Awake on NBC

Features, Interviews, New Shows

Interview: Kyle Killen

2 Comments 02 March 2012

Kyle Killen, creator of NBC's AwakeHere at New TV Shows we’ve been big fans of Kyle Killen ever since we saw the pilot for Lone Star, the show he created for Fox in 2010. One of the smartest, most interesting pilots for many a year, it seemed to lay the tracks for what could well become a modern classic. One episode later Lone Star was axed; despite critical acclaim the show didn’t bring in the numbers the network demanded so it was cut down before it had even had a chance to reach its prime.

Disappointment followed once more when The Beaver, based on a highly regarded Killen script, performed poorly at the box office — presumably largely because of widely publicised accusations of racism and domestic violence against its star Mel Gibson in the run up to its release.

But now Killen is hoping it’ll prove to be third time lucky with NBC drama Awake, a show which follows a police detective who is involved in a horiffic car accident with his wife and son. When he regains conciousness he finds himself caught between two worlds — one in which his wife survived but his son died, the other in which the roles are reversed. He skips from one reality to the other every time he wakes from sleep, causing him to question which version of his new life is indeed ‘real’. But as he tells one of his psychiatrists (he’s got one for each reality, naturally): “When it comes to letting one of them go, I have no desire to ever make progress.”

With the first episode of Awake set to air on NBC tonight, Kyle Killen was good enough to answer some of our questions about a show we’ve been excited about for quite some time.

Both Awake and Lone Star feature central characters struggling with a double life of one kind or another. Was that a deliberate choice? Are there themes you had planned to explore with your previous show that you plan to include in Awake?

Something like that. My mind was kind on the dual life place coming off of Lone Star so I think it was still fertile ground when I went looking for another story to tell.

What is it about the double life dynamic that appeals to you?

I think we all wonder about the decision we might have made differently and the lives that might have resulted from them. I’m kind of interested in people who refuse to pick one and instead try to take both sides of the fork in the road at the same time.

Is there anything you learned during your experience with Lone Star that has affected your approach with Awake?

Lone Star had a much darker core — the lead was essentially an anti-hero, someone you cared for despite his behaviour. I think part of the fun was that the audience could never really tell if they wanted him to succeed or fail. Ultimately, that turned out to be a  barrier to a network audience and we had trouble getting enough people to try it out to keep it on the air.

Awake really turns that dynamic on it’s head, giving you someone who’s struggle is something we’re completely empathetic to and our rooting interest is pure and clear. Lone Star was also a very serialised story that required commitment while Awake will offer a serialised overstory, but also has a procedural engine that provides stories that begin and end every week.

Does the fate of Lone Star make you nervous about Awake‘s prospects or is it a case of ‘well, it’s unlikely we’ll be treated as badly as last time’?

I think no one really ever knows what’s going to work and what won’t. If Lone Star had been a giant hit I’d still be very nervous that no one was going to turn up for Awake. In the end, making films and television is a giant leap of faith and Lone Star demonstrated that when you take that leap you can very easily end up on your face.

Awake NBC

Does Awake live and die with its central mystery or can you eventually answer that and still have more to explore? Is there a worry that if you take too long to answer the big question fuelling the show that the audience will give up?

I really don’t think it’s a show about which world is real. I think it’s a show about man who treats each world as real and struggles with the ways those two worlds start to pull away from one another and demand different things from him. I think that to the extent people keep watching, it will be because they’re invested in both worlds, not because they’re waiting for one of them to go away.

Do you have an ‘ideal run’ in mind for the show in terms of number of episodes/seasons?

I don’t.  No one wants it to be a show that outlives it story, but given that my last show made it two episodes, I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about that particular problem.

Do you have a solid idea from the outset what’s really going on with [main character] Michael or is that something you’ll decide upon when the show naturally approaches that point?

I tend to start with really defined places that I want to get to in a season, something to build to or explore, but I think you have to be open to how to get there. You’re working with a lot of creative and talented people and they’re going to bring amazing things to you that you’d never have considered on your own. Being able to accomodate that and see it all grow and mesh together is the single most exciting thing about doing a show like this.

How do you feel about the timeslot you’ve been given? How much sway do you give to that factor in terms of successful a show is?

This was ER‘s timeslot, a space I grew up watching NBC dominate, so it feels like an honour to land there. There’s no safe harbour on television. It’s like an election every week, and ultimately people vote for what they want more of. We enjoyed making this and are excited about, so we hope people dig it. That’s about as much as we can control.

Jason Isaacs and Laura Allen in Awake

In terms of the detective elements of the show, will there be a new case to be solved in each reality every week or are we looking at longer arcs?

Yes and yes. There’s a case or cases each week in most episodes, though eventually the dominoes on the over arching story arcs start to fall in a way that demands more of our time and attention. Hopefully it’s a satisfying blend of the weekly and serialised.

