'Homeland' brings Claire Danes to the Charlotte Observer

tjanes@charlotteobserver.comMay 29, 2013 

Claire Danes rolled her head around on her neck in slow circles as cameras made last-minute adjustments, and then – just like you’d imagine it happening in Hollywood – someone called out, “Action!”

With the precision and intensity of an Emmy Award-winning actress, Danes punched out a seemingly flawless take that lasted less than three minutes.

After the director yelled “Cut,” a bystander turned to a camera operator and asked, “Are they gonna do it again?” The crew member nearly fell over laughing.

For the next 31/2 hours, Danes and four other actors ran through the same short scene for the upcoming season of hit Showtime series “Homeland.” Over and over and over. More than three dozen times. From several different angles. In the most authentic-looking location the producers could find to stand in for a newspaper office: the Observer newsroom in uptown Charlotte.

Production on the third season of the Twentieth Century Fox show – which is primarily filmed in and around Charlotte but is set in the D.C. area – resumed a week ago.

“You’re standing in for The Washington Post, although the Post won’t let us use the word ‘Post,’ ” said executive producer Alex Gansa, adding that he was thrilled to be able to shoot in a real newsroom. “You just can’t replicate the real thing. Also, there’s a history to a room that is hard to reproduce, especially from square one.”

“Homeland” is a thriller that revolves around bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Danes) and suspected terrorist Nick Brody (played by British actor Damian Lewis). In the scene shot at the Observer, Gansa said, “Carrie’s come to a reporter to try to exonerate Brody, to try to find an ally in her cause to prove him innocent.”

All told, it took the cast and crew more than 12 hours to create the three-minute scene.

Set decorator Summer Eubanks of Charlotte and a team of seven assistants arrived in the newsroom just after 8 a.m., and within an hour had stripped and redecorated four desks with props – photos of fake families and pets, Post-Its, important-looking files, stuffed animals, sculptures, clocks and more.

Danes – who won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her performance in Season 1, and repeated at the Globes for Season 2 – was the only principal cast member in the scene.

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