"Who knew people like to sit down on a Sunday night and feel anxious and sweaty?" asks
Lewis plays Nicholas Brody on Showtime's critically acclaimed
which returns for its second season Sunday, Sept. 30, just as taut and fraught with
Brody, who had been a POW Marine, became a Muslim in captivity. Last season, he struggled with the age-old questions of good versus evil. Is he an American hero or a ticking time bomb? Will he be a congressman or a terrorist? Will he be both? And what does homeland mean to him?
"Brody's mission statement at the end of Season 1 is, 'I want to use nonviolence.' There is an earthly, corporal love for his daughter," Lewis tells
, settling into a leather chair in a Beverly Hills hotel. "Her voice pierces through the mist. He has been a man under water. He chooses light at the end of the tunnel, and now he thinks he can effect change in a nonviolent, political way.
"What Brody will discover is he is a man not in charge of his own destiny," Lewis continues.
His foil is Carrie Mathison, a bipolar CIA agent, and
Claire Danes has been racking up awards for her portrayal of this brilliant and tortured woman. At the cliffhanger ending of the freshman season, Carrie suffered a psychotic breakdown and ranted about what she had figured out.
"In this season she is more balanced emotionally," Danes says. "It is a little less taxing than last year. Her nerves were starting to unravel. The nice thing about Carrie is she is ultimately right and ultimately victorious. She is not always recognized for being that in an overt way, but she is successful in the way that really matters, so that kind of saves me and saves my spirit as I render her."
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Lewis' description of the anxiety-producing show is apt. Danes, a native New Yorker, recalls reading the pilot script.
"I was anxious about it initially and when I first learned about the project, and I didn't have a great understanding of who [the creators were]," Danes says of
Howard Gordon and
Alex Gansa. "I didn't realize how sensitive they are. It is so relevant, and we are talking about events happening in real time; I didn't want to exploit audiences' response, and they have not done that at all."
On Sept. 11, 2001, Danes was in Australia.
"I was about as far away from the event as you could be," she says. "I grew up in SoHo. Metaphorically speaking, [the World Trade Center is]) a stone's throw away, and I was in total shock for a while. And one friend in law school, who was thinking very analytically about it all, and was making some argument about how we were engaging it in some way, and I just said, 'My house was on fire.' It felt very visceral and immediate and personal."
Growing up in New York, Danes had a pal in junior high who is now her co-star,
Morena Baccarin. She plays Jessica, Nicholas' wife. Baccarin sees her character evolving in the second season.
When this season opens, Brody is already a congressman, and the possibility of the vice presidency is dangled before him. Yet Abu Nazir, mastermind of the terrorist plot, continues to try to manipulate Brody.
"It is a story about fear, heroes versus nonheroes, and how fine the line is between the two," Baccarin says. "Whether homeland security or the home."
"I would love to see it go on indefinitely," she says, but adds, "I think it's a story that has an end, if you don't want to lose people."
The co-creators acknowledge this.
"Even in the first season, it was a question mark," Gansa says. "Howard and I felt very strongly Brody's story would end."
Both men are careful to not divulge too much of the plot. The question becomes, Gansa says, "How long can you sustain Brody's story? We have a very reliable franchise with Carrie and Saul (
Mandy Patinkin). It takes place overseas."
The Season 2 opener, which unfolds in Beirut, was shot in Jerusalem.
"The truth is we do have this incredible chemistry between them," Gansa says. "You don't want Brody to live beyond his shelf life."
In Season 1, Carrie had a dashed affair with Brody.
"We are going to tell Chapter 2 of the doomed romance between Carrie and Brody," Gansa says. "Carrie and Brody are at the heart of the second season and how these stories converge."
Beyond politics, international espionage and terrorism, "Homeland" plumbs the very depths of people's souls and intentions. Both creators and the three actors acknowledge how surprised they were by the audience embracing "Homeland."
"I am still stunned at the outsized response, " Gordon says.
"As soon as it started airing, people's reactions were pretty extreme." Danes says. "I would go to the grocery store and people would say, 'I am obsessed with the show,' 'Oh, my God, I love your show!' And their enthusiasm seemed very real, and that was very cool to discover.
"And I think the ultimate confirmation came from Mr. President, when he declared it his favorite show," Danes says of Barack Obama. "Maybe we have done something right."