When The Wire was shown in the UK a couple of years back David Simon was asked if he was worried that the casual viewer would feel lost when dipping into his show halfway through. His response: “Fuck the casual viewer”. With a relatively complex set-up for your show is there a chance people joining the show late will feel alienated — and if so, do you care?

As an enormous fan of The Wire, I’m extraordinarily grateful that Simon took that approach. I think there’s a few different ways to look at it. First of all, I think we underestimate the intelligence of the audience and their bandwidth to handle things that are different or unique. There’s nothing about this show that’s more mentally taxing than Jersey Shore. It’s just an entirely different type of story.

As for the casual viewers, I think it’s completely legitimate to say that you’re making something that is intended to be a deep, meaningful and incredible insight into a particular world that demands investment from and audience and rewards them with both entertainment and eye-opening insight like The Wire. I think it’s also legitimate to say that there are a lot of people who work incredibly hard all day and simply aren’t up to a challenge like that for the hour they spend in front of the TV each night.

Anyone can decide to aim their efforts at either audience, and we can argue the merits and cultural importance of the shows on either side of the divide, but as a writer it ultimately has less to do with the audience than your own interest and investment in what you’re giving your time to. So in that sense, regardless of what kind of show you’re writing, it’s always less about the audience than about the writer deciding what makes them happy.

The first seven minutes of episode one were available to view online early. How do you feel about that kind of marketing? You’ve written the opener to hang together as a whole so does taking a chunk of that and putting it out there on its own cause any issues?

I think the first seven minutes do a great job of setting up what the show’s about, so I’m all for it. The reality is that people don’t consume TV by setting their clocks and showing up on a certain channel at a certain time any more. The more we embrace that and explore ways to use and benefit from it, the more I think we’ll discover a host of opportunities where currently we see threats.

To wrap up, what would you say to somebody who prior to coming across this interview is undecided about whether or not to give Awake a go? Why should they tune in?

I think it’s a bit of an experiment, an effort to see if we can bend some conventions and offer something new that’s satisfying to a wide audience. As with any experiment, you tune in to see if it might go horribly wrong. We’ll know March 1.

Features, Interviews, New Shows

Interview: David Harewood (pt 2)

1 Comment 26 February 2012

It’s time for part two of our interview with the fantastic David Harewood, star of outstanding US drama Homeland. If you missed part one of our David Harewood interview then make sure you read that first.

Fair warning: this concluding part of our chat sees David talk through some of the main themes and incidents of Season 1, so you’re about to encounter MAJOR SEASON 1 SPOILERS. So if you’ve yet to see all 12 episodes or don’t mind finding out what happens (and believe us, you’ll want to watch things unfold on screen) then look away around about now.

Seriously, last chance. HUGE HOMELAND SEASON 1 SPOILERS AHEAD. Okay, on with the good stuff.

Deputy CIA Director David EstesWe find out in the final episode of Season 1 that Estes is indirectly involved with the operation that has led to the terror threat that the show is centered around. Presumably that’s something you found out about as you got the final script?

Absolutely — and I’ll be honest with you, it was very difficult for me to play the character because I just kept feeling that I wasn’t playing with a full deck. I just didn’t know what side of the fence he was on. I knew he was hiding something — he wasn’t being honest with himself and he wasn’t being honest about who he was. I couldn’t base everything on this petty love/hate relationship with Carrie and I kept wondering ‘Why does he not like Carrie succeeding? Why does he not like her getting closer to this whole question of Abu Nazir?’ I kept wondering what it was all about and I could never really put my finger on it.

It was only, as you say, when I got those final scripts [that it fell into place]. It was like getting a huge piece of the jigsaw for me. So I’m really looking forward to going back because I just have so much more certainty about him now. I was actually quite nervous playing him [at first] because I just didn’t quite think I knew him in the early scenes. I was watching Damian, Claire and Mandy do some fantastic work and I kept thinking ‘I don’t feel comfortable yet in my skin’. I was beginning to worry about it. But I decided to just keep it simple because I thought if I keep trying too hard to be one way or another I’m just going to lead myself up into a cul-de-sac.

So I just kept it as simple as I could — but when I got those final scripts it was like the ‘eureka!’ moment. So I feel as though I can kind of unleash now and really relax into this character a little. And I play this guy who’s perhaps taken on a little bit of a dark side, he’s very much a part of something that has not been beneficial to the country or the cause but he’s going to stick it out and it’s kind of a ‘me against them’ mentality.

