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Homeland's David Harewood talks season two
David Harewood in Homeland. Image. Channel 4
Secret service thriller Homeland is back on our screens. Its British star, David Harewood MBE, reveals as much as he can about the thrilling plot, what he wanted for this character in season two, and why he has to keep the storylines secret - even from his own mother.
Fresh from picking up an impressive seven gongs at the prestigious Emmy awards, Homeland is making Sunday nights exciting again.
The first season, which explored the murky world of terrorism, politics and the American secret service, was a runaway success, winning the plaudits of many (including Barrack Obama, who declared it his favourite show).
At the heart of the series is Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a brilliant secret agent who suspects recently-returned US Marine Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) of having been 'turned' by Al-Qaeda while being held captive in Afghanistan.
"Homeland is making Sunday nights exciting again."
The first season kept everyone guessing until the very last episode, but it also revealed tantalising new information about David Estes, head of the CIA and screen alter-ego of Britain's very own David Harewood.
For such a slick American show, which is so rooted in the history and politics of the country, many people wondered why producers cast two Brits - Harewood and Lewis - in key roles.
"That's the million dollar question, isn't it?" says David Harewood, laughing. "It's what everybody's been asking. And we've got a third Brit - we've got Rupert Friend joining in this series. The director just says that they were the most interesting tapes that he saw."
A familiar face from theatre and TV, 46-year-old David, from Small Heath, Birmingham, claims he went into performing to make up for the fact he "wasn't particularly attractive or particularly academic".
David Harewood's early days...
He got in to the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art (RADA) to study drama and initially felt out of his depth.
"On my first day they were all talking about Brecht and Moliere and Dostoyevsky, and I'm thinking, 'Who the hell are they?' It was a real eye-opener," he admits.
The actor soon settled in, however, and landed a job with the acclaimed Temba Theatre Company as soon as he graduated.
He now has 26 years of experience under his belt, and counts among his many roles Brother Tuck in the BBC's Robin Hood series, Nelson Mandela in Mrs Mandela, and Frankenstein's Monster in Frankenstein's Wedding.
Despite this, and the fact he was awarded an MBE in the 2012 New Year's honours ("one of the proudest days of my life"), Homeland is what has really got him noticed.
"It's taken me 26 years to be an overnight success, as the old gag goes," he says.
Acclaim in Homeland
And this success is likely to multiply with the second season. With many issues still to be resolved, Harewood's character is likely to be more prominent in this series.
This comes as a relief to the actor, who admits he struggled with simply playing Estes as the authority figure in the background.
David Harewood makes his mark in Homeland. Image. Channel 4
"I said that to the writers at the end of the season, and they've done a fantastic job of really filling him out this year and giving him much more of a personality," he says.
Last season Estes always seemed to be opposing Carrie's ideas, and we learned of a relationship back in the day, which explains some of the antagonism.
It was also revealed that Estes had done some unsavoury manoeuvres to get to his position, something which Harewood is trying hard not to judge. "He may have sold his soul to a certain extent to get where he wants to, but who wouldn't?"
David adds: "It's fascinating being out here in the world of American politics during an election. You see the real dirty side of politics, with the ads they're running. If you want to get where you want to get to, you might have to do things that are seemingly unpalatable."
Unsurprisingly, he can't reveal too much about the new season. He's had to keep the scripts so close to his chest, he can't even talk about the show to his own mum.
"After every episode my mum rang me and went, 'Ooohhhh.. what's going on?' I had to say, 'Mum, I'm not saying anything,'" he recalls, laughing.
"The series marks a real pinnacle for Harewood"
"I've read so many tweets and blogs where people have said it's just a one-season show which can't be taken any further, but these writers are fantastic," he says.
"They've managed not only to recreate the same amount of tension, but to ratchet it up again. I think fans of the show are going to be very, very pleased."
The series marks a real pinnacle for Harewood and his career, and the fact his mum is into the show is the icing on the cake.
"This is the first thing which has really blown her out the water," he says. "This has blown everyone out the water, it's been great. I've been trying to crack a US series for so long now. I auditioned for so many of them and thank God I didn't get them because this isn't just another detective show, this is a whole other level up."
Homeland continues Sundays on Channel 4 at 9pm
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