'Homeland' creator: Show taps into fear of terror

Gideon Raff discusses the research he performed within US security agencies, speaking at Homeland security conference.

Cast of "Homeland" at Emmy awards 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
Cast of "Homeland" at Emmy awards 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
The Emmy-award winning series Homeland has struck a chord with Americans because it captures the “zeitgeist” of paranoia over terrorism, the program’s Israeli co-creator, Gideon Raff, said Tuesday.
“After 9/11 it was pretty obvious who was bad and who was good,” Raff said at a homeland security conference organized by the Israel Export Institute in Tel Aviv. “As a society, we needed to know that we were being protected. That’s why shows like 24 were popular – because Jack Bauer would kill the bad guy and then we would all be safe.”
He continued: “Ten years later, and especially after two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the killing of Bin Laden, I think we’re now asking ourselves what the War on Terror looks like, why these people hate us so much, where the next strike is coming from and what the enemy looks like.”
Raff is the creator of the Israeli series Hatufim, which inspired Homeland. For his work on the American series, he has received an Emmy, a Writers Guild of America Award and an Edgar Allen Poe award.
The American Film Institute graduate said that nine years of living in the US had helped him find the courage to touch the “taboo” issue of Israel’s former prisoners of war. He explained that he met many ex-POWs and “discovered a world of drama” that nobody talked about. What he found most intriguing were the stories about interrogations at a facility in Zichron Yaakov, which became the basis for Hatufim.
For Homeland, a large chunk of the research involved talking to CIA and ex- US military personnel, Raff recalled. This included accompanying Claire Danes – the actor who plays Carrie Mathison, an intelligence officer who has been under psychiatric treatment – to the real CIA Counterterrorism Center in Langley, Virginia.
“The truth is, these people aren’t that discreet. They talk,” Raff said of the CIA officials with whom they met.
His research also found some rather surprising statistics, including the fact that the majority of people taken in for questioning about terrorism in the US were white. He explained that this was why the character of Marine platoon sergeant Nicholas Brody (played by Damian Lewis) – whom Mathison suspects of having been turned while in captivity – is so interesting.
The first season of Homeland focuses on a suspected terrorist plot against the vice president, whom Mathison believes Brody has been tasked with assassinating.
Raff admitted that he was initially “a little concerned” about whether American viewers would consider this subversive.
“When she [Mathison] says Brody is a terrorist, you don’t know if she is on her medication or not. But even if she’s right, you don’t know if he’s bad or good, because we gave him such a good excuse to hate the vice president. I think that’s a little subversive, but also it’s something the audience struggles with.”
Showtime recently announced that Homeland would return for a third season in 2013, but Raff remained tight-lipped about its direction.
“Homeland has raised questions about the Patriot Act and how we can infringe on someone’s privacy when we think that he’s a threat to national security,” he said. “We’ve dealt with that already, so now we have to deal with the next phase, which is what we’re looking for.”