As I watched the show, and it’s a testament to both the writing and the way you portrayed him, there was a while there where I thought ‘he’s properly involved in this plot’ and I actually found it a relief when we found that it’s not quite that clear cut. But there’s definitely a point in the middle of the season where you think ‘there’s definitely more than he’s letting on’ and you start thinking ‘did he give the shard of razor blade to the prisoner’ and so on…

You know, that’s one thing that none of us really foresaw: this fervent search for the mole. Everybody was saying ‘Who’s the mole? Who sneaked in the razor blade? Who is the person that knows the information?’. People on the internet were saying it was me, it was Saul, it was incredible. None of us really expected that to be such a big thing but as you say I think it’s great that the writing has enabled everybody at some point to be guilty — if only for people then to suddenly go ‘no, it can’t be him’ and to keep people constantly guessing. It’s been fantastic to play and as you say we’ve all been in the dark at some point in the show and that’s a testament to the writing.

Damian Lewis as Nicholas BrodyWhen I first started watching the show I very deliberately tried to avoid any news over whether or not there was going to be a second season — because of the nature of this story and this potential bomb threat as we go though, you’re kind of thinking ‘well, if there’s only one season it would be really amazing and brave and interesting to watch if that bomb actually goes off’.

Now, I found out by accident halfway through watching that there’s going to be a second season so automatically I thought ‘well, there’s no way Brody will go through with it then — TV doesn’t do that’. But to the show’s eternal credit all the way through that final episode and the scene in the bunker in particular the atmosphere is absolutely electric and I was kept guessing right until the last minute.

The show is written by a group of seven writers and they are perhaps some of the most proficiant writers in television at the moment — truly exceptional, each and every one of them. And one of the great things is that they’ve all decided to come into the room and say ‘what if?’. They write the scripts and they then come together and say ‘what if we do this or do that?’.

I think when they originally went into the room Brody actually was going to press the button, so it’s again a testament to the quality of the writing that they are prepared to really push things to the limit, to push boundaries and argue their points — and that they’re also open and prepared to listen to opposing voices and go down routes they hadn’t individually thought of. We’re very lucky that we’ve got such a fantastic group of talented writers that can be so imaginative and are prepared to take so many risks.

I suppose with TV there’s always this struggle of finding the right balance between having a show that has a strong central story that can find an audience from the outset and one that can potentially be stretched on for multiple seasons if it’s received as well as something like Homeland. Can that affect the quality of the work when they can’t be sure how long they have to tell their story?

They won’t do it [with Homeland]. At least two of these guys worked on 24 and they have acknowledged that 24 perhaps went on a bit too long and they really don’t intend to do that with Homeland. Particularly the Carrie/Brodie arc, you can only do that for so long so I don’t think they’re going to wring it out too much. From what I gather the show has a finite story arc and I think they want to bring it to a close as opposed to flog it like a dead horse.

That’s great to hear because it must be so difficult as a writer or a showrunner when a show is so well received to keep that kind of integrity if you get into kind of a ‘Lost’ situation where the hype around the show means that people want it to go on for years and years and you get to the situation where you think ‘how are we going to stretch our story out for this long and keep getting our paychecks?’. You always hope that the people behind the show are going to keep that integrity and see the show as something that has a natural length.

I think they’re all aware of that and I trust them not to abuse it. I think they know it’s too good. They’re aware of the enormous impact that the first season has had and I think to match it is going to be extremely difficult — but if anyone can do it I would say these guys can because they’re just brilliant at what they do.

Claire Danes as Carrie MathisonClaire Danes was honoured at the Golden Globes; as we touched on before Homeland genuinely does have an incredibly strong cast but she really earned that award, especially as she’s unravelling towards the end of the season.

Oh yeah. She’s quite the most fantastic actress I’ve ever worked with. I have to say, sharing a scene with her was the highlight of my year last year. She was just fantastic — and not just a great actress but a lovely person as well, very approachable. You know we’re just so lucky to have the cast that we’ve got; it’s an absolute pleasure to go to work.

I also loved the scene with you and Mandy Patinkin in the final episode where he confronts you with the redacted report — that was incredibly powerful.

Yeah, absolutely. As I say, getting scenes with Patinkin, Danes, Lewis — they’re genuine highlights of my career. These are just fantastic moments for me. Whenever I get my scripts, wherever I am — you know, you’re in the car, in the supermarket — you hear that ‘ping’ from the email, you look at it and it says ‘Homeland scripts’, you just sit down immediately or pull over wherever you are and just read it. Because, you know, you want to know what’s happening — you go ‘oh great, I’ve got a scene with Claire’ or ‘great, I’ve got a scene with Mandy’. You just think ‘I can’t wait’.

There are certain scenes with this show when you get the script and you just think ‘I cannot wait to play this scene’ — and that’s rare. Nine times out of ten you just think ‘I can’t wait to the end of the day so I can get home’ but with Homeland you think ‘I just really can’t wait to play this’ because I don’t know what Mandy’s going to do, for instance, I don’t know how Mandy’s going to do it. It’s a very, very exciting gig for me. It really is.

