On the break out success of Showtime’s psychological spy thriller Homeland (which he co-created with Alex Gansa):
I’ll be honest, it caught me completely off-guard. I’ve never experienced anything close to this in my career. I mean, trust me, I really, really like the show. But I never could have imagined the kind of response it’s gotten. Did you see? It’s one of (President) Obama’s two favorite shows on TV right now, along with Boardwalk Empire. That’s just astounding. I just keep waiting for the other show to drop, as I perpetually do. We’ll just have further for the shoe to fall next season. But basically I’m kicking myself every day. What’s particularly gratifying about it is, I’ve been bracing for the inevitable 24 comparisons and they really haven’t come. It’s a deal-with-the-devil thing, and I still have eight fingers left with him. I have to say, a lot of the credit for this has to go to my longtime writing and producing partner Alex Gansa, who also happens to be my best friend. He has impeccable taste and is just a phenomenal showrunner.
On the differences between Homeland and 24:
The violence is more implied in Homeland. Even I’m surprised with how restrained we were in terms of death and violence in Season 1. We were cognizant about not wanting to overdo it. When a lot of people die, that can work or work against you. We decided to let the story tell itself and not try to retrofit it with any kind of aesthetic. In that sense, Homeland is kind of a psychological thriller rather than the action thriller that 24 was. Of course, 24 also never received the full credit, I don’t think, for having as much going on as it did. It had other elements too. But what’s different about Homeland is we don’t have to turn up the heat to the level that’s a requirement of network television. We don’t have to write in artificial breaks in the story to carry in five minutes of commercials. We’re on Showtime now, so we can take our time and breathe. The comparative freedom we have now is just tremendous. But it isn’t just because we’re on pay cable. It’s also because (Showtime programming chief) David Nevins gets it. That’s already made this one of the best collaborative experiences I’ve ever had.
On how the high-concept Awake (which he helps executive produce) managed to land on broadcast television:
I think it’s illustrative of what networks are being forced to do these days in order to stay in the game. They are having to compete not only with other distractions like video games and DVDs and Internet streaming; they’re also needing to draw attention from cable networks putting on more compelling fare. Broadcasters are finding themselves in a post-ER world. I’m not sure those fastballs down the middle work like they used to work.
On the state of television, particularly broadcast:
Well for starters, there are too many time slots and not enough good shows to fill them. It isn’t that every show has to be good enough to win an Emmy. But there is a lot of waste. And good TV is generally a very Darwinian enterprise. I think most good shows find their audience. But the process is messed up. The way TV is created, that system needs fixing. I’m talking about the piloting of all of the shows, and the sort of musical chairs game they make the talent play every year. It’s an imperfect process that people keep saying needs to be changed, but no one has managed to do it in the 25 years I’ve been involved with TV.
On his involvement with the 24 movie:
I’m involved intimately with all of the drafts and with all of the people, including Mark Bomback on the rewrites and with Kiefer (Sutherland). There are a lot of people involved from Imagine and 20th. I’ve kind of been enlisted as the keeper of the flame from the TV show and representing it in its next iteration. I’m not sure what kind of credit I’ll be having on it yet.
Awake premieres Thursday, March 1 on NBC