When ‘Homecoming’ first hit Amazon Prime’s queue of binge-worthy shows, many fans were floored by the mystery behind the plot. Much of that first season took audiences on a ride containing constant questions related to what exactly was going on at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, a new program designed to assist ex-servicemen smoothly reintegrate into civilian life.
The show was actually first based on a podcast of the same name on the Gimlet network produced by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, who then helped turn the podcast over to the visual sphere with other power players such as Julia Roberts and Bobby Cannavale on board. The duo also was the brain power behind writing season 2, which in a way leaves off where season 1 does but has a completely different feel. According to the writers, that could be because their style of putting pen to paper revolves on where the characters take us scene by scene.
“When a lot of people have a story, they have these beats that they want to tell, and when they go to make their TV show they break it up into these segments,” says Bloomberg. “I understand the comfort of having an ending that you’re building towards and it’s sort of this big huge thing that’s inside of you that you want to get out into the world—[but] on this with me and Eli, I think of us more as improvisers a little bit. We like to get ourselves into these storytelling binds and see if we can get ourselves out. Then, for me as a writer, things don’t make sense until I hear the character starting to talk. Until I’m looking at a scene where we have people behaving in whatever specific way is driving them through that moment on that day, it’s not real and it doesn’t make sense. That’s sort of a limitation of me as a writer maybe, but I try to turn that into a strength by focusing the audience on these moment to moment experiences and we try to build a show where people’s motivations are that specific and that driven by that second.”
“I think another thing that’s helpful is that we write everything in advance,” adds Horowitz. “We write all the scripts before we start shooting and we actually start writing pretty early in the process, so there’s space to get ourselves into a situation of going down a road and then [we] either unravel or retrofit things. In the end, the structure actually is pretty intricate and it is important to us that we sort of stick the landing.”
To bring the story of Homecoming to life onscreen, Sam Esmail took over to direct season 1, which he says had an intentional claustrophobic feel to showcase the characters being trapped in this precarious situation. However, for season 2, Kyle Patrick Alvarez stepped in to direct, and that was the plan all along.
“I thought a different director for this season was really necessary because I wanted whoever that person was to kind of come in and just re-invent what that visual language was going to be because the story was now zooming out to this bigger scope,” explains Esmail.
Season 1 doesn’t really leave the Homecoming facility too often, and when it does, the way the scenes are shot certainly keep hold of that confined sensation. But for season 2, with the plot following more happenings outside of the facilities’ walls, the visual effects—just like the story—had to progress.
“The fun was, how do we take those sort of series-defining moments from season 1, put them in larger spaces and put them in exteriors?” says Alvarez. “I come from a lower budget indie world, so for me getting to have 30-foot cranes every day and a steady cam operator on-hand at all times and even a helicopter—to have those kinds of tools, you’re contributing all of this visual style for an experience that the audience goes through as opposed to one they just watched from afar. I’ve heard Sam talk about season 1 and [how] he was trying to get the feeling of the podcast, and here, we’re just trying to get that feeling in a new space.”
In season 2 of ‘Homecoming’ there are new players and old faces in the mix. Among those new faces is Chris Cooper, who plays Leonard Geist. In season 1, Geist was known almost as an omnipotent force, you heard his name a lot, but never saw him. With the story venturing out in the world, audiences finally get to see the man behind the curtain.
“We’ll find that Leonard’s home and where he works with the other folks developing these plants, is not too far away from Geist industries. I think that takes us to the atmosphere, the place that Leonard is the most comfortable and I think it’ll be interesting to the viewer to see his take on the industry that he’s developed and where it’s gone,” says Cooper.
Another new face is that of Jackie, who the season opens on. The very first scene of the season 2 shows Jackie in a boat on a lake in the middle of nowhere with no recollection of how she got there or who she is. Audiences then embark on a dark and puzzling adventure along with her. To step into this leading role, producers and creators courted Janelle Monáe for her first venture into television.
“If you fell in love with the first season, we wanted to make sure you understood this was connected but it wasn’t dependent on the first season,” explains Monáe. “I was coming in as a new character [and] it needed to feel fresh. I think one of the most important things for me was how were they going to execute that? After I had the conversation with them (producers, director), I was like, ‘Okay, you guys understand what people love about this show and you also understand that it’s important to bring something new, to continue to innovate, [to not] rest in your laurels and move forward.'”
Moving forward in the new season is also Audrey Temple (Hong Chau) and Walter Cruz (Stephan James). Both characters are left in season 1 with an electric jumping off point with Audrey moving into a position of power with Geist and Cruz, who is supposed to have his memory wiped clean showing signs of remembering what exactly happened at the Homecoming facility.
“I think in the second season, they wanted to challenge themselves and blow out the world and blow out the story a little bit and let us see more and let us see where this company fits into the bigger picture of society,” says Chau. “We see more of Audrey Temple’s personal life outside of work and also with Janelle and Stephan’s characters, we get to see them running around in different locations, so I was very happy to see that they were doing that.”
“I think this season provides a really special opportunity for Walter to sort of unveil who he is in a weird way,” explains James. “This season, it was really just trying to make this character whole. Getting to show people how smart he is, how determined he is, how he has this dogged sort of will to right the wrongs and sort of avenge that first season. So I think that we get to see Walter in a much more whole sense and it’s something that I believe was due to him and due to his character. ”
‘Homecoming’ Season 2 drops on Amazon Prime May 22.