And as we spoke about earlier, the whole extended cast were superb throughout the whole of that first season.

Oh yeah. Like the fantastic girl who played the prince’s girlfriend, Brianna Brown. She was so great but the fact that they can be so brutal with a character like that is a testament to the quality of the show. That they can dispense with such great characters but not in a cheap way — it has a real impact. I think it’s the quality of the writing more than anything else, the writing is just extraordinary.

You’ve been really generous with your time, so just one more thing to wrap up. Obviously you’re gearing up for Season Two now. When do you begin work on that?

We begin work in May. I’ve just secured my apartment — I’m going back to the same place I was staying year. Looking forward to that very much. Yeah, some time in mid-May we’ll crank up. I’m really, really looking forward to it. Last year was one of the best years of my life, so I’m very excited about going back for Season 2.

And do you know much going in?

Absolutely no idea; none of us do. And that’s part of the exciting thing about it — you just have no idea what’s going to happen. So I’m looking forward to getting the scripts — you know, even as a punter I want to know what’s happening next!

From the buzz around the show, it’s clear that there are plenty of people who feel the same way.

Yeah, it’s great. I think more people have seen it since the Golden Globes than before so hopefully for Season 2 the numbers should be extraordinary because the interest that has been built up in the show has been incredible. I think we’re already the highest rated show on Showtime ever.


Click here to read part one of our David Harewood interview.

Season 1 of Homeland is currently showing on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings in the UK. Catch up on previous episodes on 4oD, starting with Episode 1.  Season 2 will air on Showtime in the US later this year.

Follow David Harewood on Twitter: @THEHAREWOOD

Features, Interviews, New Shows

Interview: David Harewood (pt 1)

1 Comment 24 February 2012

David Harewood has one of those faces that you instantly recognise, one that you just know you’ve seen many times over the years. But despite a successful career spanning well over two decades he’s never quite made it to household name status. His starring role in breakout hit US drama Homeland, however, looks set to finally change all that.

The show centres around a US prisoner-of-war who is unexpectedly released after many years in Afghanistan. While he returns to a hero’s welcome, a brilliant but flawed CIA agent has reason to believe that he may have been ‘turned’, his release being simply the first step in a major terrorist plot against the US.

A major member of the central cast, Harewood effortlessly holds his own against superstars such as Claire Danes and Damian Lewis playing CIA Deputy Director David Estes. To celebrate the show finally arriving on UK terrestrial TV, he agreed to talk to New TV Shows about his thoughts on the show and his career in general. In fact, he was so generous with his time that we’ve split the interview into two parts — click here for part to of our interview with David Harewood.

David Harewood as David Estes in Homeland

First of all, congratulations on your recent MBE [for services to drama]. As recognition of your work on stage and screen over the years it must have been a really proud moment for you.

It was — I’m obviously very, very proud of it. I’ve been banging on for nearly 25 years now, so it’s nice that, as you say, you finally get a little bit of recognition. I think together with the success of Homeland it’s kind of a perfect storm for me because I’ve had the recognition personally and also finally I think professionally, so yeah, I’m in a really good place at the moment.

Apparently it came as a big surprise — I read that you didn’t open the letter for a few days…

It’s true. I thought it was a tax bill so I didn’t open it for three days! I literally left it on the side. You know, I have this phobia of brown envelopes — over the years, I know they contain bad news. So I just left it there and then I plucked the courage up one Saturday night and ripped it open.

I was completely, completely gobsmacked, I mean I really nearly fell over. I had to read it again and the pride just welled up. It was a really great day, partly because my kids were there and they got to see inside the palace, which, for two young girls to actually go to the palace was just out of this world really. It was a great day all around.

As you say, you’ve been acting for a long time now. You’ve played so many roles on stage and on screen but  before Homeland, was there one particular role that people would come up to you and say “that’s what I recognise you from”?

There really isn’t. I’ve just been doing it for so long — people kind of go “what do I know you from?” and I have to go through a list of things. I think for a lot of people it’s Blood Diamond, for many people it’s The Vice, some people would say it’s Robin Hood and then a lot of people would say Game On

That was exactly it for me! I was one-and-a-half episodes into Homeland and I was thinking ‘I’ve seen this guy in so many things’ and I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was I remembered you from so vividly. And then suddenly it clicked: Game On!

Yeah, exactly! And again, for a lot of people it would be something I’ve done on stage. I’ve enjoyed a great stage career so people will often remember seeing me at The National playing Othello or Hotspur [in Henry IV]. But it’s nice that I can finally perhaps answer that question with ‘Homeland‘ and have the conversation end there!

David Harewood as Quinton Cole in Battlefield 3You were involved with Battlefield 3 which seemed like a bit of a departure from your usual roles. How did that come about?

