As one of the most ambitious dramas of the past decade, Homeland is coming to an end this month after eight addictive seasons following impulsive CIA officer, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). But with this past season circling back to old themes while setting the stage before its final curtain, the politically resonant Showtime series is in for an explosive end — that is if the U.S. Vice-President-turned-President played by series star, Sam Trammell has anything to say about it. With his character a little right of center, full of ambition and very opinionated, Trammell shares exclusive intel with PopCulture.com about what fans can expect heading into the last episodes as his character, President Benjamin Hayes works to heal partisan divides in the country.
"Expect new surprises," Trammell told PopCulture, recalling a major twist between Carrie and Russian GRU officer, Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin) in Episode 9 ("In Full Flight"). "I'm sure that was a massive surprise, but there are other total surprises and storylines that you just would not see coming that are so great and just add to the anxiety. And this is all building up to a confrontation in Pakistan — it's just going to get more intense."
While the award-winning actor admits he hasn't yet seen the "end of the show because it wasn't written" at the time, he shares that the final episodes will be "satisfying for viewers" who've watched the show since its debut in 2011, and has since scooped up 55 award wins, including five Golden Globes.
"Alex [Gansa] was just wringing his hands over making this the best ending of Homeland that he could," Trammell said. "I don't know the very, very end, but I know kind of where it goes a little bit, and it's just so cool and just wonderful. Sending people off — and just the climax of the season. It's going to be surprising too. I mean, you can't see anything that's coming, you really can't."
Trammell admits landing the role of Hayes itself was a surprise too, but one he has considered an absolute "honor" and by far "one of the best jobs" he's ever been on. After sending in a tape for his part by the request of the showrunners, Trammell reveals they all "really liked it," while disclosing how screenwriter and producer, Alex Gansa initially had him in mind for the role after they worked together years ago.
"Everybody gets jobs for certain reasons and a lot of it just because of who they are as a human being. And I guess I had the qualities of that – I mean, there's a lot of things about this president. There's a certain naivety, there's a certain arrogance — not that I'm arrogant," he laughed with PopCulture. "But these are the things that I can do, so when I read the part, [Alex] talked to me about it. It was just like, 'Oh my God, this part is so great.'"
With his tough-talking demeanor inspired by today's politicians, Trammell goes on to share how Gansa and the Homeland writers' construction over the character of Hayes blew him away. "He's very contradictory. He seems very confident and very gung-ho and very ambitious and then he's very indecisive," he said. "And seems very weak and you just see a lot of different colors with him, and so I was just like 'No brainer! I'm in."
But with the VP-turned-president taking on a role he clearly wasn't ready for, Trammell believes Hayes' decisions come from a specific place — even if fans don't agree and share colorful language with the actor on social media over his character's indecisiveness. "Here's the deal — I'm thrilled that they don't like me and that they're believing that I'm president," Trammell said. "I went into this like I've never played a politician much less the president of the United States, and here I am on this huge show and I love playing villains. The way that people are feeling about Hayes is exactly how we wanted them to feel about Hayes, I'll just put it that way."
Trammell goes on to share that as far as storytelling goes, he's doing exactly what the showrunners and directors have asked. "We're accomplishing the story that we want to tell [and] that makes me really happy, and so I love it when people say awful things about me," he laughed. "I'm just like 'Oh, yes. Thank you.'"
While Hayes' personality has been a playfully contentious one for fans, the actor further details how his character is simply strained by circumstances around him after being catapulted into "much too high of a position of power, much too quickly" following the death of President Ralph Warner (Beau Bridges). "I think [Hayes] has a lot of good arguments, but the thing about the show and the writers is that they intentionally put different perspectives against each other, but they write equally as smart for each side," Trammell said. "They try not to patronize people and they try not to take one side or the other. They really try to show both sides and they try to write smart for each character."
Drawing from the scene between the president with Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), Trammell explains that while Saul was trying to defend Carrie's actions while overseas, Hayes argued for justice on behalf of the American people after Warner was killed. "I would never agree with him in just accepting so quickly that Carrie did it, [but] of course he definitely has to make these mistakes to make the show interesting and to make these quick judgments," he said. "And he's very out for himself, so there's definitely a lot of things about him that I don't personally like and wouldn't agree with. But I think he's a smart character and I don't think he's a bad person. I don't think he's at heart a bad person."
Trammell adds that while Hayes is a "little gung-ho," he's also a "scared person," which is a "dangerous thing to have" as your president. "I think he got in too quick and the decisions were too big — and you saw it immediately with, 'We've got to bomb the helicopter!' and he's like, 'Really?' I mean that's what you get as president and I think that he's potentially regretting that he's president right now. It's sort of, 'be careful what you wish for.'"
While Hayes might be regretting what he's gotten himself into, Trammell is still pinching himself over working with the cast, including the iconic Patinkin. "Oh, he's incredible. That guy's been on the show from the beginning and I didn't know what I was expecting, but he was as or more concerned and involved and questioning of how he should be in the scene and his acting," Trammell said. "He wasn't just coming in doing his lines and leaving — he was so invested in Saul after eight years. I was just really impressed with his commitment as an actor and his dedication to this character."
While Trammell has worked with a lot of people throughout his career in stage, film and theater, he confesses he was "frankly intimidated" by Patinkin. "I was a little nervous because it's f—ing Saul," he laughed. "This is Mandy Patinkin as Saul, and here he is being deferential to me as president. I'm just like 'I feel like, I'm just a guest on your show.'"
The actor goes on to share that it's "those kinds of dynamics" that are really interesting for performers like himself. "You come onto a show that had gotten such big awards and is so iconic, and then you have Mandy Patinkin asking the president for things and me telling him off — that's a lot of fun. But he's got a great sense of humor, he's a really funny guy. We had some laughs!"0comments
Humbled and grateful for the chance, Trammell adds coming onto Homeland was an incredible experience and one that also "really impressed" him thanks to its long list of talent on the show, including actors, Linus Roache and Hugh Dancy. "Linus is an extraordinary actor who I got to work with every day and is such a lovely person and Hugh Dancy is an incredible actor, so it was just an absolute joy to work on that show. All these people are so professional and so into it," he said. "I mean, we laughed, and we had fun but when we got down to business, we were down to business and it was just sparkling and so great to work with people that were so good. That makes it that much more fun, that much more satisfying, and that much more fulfilling when you're an actor and you're doing that."
Homeland airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime, and Showtime on Demand. Stay tuned to PopCulture.com for more with Trammell, including what he thinks about a True Blood spinoff, a possible return to This Is Us and his upcoming projects, Reckoning and HBO Max's Generation. For more TV coverage and exclusives with your favorite stars, follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.