After being MIA from Homeland for two weeks, tonight's episode finally shed light on what Nicholas Brody has been up to since being dropped off at the Canadian border following the CIA bombing last season. He’s been running non-stop thanks to what appears to be Carrie’s global network of people who owe her a favor. But the slums of Caracas, Venezuela appear to be the end of the line for him. We spoke to Damian Lewis about what's next for Brody, what it was like to shoot in a tower without walls (scary!), and what he meant when he told Men’s Journal that keeping Brody alive was “compromised storytelling.”
Brody’s been on the move since he fled. Can you fill in the gaps?
He’s been passed anonymously from one cell to the next, and part of the success of this exfiltration plan is that nobody has any more information than they need to have, including Carrie. He’s kind of been lost in this maze, and I think that contributes to the nightmarish, hallucinatory feeling of the episode. It’s as though he’s living in another reality somewhere, a parallel universe a long way from the Canadian border and certainly a long way from the story we’ve been with so far, which is the CIA and Langley and D.C.
Who shot him?
He gets into a border fight and he gets shot in the stomach. That’s all about the reward on his head.
The guy who’s responsible for him in Caracas doesn’t seem to want to be helping Carrie.
Yeah, it seems as though he is not eligible for this $10 million reward. He’s really doing a favor for Carrie. I mean, I don’t think we’ll ever find out why. I don’t think it’s interesting enough for the story, but he’s beholden in some way to the CIA. They have something on him, I think.
The tower Brody’s being held in has no walls. What was it like filming in that building?
It was an abandoned building in Puerto Rico, done up by the art department exquisitely to look like a slum. Filming had its safety issues because, as you say, there were no walls. You were ten stories up at the top of the building and if you weren’t concentrating you’d be ten stories on the sidewalk below. The wind howled through there. It was like a wind tunnel, so you could be walking around and be really blown around up there. We weren’t allowed to go within six feet of the edge, which was no problem for me because I get mild vertigo, and I’m bad with heights [laughs]. I get sweaty and dizzy. There were a couple of precarious moments where I had to walk right to the edge, but there were many, many safety precautions.
In the end, Brody takes the drugs he's offered by one of his captors. Has he given up at that point?
Yeah, I think he’s pretty broken. He’s a man who’s desperate for peace. He’s a man who’s been a pawn for so long, constantly waiting for direction to be told what to do next. His life has no permanence, and I think that’s an exhausting way to live. At that moment he thinks, I could just sit here and get out of my mind — and that is a good alternative right now. And it’s sad. I think what really broke him — and it’s a brilliant moment of not just this episode but of the whole season so far — is when he goes to the imam seeking sanctuary. You would think in the context of the episode, here’s another stereotypical, slightly shady Islamic character, the shady cleric who shelters Brody. And then he turns out to be a brilliant, moderate-thinking, moral Muslim figure in the center of this show. It’s like he says, “You may be Muslim and you may be coming to me, expecting me to be your father and take you in and give you sanctuary, but I cannot condone terrorist acts. You blew up 280 Americans.” Or so he thinks. It’s a great moment to have a Muslim character like that in the show, who stands up and says, “No, you’re a bad man.” Of course, the irony is he didn’t do it. That really breaks him. It’s the one thing he’s always had, that personal relationship with Allah.
“The doctor” tells Brody, “Everywhere you go, people die. You always manage to survive. You’re like a cockroach.” Meta moment? Do you feel that way about Brody?
I think there’s an element of truth to what this guy says. Brody is kind of like a cockroach. I think the writers got the idea that whatever you do to Brody, whether you piss on him, beat him up naked in the shower, do whatever you wanna do to him, he will survive it. That’s kind of his lot in life. Brody is in the nine circles of Hell. I’m afraid I don’t see a bright future for him [laughs]. But I wanna nip this in the bud: I don’t mean he might be killed. I’m not suggesting that. I have no idea whether he will be killed or not. But Brody represents a pessimistic worldview in this show. He is a strong political message about what war can do to people. He doesn’t know who he is anymore. He’s a totally destroyed, deconstructed human being. He’s really a tragic, tragic anti-hero for our times.
Having said that though, showrunner Alex Gansa has said Brody could go at any time. The profile of you in Men’s Journal said he gives you weekly updates as to Brody’s fate on the show.
Alex is using a little poetic license saying that, I think. It is sometimes quite last-minute, what we all discover. Sometimes the writers discover it late as well, so they can’t actually tell me until quite late. Obviously, we have a sense now of what’s going on in season three, and I can tell you Brody is central. He wasn’t in the first two episodes but in the second half of the season you’re going to see a lot him.
In the same feature, you also said, “The more compromised storytelling is to keep [Brody] alive and to keep him bubbling along somehow. It’s the executives who write that version.” Do you still feel that way? Do you want to clarify?
No, I think I was pretty clear. There were so many surprising elements in the writing of Brody, and I think it surprised the writers, the executives, me, the audience. I think they didn’t anticipate or expect that Homeland was going to be a love story. I think Homeland is a CIA show and I think the love story was so compelling, and they wrote it so brilliantly, and people became so engaged in it, that it just slightly ambushed everybody. Suddenly, they had this really surprising, unexpected, complex, difficult character in Brody, and he is interesting and unpredictable. It made him exciting. I think they just loved writing for him. At the same time I think it wasn’t always necessarily the plan. So it just illustrates to you how brilliant the writers are because of the spontaneity of some of the decision making. You don’t always know how people are going to respond to your show, what kind of show it’s going to be, and we have a brilliant, brilliant show that works on so many different levels. I don’t think Brody’s being alive still has compromised the show at all. I think it’s added to it.