I’ve been badgering my voiceover agent for a while now about getting into that genre. I’m a big gamer myself and the games are getting so sophisticated these days that I thought ‘surely there’s a role for me in there somewhere’. Before I went to America to do Homeland they phoned me up and asked if I’d be interested in doing a voiceover for a video game and I thought ‘wow, at last, here it is’.

I got the script and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it; it was just complete nonsense. When I saw ‘BF3′ on there it piqued my interest and I looked it up online — as soon as I realised it was Battlefield I thought ‘wow!’ and was immediately really excited.

It was also a good chance for me to try out my American accent. Until then I hadn’t actually done one. I was a little bit nervous doing it but it turned out to be great practice for Homeland. I was so excited about it — putting on the computer suit, I was a like a kid in a sweet shop, really so excited as a huge gamer. To actually be in a game, it’s heaven!

Yeah, because you did the motion capture stuff as well as the voice over work, right?

Exactly. Doing the mo-cap stuff was fantastic, really exciting. It was funny — I got sent a copy of the game and as I played through it, it’s really funny when you hear yourself in a video game. I was playing it online a while back and got into a vehicle and all of the avatars in the vehicle were me! It was a bit wierd looking around of avatars of me telling me what to do…

What kind of games are you generally into?

All sorts. I like Uncharted a lot. First person shooters, role-playing games, driving games — I used to be really into Gran Turismo. I’ve got piles of them. Occasionally when I’m trying to get away from the kids I’ll go downstairs and crank up a game. I’m thinking of getting a Kinect next. There are many nights when I’m in America and not filming when you kind of think ‘what shall I do?’ — I’m trying to give myself as many things to do as possible that I don’t have to pay for so I’m probably going to grab a Kinect and get really fit with one of the fitness games.

There’s been a lot made recently of your comments on the lack of opportunities for black actors in the UK as opposed to in the US. What do you think the issue is behind that?

I’m a bit disappointed with myself really for allowing a personal frustration to become so public because it’s dominated a lot of my press of late. I regret that because I really wanted this to be a good news story, you know, the success of Homeland and me being a part of that. I think I’ve been misrepresented quite a lot. When you take the argument out of context it becomes quite sensationalist.

The point I was trying to make was that there is no doubt that the characters I get from America are just far more complex, more authoritative than the characters I get here in the UK. It’s not just myself but a number of black actors — we’ve found the US a place where we can really stretch our talents and play characters that aren’t necessarily colour-specific. They give you the range, the options that we’re looking for as strong actors.

I can only say that the characters in America just seem more complex — particularly when it comes to television. I don’t know why that should be, I don’t know why we don’t create those characters in the UK. I really couldn’t put my finger on it and I’d hate to try to because as soon as you do you’re accused of criticising — one of the headlines was ‘Harewood slams the UK film industry’! I wasn’t doing any of that; I was just pointing to the fact that the characters I get in America are just far more complex and I’m not the only one who thinks that. But as to why that should be I really have no idea.

Homeland's David Estes, played by David HarewoodAs we touched upon earlier you’ve previously played some big roles on stage here in the UK — is Broadway something you’d like to look towards now that Homeland has been such a success or are you going to try and cement the screen roles while you’re recognised for that?

No, I’d love to replicate the success I’ve had here over there. I’d love to do Broadway, I’d love to do off-Broadway. I love acting — I’m not necessarily interested in just disappearing into movie stardom as it were. I love playing characters — if I can find a great character on stage then I’ll do that. I’m not really interested in just having a long move career. I would like to do more movies, don’t get me wrong — but if I can work on stage in America or back here in the UK then great.

I’m very excited about what the success of Homeland could possibly do for me. I’m in a win-win situation because I love the stage and I also love the screen so whatever comes up I’m looking forward to it.

We’ve spoken about the fact that you’ve enjoyed a long career but did landing such a major role in a show like Homeland feel instantly like a major milestone?

Oh yeah. It’s the first time I’ve worked in America regularly, it’s the first time I’ve played such a central, authroritative character in such a big show, I’m working with great actors — it’s a huge milestone for me. It’s a huge turning point for me and hopefully it’s going to open up many more doors. But I’m really very excited about the show and what it can do for my career. I’m just ecstatic about it, it definitely feels like I’ve taken another step. Just in terms of my abilities; when you play a central role, you have to take on more responsibilities.

I certainly feel just as I did when I played Othello at the National, like I’ve made another leap into another category. I feel that playing Estes has been another leap for me in terms of my professional career, just taking on that responsibility and working with the actors. The quality of the actors I was working with has definitely stretched me and made me a better actor.

Are there major differences in working on a US show as opposed to a UK one?

