One of the most enjoyable qualities of TV's political thriller Homeland is just how unhinged it is.
This is a television show that revolves around Carrie Mathison, a mentally ill CIA officer who sleeps with her boss, gets several of her colleagues killed and is willingly impregnated by a man who attempted to assassinate the Vice-President — and she somehow remains employed. Realistic, it's not. And that's part of the fun.
Yet creator and showrunner Alex Gansa said the Trump era created certain challenges in writing the show's seventh season, which will premiere in the United States in February.
Each year, Gansa and the show's writing team visit Washington to speak with intelligence agency insiders to learn about the country's current threats in hopes of translating them to the screen. They have made this trip six years in a row without incident. But the most recent one proved a bit different, Gansa told Entertainment Weekly's James Hibberd.
"There are intelligence officers we met in D.C. who say what they do every morning is wake up and check their phones to make sure Seoul, South Korea, is still there. When you're facing that kind of uncertainty it's difficult to parallel in our Homeland world," Gansa said.
The difficulty comes in putting that sort of real-life terror into a television show already known for being absurdist, particularly when the real world seems even more absurd.
"It felt much scarier in real life than what we were writing," he said.
Gansa wants to be clear that Homeland isn't intended as a direct parallel to real-world politics. While he hopes the show is "relevant", he said the writers aren't necessarily trying to comment on actual events — some of which he finds frightening, such as President Donald Trump's ongoing feud with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who Trump called "little Rocket Man" on Twitter.
"We're really not trying to be prescient or comment too directly on what's happening in the world," he said. "Frankly, some of the stuff that's going on is quite scary — we don't address North Korea, for example."
Critics have drawn parallels between the show's plot and the Trump Administration before.
Judith Warner wrote in the New York Times that in the show's sixth season, "art met life to an uncanny degree, sometimes with real-time precision. Fiction and fact converged in story lines around an elaborate web of fake news, the machinations of a powerful 'deep state', and the unprecedented sight of a new president at war with the United States' intelligence community".
Warner was likely referring to Trump's feud with former FBI director James Comey. Or the President's general distrust of the intelligence community, which he has displayed on numerous occasions.
Gansa said that in this tension, he did manage to find a real-world parallel for the show's seventh season. The show's fictional Keene administration finds itself in a similar position regarding the intelligence community.
"Our administration, the Keene administration, is facing much the same issues but from the reverse — Trump is a conservative administration, Keene is more liberal administration, but a lot of the issues are the same," Gansa said. "There's a degree of paranoia inside the Oval Office. There's also a great degree of truth about the forces they're facing and the national security establishment that is committed to politics that run counter to the administration."