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Emmys 2013: 'It never gets old' for 'Homeland' creator Alex Gansa

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July 19, 2013|By Meredith Blake

Just because “Homeland” swept last year’s Emmy Awards in its freshman season, unseating four-time champ “Mad Men” and earning prizes for both of its lead actors, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, doesn’t mean that co-creator and executive producer Alex Gansa has gotten used to the accolades.

“It never gets old,” he said Thursday morning, shortly after learning the Showtime spy drama had picked up another 11 Emmy nominations – two more than last year, for those keeping track. Despite the excitement, Gansa was going about his normal morning routine: at home in Los Angeles, stirring a pot of oatmeal for breakfast.   

“Steel cut?” a reporter wondered.

EMMYS 2013: Full coverage | Top nominees | Complete list | Recap

“No, actually, and we could have a long conversation about this because I am an oatmeal nut. I have searched the world for this particular kind and it’s Bob’s Red Mill Scottish Oats,” Gansa explained. “It’s a ground oat, so it’s got a texture more like cream of wheat than it is a rolled oat or a steel-cut oat.”   

Aspiring showrunners of the world, take note.

“Homeland’s” impressive total this year included a nomination for writer and executive producer Henry Bromell, who died in March at the age of 65. He wrote the script for “Q & A,” a pivotal episode in the series that, Gansa said, gave his fellow writers “board envy” when they were breaking it in the writers’ room.

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“It’s the episode that both Claire and Damian submitted for their actor consideration, and it’s also the Emmy that Leslie Linka Glatter got nominated for directing. It was a very, very important episode in our season,” Gansa noted. “It’s such a lovely tribute to a man that we miss every day.”

Another highlight for Gansa was the nomination for Mandy Patinkin, whose understated performance as the hirsute Saul Berenson was not nominated last year. “I really do feel that Mandy has been overlooked. His performance is so measured and subtle and lovely. All you have to do is look at the last image of him in season 2, where you’re on his face, he’s standing in a sea of dead bodies, thinking that Carrie’s dead. And he sees her face across the room. You just watch the colors that play across his visage. It’s extraordinary. He didn’t say a word and you understood everything that was going on in his head.”

Speaking of that finale, season 2 ended with a bang as terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir pulled off a huge attack from beyond the grave, and Brody fled to Canada aided by Carrie, as the whole world learned of his extremist views via videotape confession. It was a stunning reset for the series, which weathered some criticism in its sophomore outing for some far-fetched plot twists.

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“Nazir had one last bullet in the gun, and nobody saw it coming,” Gansa said. “What an interesting way for a man to actually do a suicide mission, so that the suicide is not actually the attack itself, but the thing that lulls everyone into a sense of calm only to have the bigger thing happen.”

Recalling how the writers’ room was initially shocked by the premise, Gansa noted, “It’s always the ideas that are surprising -- but then when you look back on them, they feel inevitable -- that are the best ones.”

Gansa was mum about any details regarding season 3 because, he said, “If I were a fan I would just close my ears because I want to watch the show and be surprised rather than read it on some blog.” The producer means it, too: He described his own inability to experience the twists and turns like the rest of us as “one of the most awful things about doing a show.”

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One thing he was willing to allow, however, is that a “Northern Exposure”-style storyline where Brody hides out in a quirky Yukon town was – spoiler alert – probably not in the cards.

“I think you’re going to be waiting a long time for that,” he said.

Speaking of other shows, Gansa doesn’t get to watch much TV these days – one of the cruel ironies of working in the business – but he is an admirer of “Breaking Bad,” also nominated in the drama category. Otherwise, his wife does most of the TV-watching.

"She was a huge fan of 'House of Cards' and is a current big fan of 'The Americans,'" he said. "I think she’s being incredibly disloyal." 

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