A little bit. I suppose it’s what the old rep system would have presented actors with; it’s given me the ability to play the same character over the course of six months at the level that the guys are writing Homeland on. You really need to be disciplined with your character, you need to be able to interpret scripts quickly — but at the same time it gives you the time to deepen your character. I struggled a little bit at first during the first season because I couldn’t quite get a handle on my character but by the end of the series I felt very comfortable in his shoes.

Playing the same character [for so long] — we don’t do that in the UK these days as much as we used to. In series like The Vice, London’s Burning, all those big shows you could play the same character over a number of years and really get to know it. I suppose we do it with the soaps but it’s a different thing when you’re dealing with the high-end dramatic serials. For me, it’s the chance to play the same character over a number of years and getting under his skin, getting to know him — it’s something they kind of tend to do more now in America than in the UK.

You spoke about your two daughters earlier — how do you cope with being away for so long at a time when you’re working on a project like Homeland?

Skype! But there’s only one thing with Skype and that’s that you can’t reach in and grab them. Sometimes you just want to grab them, smell them, pick them up. But they came out and spent some time out there with me last year and it was fantastic. It was 90 degrees every day, there was a pool on the roof, they just loved it. Jumping in the pool every day, swimming, sitting in the sun, spending lazy afternoons eating pizza — they had an absolute ball and I hope very much that we can do the same thing this year.

Homeland is shown on Showtime in the USHomeland has finally started showing in the UK on Channel 4. It’s a long time since the show aired in the US, which is something you made a point of highlighting on Twitter. Do you sympathise with the guys in the UK who keep up with news on US drama and have had to wait this long to see something that’s been such a big hit?

I really do. I have to apologise to Channel 4 for some of my tweets! It’s a shame because most people have probably already seen it probably by downloading it — one way or another they’ve probably got their hands on it. It’s a shame that they’ve had to wait so long and it’s also been a shame that because of the scheduling Channel 4 haven’t really had an opportunity to put out poster campaigns out for it. We can only hope that people will find it but it’s a shame that there are more posters for [Channel 4 reality show] My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding than there are for Homeland — a real shame.

Unfortunately that seems to be the way of things at the moment with reality shows taking over. Channel 4 used to be the home of quality US drama really if you think of The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The West Wing — but even the later seasons of those shows ended up being scheduled in the middle of the night or shipped out to the lesser-watched digital channels. It seems generally with the UK that these quality US shows are bought and not necessarily made the most of.

Exactly. I mean, I’m not saying it’s any more fractured than it is in the States but they are across a huge range of channels over here. You have to look deep and hard to find the right show. In a way I’m glad it’s on Channel 4 because at least it’s on a terrestrial channel but I just hope that enough people know that it’s on and catch it. I’m sure people do but I also think that most people have probably, by hook or by crook, seen it one way or another.

On that note, I wanted to speak to you about people downloading shows. I think there’s an argument that says the word of mouth it can generate can actually help DVD sales of shows that haven’t been promoted as well over here or aren’t scheduled as positively as they could be through word of mouth. An example for me is Breaking Bad over here. I’ve spoken to probably 15 people now and said ‘look, this show is amazing, you’ve never heard of it but you have to watch it’ — and a bunch of them have been out and bought the DVDs.

Yeah, I can’t understand why nobody’s picked Breaking Bad up [in the UK]. It’s one of the best TV series I’ve ever seen. I showed it to my girlfriend when she was in the States and she didn’t think she was going to like it but she ordered me the next day to go out and buy the entire box set. We sat there every night and watched three episodes back to back and we’re now huge fans. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen in my life. Quite why none of the big channels have picked it up I don’t know.

I wonder if it’s perhaps a tough sell to the audience when you try and precis it down — this guy who’s terminally ill and starts selling drugs, it perhaps doesn’t appeal to a wide audience but it obviously goes much deeper than that.

Much deeper than that, yeah. I suppose it is a hard sell. Mind you, it’s like The Wire. Nobody watched The Wire when it was on TV, everybody watched it with a box set. I suppose it’s just one of those things — you either catch it or you don’t. I’m hoping Channel 4 keep Homeland and it’s as big a success here as it was in America.

For somebody who doesn’t know much about the show and hasn’t gone down other routes to see it, what would you say to them about the show? Why should they be tuning in on Sundays?

It think it’s probably one of the best examples of high quality writing that deals with current-day situations that there has been in years. The writing is high quality, the acting is superb, all the central characters are fantastic — Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin — just superb actors. It’s a combination of great writing and great acting. If you like deep-thinking psychological thrillers then Homeland is for you. It’s a slow burn thing — it’s not for everybody but it’s highly intelligent writing and high intelligent drama. If you want car chases and thrills and spills it may not be for you but if you like to really sit and try and work things out it’s probably the best example of quality US writing that there’s been for years.

