TEL AVIV Though booted from the CIA as psychologically unfit, the heroine of the hit TV thriller "Homeland" will return for the second season pursuing leads in the Middle East, the show's producer said on Friday.
During a Tel Aviv visit to shoot new scenes and pay homage to the Israeli hostage drama on which Homeland is based, Howard Gordon drew links with "24", another U.S. television series of his about a renegade counter-terrorist.
"You'll remember Jack Bauer was usually out for one reason or another. The fun of this experience is that the characters go in and out of positions of authority," he told Reuters in an interview.
Carrie Mathison, Homeland's intuitive and overwrought CIA officer played by Claire Danes, will be in Beirut at the outset of the second season, Howard said, twitching the veil on a script kept largely secret.
"There is a very specific reason why Carrie is called into action. And that process is really very dramatic and, hopefully, very emotional," he said. "There is a piece of intelligence in this part of the world that only Carrie can access."
Tel Aviv-area locations were standing in for the Lebanese settings due to challenges of insuring the cast and crew and the fact that "Israel looks a lot more like (Beirut) than southern California," Gordon said.
Accompanying Gordon was David Nevins, president of entertainment for Showtime, the network behind Homeland, and other senior U.S. entertainment figures.
Such an entourage attests to the boom of American interest in the cross-over potential of Israeli TV programming, including comedies and reality formats.
"There's a lot of creativity coming out of Israel right now. People are used to dealing with smaller production budgets, so the shows tend to be very psychological," Gordon said.
Gordon described Israel's television community as having "spread out beyond the very parochial matter of the Arab-Israeli conflict" - though, as it happened, he and Nevins were feted by partner network Keshet at a memorial hall for Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli premier assassinated in 1995 for his peacemaking bid.
There was a closer brush with reality on Tuesday when Gilad Shalit, the former Israeli army conscript repatriated in October after 5 1/2 years' incommunicado captivity in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, came to the Homeland set. Asked if Shalit had provided insights for his fictional show, Gordon said: "No, but it was a very nice visit and I think he had a good time."
Homeland was directly inspired by "Hatufim" ("Prisoners of War"), a Keshet drama about the distrustful return of captives.
"I think this is very specific to an Israeli audience, but there was an aspect that is very close to an American audience, which is a soldier coming home," Gordon said.
Despite this appeal, the former executive producer of 24 recalled vacillating over whether there would be broad American interest in another show about the war on terror.
But Homeland delves deep - into Carrie's troubled personality and her combustible chemistry with Nicholas Brody, the Marines former POW she suspects of being an al Qaeda sleeper agent, and with her CIA mentor Saul Berenson.
"We realized that there was so much to talk about," Gordon said. "So we created the character of Carrie Mathison and we realised that this was in some way a love story."
Nor is the clock run on 24. A film version is in the works, with Gordon and studio 20th Century Fox producing, though its original start date last month was postponed in a budget spat.
"I think everyone would like to make it. It's really about everything falling into place. We are still talking now about doing it exactly this time next year," he said.
(Writing by Dan Williams)