. In fact, I had a long conversation [with the writers] about this US marine - it's not immediately obvious [where his loyalties lie] but it's clear that he's become religious.
"I said that it is far more interesting and far more subversive if that great symbol - a US marine, who goes abroad to fight for our beliefs and our freedoms - finds it necessary to worship a different God, or God in a different name, and become Muslim [through choice].
"I thought that was subversive, challenging and thought-provoking. I didn't want him just to be a Manchurian Candidate - someone who was brainwashed. I thought that was letting him off lightly and letting the show off lightly. It's a far more dangerous and interesting choice to explore why he chose this.
"And it's possible to believe that ten years on from 9/11. None of us, remember, knew that 9/11 was gonna happen. We didn't live in a state of anxiety and fear about Osama Bin Laden. The CIA might have, and they failed to prevent it. But the general public didn't have any knowledge.
"Now we have knowledge of it, and it's a very clear and present danger in our lives. It's fostered an anxiety, a paranoia, which is why this show is, I think, working so well now. Add to that the fact that the way in which our own government perpetrated the war on terror hasn't been universally agreed with. So it's a greyer world, still, that we're in."
Were you ever worried that Homeland could prove controversial?
David: "I think controversy's great. That's been one of the great things about the show - it's really challenged people. It's challenged their notions of what a hero is, what the right thing to do is. We'd all like to think that our governments are doing good things, but actually when you look closely there's been a lot done, in our name, which has been highly controversial and highly dubious over the last ten years and most of us probably don't even know the half of it.
"I think this show is touching upon that - the fact that the CIA isn't the all-powerful, wonderful organisation that it pertains to be. Nor is the government. I think that's what's led to the success of the show, that it has been very, very challenging."
Brody and Estes both have very different dynamics with Carrie. What was it like building up that relationship with Claire Danes?
David: "We were supposed to have had an affair and it was difficult for me because the scenes that we had were confrontational and quite antagonistic, yet I was always trying to remember in the back of my mind that we were once lovers and really close.
Damian: "Claire's lovely to work with. She's unbelievably focused, committed, whip-smart, talented and it's just a pleasure being on screen with her. Our relationship, I think, will have a Casablanca-esque to-ing and fro-ing. so we'll see how that resolves."
Damian, we see a badly tortured Brody in the show's early scenes. Is it difficult is it to reach that emotional state?
Damian: "It perhaps takes even greater levels of concentration, but no [it's not difficult] - behavioural extremes are easier for actors to play than something which is far more balanced and middle-of-the-road.
"Quiet people, people who aren't given to emotional outbursts, people who are economic with words - they're also fun to play, but you find yourself needing a laser precision in those roles. Otherwise you just sort of stand around, looking slightly brain-dead. You worry about being uninteresting.
"But if you're given these behavioural extremes, it's really time to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. The one thing you have to guard against is enjoying it too much - you must control it and give it structure."
But there is that quiet aspect to Brody as well - keeping a lot contained...
Damian: "That's why it's a brilliant role and I am very lucky to have been asked to play it. There's a lot to get stuck into. He's a volatile man and he goes to both extremes emotionally, as you say - quiet and depressed, or anger and histrionic. You get a chance to play lots of different things. It's a great role."
David: "That's what was frustrating about playing Estes - he is that much quieter, much straighter person. It was somewhat frustrating watching [Damian] have all this fun - I think I'm the only character in the show who doesn't have sex with anybody! Everybody else is getting laid, but I never get my kit off in the whole show!"
Damian: "Nobody wants to see that!"
David: "Nobody wants Estes! So for me, it was very procedural, a very straight character. Every now and again, you see a little bit of emotion come out when he's dealing with Carrie, but most of time, it's very much job and country first."
Would you like to explore more of Estes's life away from the CIA, David?
David: "I'd certainly like to explore his darker side. We spoke to a real CIA operative during the [shooting of the] pilot and she was telling me that the guy who does Estes's job in real life is actually quite a dark character. He drinks coffee all time and he's always smoking - he's highly intelligent, but a very peculiar type of person.
"Homeland shows the collateral damage that the CIA has on your personal life... so I think it would be interesting to show the darker side of his personality."
Damian: "You're the first person who hasn't suggested that they're similar, and you're right. That's far more accurate. Major Winters was a war hero and Band of Brothers was really about soldiering and the camaraderie that comes about through that, and the extraordinary feats of Easy Company as they helped liberate Europe.
"Brody is a broken animal - he's psychologically and physically abused, and is also potentially carrying this devastating secret. So I think they are different sides of the same coin in that they're both soldiers, but there are very few similarities between them, really.
"They both have an economy with words - an emotional economy - and a soldier's stoicism. They're taught how to deal and how to cope with extreme situations, and everything is bottled up. But that's why I think it's particularly heartbreaking when you see these men broken.
"I saw a lot of it when I was researching Homeland - people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. There's this extraordinary [documentary] film Restrepo which won an Oscar - these boys with a thousand yard stare, trying to grapple in a sophisticated way with situations and having an emotional response. They're not used to [having] an emotional response and it's very moving. But [Brody and Winters] are very different parts."
The show was picked up for a second season very quickly. When did you first hear the news?
David: "It was [picked up] almost immediately. We were still shooting when [the news] came out."
Damian: "We knew by the wrap party that we were getting picked up again. It was very exciting. But cable [channels] are prepared to take more risks on the whole, pay cable especially. It'd be rare for Showtime not to run a show for a couple of seasons.
"But it's been really thrilling to hear the response to it. So as long as they can come up with storylines, it'll be on the air for a long time."
So you think the show has the potential to run and run?
David: "[It's got] four or five years. As long as we don't end up doing stuff that is way too far-fetched, I think that'd be great."
Homeland begins on Sunday, February 19 at 9.30pm on Channel 4.