The cast of HomelandThe cast is remarkable. Not only the main star names of Claire Danes and Damian Lewis but also a great extended cast — yourself, Mandy Patinkin, who everybody knows from The Princess Bride but is another guy who has had a remarkable career both on stage and screen, through to people who aren’t necessarily in every episode like David Marciano who was wonderful in Due South and The Shield and again in this. The whole cast is amazing.

It really is. Obviously when you read the scripts you mostly concentrate on your own lines but then you sit down to watch an episode and you realise there’s some fantastic work being done by everybody — even the guest spots are fantastic. It seems to have brought out the best in everybody.

What about your character, David Estes? He’s really quite a complex character and you’re never quite sure what side of the line he’s walking on.

No, not until the very end — and neither was I when I was playing him. It was a difficult character to play because he’s the youngest ever deputy director of the CIA, he wants to be the head honcho at the CIA. He wants to mould the place in his own image, he wants to be the ‘new broom’.

When I was researching about the CIA, there has been this big change since 9/11 with this emphasis on technology, on drones, on dispensing with the old ways of sending guys out into the field, the old spy network, etc. I think Estes is very much a new broom, he wants to make use of new technology, of drones, new ways of spying, new ways of surveillance and analysis. It’s all about analysing information and I think Estes is representing this new way of approaching analysis, whereas I think [Mandy Patinkin's character]  Saul is very much old-school.

He’s extremely ambitions, highly intelligent — but I think he’s perhaps sold his soul a little bit, perhaps sold a little bit of himself in order to get to where he is. I think he’s aware of that. He still has a heart but he’s quite cold inside. He doesn’t like his position to be threatend, his authority to be threatened in any way.

He realises [Claire Danes' character] Carrie’s brilliance but also realises that she is reckless and that he has to be very wary of her approach — and not to give too much away, he’s proved right on several occasions  as her methods are unconventional to the point of being dangerous. Somebody in Este’s position cannot afford to have such a loose cannon on his team and he will, if necessary, dispense with her. I think he’s very guarded, very ambitious — but I think more than anything else he’s an absolute partiot. He’s doing this not just for himself but for the defence of his country.

The show won the Best Drama award at the Golden Globes beating off stiff competition from the likes of Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire — that must have been such an amazing feeling.

Oh, it was. I still pump my fist when I watch it on YouTube! To sit there and hear the name Homeland called out it really was one of the most memorable nights of my life. Just a fantastic atmosphere. Because we film it in Charlotte, which is quite a small town, we missed the mania there was for the show in LA and New York. Walking down the red carpet it was extraordinary the comments we were getting from the interviewers. It seems to be one of those shows that people have tuned into with regular passion and sat glued throughout the hour watching it almost through their fingers, thinking ‘what on Earth is going to happen next?’.

To create that sort of anxiety in a TV show, you don’t really get that very often. Going back to what we were talking about earlier, I got that with Season 2 and 3 of Breaking Bad, you know. I was going ‘oh my god, what’s going to happen next?’, where you just cannot envisage what’s going to happen the next day. What’s Jesse going to do? What’s Walt going to do now to get out of this situation? I think the fact that we can create that [kind of thing] at such a level is testament to the quality of the show and also to the subject matter.

It’s one of the first major terroroism dramas that has really gripped people. It’s frightened them, it’s gripped them — and the whole idea that the all-American hero could in fact be a terrorist? It’s really spun their heads. I think that’s the secret of the show: it’s making people really question what is right, what is wrong. It’s really blurred the lines and I think that’s just been fantastic — it’s humanised everybody, from terrorists to good guys and bad guys. Nobody’s [got off] scott free, even the FBI’s come in for some flack at some point. It’s just really well put together.

Click here to read part two of our interview with David Harewood.

Season 1 of Homeland is currently showing on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings in the UK. Catch up on previous episodes on 4oD, starting with Episode 1.  Season 2 will air on Showtime in the US later this year.

Follow David Harewood on Twitter: @THEHAREWOOD


Features, Netflix, News

See US Netflix content in the UK

No Comments 29 January 2012

UPDATE – February 2013

The original article featured below describes a free Netflix workaround that no longer works. As far as we can tell there are no longer any free ways to get around Netflix region locking. There is, however, an option that’s cheap as chips and gives you the opportunity not only to access UK and US Netflix content but also switch between Netflix offerings for Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland in a matter of seconds.

Sound good? Head over to, sign up for a free seven-day trial and follow their simple instructions for setting Netflix region switching on the device of your choice, whether it be your desktop PC, laptop, iPhone,  iPad, Android tablet – or your games console including the Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, Wii and WiiU.

Once your free trial is over, it’ll cost you $4.99 (around £3) per month to continue using the service. And considering the mountain of classic TV shows and films on the US and Canadian versions of Netflix that aren’t currently available on the UK store, it’s a small price to pay.



