Sam Esmail never made a conscious decision to focus his shows on timely political themes, but “there’s just something about it in the air that’s really resonant right now.” In 2015 he created “Mr. Robot” about the political and economic unrest surrounding a sinister corporation and an equally sinister cabal of hackers. And now in his new Amazon series “Homecoming,” which premieres November 2, he’s tackling the military industrial complex. Based on a podcast of the same name, it follows soldiers who return from active duty to a facility whose stated intent is to help them readjust to civilian life. But its unstated intent may be something quite different. Watch our exclusive video interview with Esmail above.
Esmail was interested in our “relationship with our government and pharmaceuticals, and how are they testing things … is that even a moral thing to do?” And like “Mr. Robot,” “Homecoming” also finds itself exploring the psyches of characters who may not be reliable. That also struck a chord with him in this day and age: “maybe it’s just what’s going on in the world right now that we’re feeling this unreliability with our world, our reality and our society.”
But in addition to the show’s themes, he was also drawn to this material because of its storytelling style. “It harkened back to these more old-school thrillers that I used to watch growing up,” he explains, citing filmmakers like William Friedkin, Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock as influences. “Here was a character-based thriller about people in these intimate settings where the relationships end up being the real twists and turns.”
Central among those characters is Heidi Bergman, the head of the Homecoming facility played by Julia Roberts. “She’s operating at such a high level of skill,” Esmail says about Roberts, who is also an executive producer. “She keeps a scene alive at every turn … I can just give her a bunch of shit to do constantly and she can juggle them all.”
Esmail is juggling too. He took a break from his duties on “Mr. Robot” to focus his attention on “Homecoming,” and he’s going right back to that USA show for its fourth and final season to wrap up its complex story. He has always know where it’s going to end, but “this is a no-spoilers zone, so I will plead the fifth on that.”
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