It’s been a long time coming but digital steaming service Netflix finally launched in the UK earlier this month. This is both a good thing and a bad thing and here’s why: although Netflix offers a veritable goldmine of content for US-based TV lovers a large amount of the good stuff isn’t available to UK subscribers.

Or at least that’s the intention. Thankfully there are some pleasingly simple workarounds out there that’ll have you accessing the US content in no time. Snappily named YouTube user dan24591 has uploaded a nice and simple guide to accessing the US content via a UK-based PlayStation 3 here, for example:

To confuse matters slightly there’s some worthwhile stuff on the UK service that isn’t available in the US — so to get the most out of Netflix you’re ideally going to want to be able to access both. So long as you’ve got a couple of Netflix-capable devices to hand, though, this is surprisingly easy to set up. Honestly. The New TV Shows office has access to both (UK content via Xbox 360, US stuff via PS3) and believe us when we say if we can manage it, you most certainly can too. We once answered the question “Which browser do you use?” with “Microsoft Google” is all I’m saying.

Netflix is currently offering a one-month free trial to all potential UK customers and you really should take advantage. We’ll be trawling both the UK and US content this week to bring you a selection of must-see Netflix-based TV, so you just stay right there on the edge of your seat while we’re gone.

247086_TV episodes & movies instantly streaming from Netflix. Start your FREE trial!

Awake on NBC

Features, New Shows

Three shows we’re dying to see

1 Comment 28 January 2012

Over the optimist, New TV Shows can often be found pawing through the upcoming television schedules with an excited eye panning from side to side looking for the next truly great programme. Sure, sometimes we get burned but on the whole we know how to pick ‘em.

Having scanned through a list of the new shows lined up for 2012, we’ve identified a number of forthcoming programmes that we’re confident are going to be the bomb, as all the kids are saying nowadays. Read on for our three favourite contenders for new TV show of 2012:


The pitch

A detective is faced with two separate realities when regaining conciousness following a car accident involving his wife and son. In each reality only one of his loved ones survived the crash and he he switches between the two every time he wakes from slumber. Is he cracking up from the stress of losing somebody so close to him? Or is he just experiencing particularly vivid dreams? Only time — and some serious soul searching — will tell.

Why you should be excited

Show creator Kyle Killen is a huge talent and due a break following some rotten luck with previous projects. He was responsible for 2010′s best pilot, Lone Star, which also dealt with living a double life albeit in a very different way. Unfortunately Fox cancelled it two episodes in despite incredible promise because of disappointing viewing figures. The word from those who have seen an early version of the Awake pilot is overwhelmingly positive and the show has a strong front man in the shape of Jason Isaacs. The premise is strong and we’re more than confident that Killen will deliver; the trailer (above) has us PUMPED. The only worry is that NBC may get cold feet over a show that will likely only fully reward those who watch closely week-in-week-out. Fingers crossed they give the show — and Killen — the chance they deserve.

When it’s due to air



The pitch

A peek behind the scenes at a busy TV newsroom. Veteran news anchor Will McCallister is roundly trashed and labelled ‘un-American’ after telling the truth in a widely publicised interview. Soon after, the protégé he’s been rooting for is offered a plum timeslot of his own and the majority of McCallister’s disallusioned staff follow him out of the door. Can McCallister regain the trust of the nation with the help of a team of hastily arranged replacements?

Why you should be excited

Aaron Sorkin, creator of best-TV-show-ever-ever contender The West Wing, is behind The Newsroom, so expect plenty of weighty issues interspersed with his trademark snappy dialogue and light slapstick. This is the third ‘behind the scenes of a TV show’ project Sorkin has created, following the underrated Sports Night and unfairly lambasted Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, so he’s liklely to hit the ground running. We’ve read an early version of the pilot episode script and it’s classic Sorkin fare — more than enough to get us unreasonably excited. While HBO has undoubtedly killed off some shows before their time — hello Deadwood! Hi there Carnivale! — you’d hope it’ll give Sorkin time to find his stride with this one. Jeff Daniels is signed on to play Will McCallister and we’re confident he can deliver the Sorkinese.

When it’s due to air

Summer 2012


The pitch

The team behind BBC political satire The Thick of It takes on US politics. The series follows a senator who is unexpectedly catapulted into the office of Vice President only to find that the job is nothing like she expected.

Why you should be excited

Have you seen The Thick of It? If so, you’ll know exactly why. Any project that creator Armando Iannucci is attached to is automatically worth having on your radar given his sparkling previous form. The UK comedy landscape has been immesurably enriched by his presence for more than 20 years now — The Day Today, several Alan Partridge projects, the ludicrously underrated Channel 4 comedy The Armando Iannucci Shows — and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t have the same success in the US. The new show also boasts a couple of bona fide sitcom greats among its cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame plays main character Selina Meyer, while Arrested Development‘s Tony Hale also stars.

When it’s due to air


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