Producer Howard Gordon Talks ’24: Legacy,’ the Future of ‘Tyrant,’ and ‘Homeland’ in New York

Corey Hawkins in '24: Legacy' (Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX)
Corey Hawkins in ’24: Legacy’ (Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX)

Don’t give up hope yet, Tyrant fans: executive producer Howard Gordon told Yahoo TV the recently canceled-by-FX drama could live on, be it on a streaming service and/or in an international version. The Emmy-winning EP of 24 and Homeland also talked about the Jack Bauer-less 24 reboot — 24: Legacy — that will introduce new hero Corey Hawkins to Fox audiences early next year, the “complex” real world politics that will be covered in the New York-set sixth season of Showtime’s Homeland, and the stories he’d still like to tell on Tyrant.

Kiefer Sutherland is off being the president (on Designated Survivor), but 24: Legacy, with Corey Hawkins, is looking pretty exciting in the first trailer.
Oh, my God. We just got lucky in the way that you need to get lucky in these things. Not only is [Corey] extremely talented and wonderful to work with, but he’s just a gentleman, and he’s just fantastic. For a person in his twenties, he is already a consummate pro. [We started shooting about a week ago] in Atlanta. We did a little prequel that we’re working on with Samsung, a virtual reality film. We’re still shooting it, but it’ll be about eight minutes long, and we’ll premiere it both at a retail level at Samsung at their headquarters and at the Super Bowl, I think.

Evan Katz and Manny Coto are running the show. Bob Cochran is on the show and David Fury is writing scripts. Jon Cassar is our directing producer, and Stephen Hopkins directed the pilot. Really bringing the band back together again. It’s really wonderful to work with people who aren’t just long-time colleagues, but also really good friends.

Related: ‘24: Legacy’ EP Says ‘Intersection’ With Original Characters Could Happen ‘Down The Line’

The first reaction, when people heard about the new series, was “It’s not Kiefer, it’s not Jack Bauer.” That seems to be shifting a bit, now that people have seen the trailer, and they know Corey’s work from The Walking Dead and Straight Outta Compton. Do you feel like fans are starting to open up a little bit to seeing this new hero?
I think in some ways we were kind of the canaries in the coal mine, the people behind the scenes, including Kiefer — we had all the same skepticism that fans may have about “What is 24 without Jack Baue?” I think we’re just a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of having lived with it and thought about it. It’s taken us some time to adjust and to separate Jack Bauer from the format and 24 from Jack Bauer.

[24] is such a powerful narrative engine, and it’s really durable, and it’s just a great way to tell a story, particularly a thriller. That’s what we’re doing, and I think if you do a good job, people will come. I hope they do. And, again, we lucked out with the cast. Not just Corey, but Miranda Otto, Jimmy Smits, Dan Bucatinsky. This cast is really terrific, it’s really strong. It took a while to develop, but we’re really proud of it. What we’ve done so far is pretty exciting.

Jennifer Finnigan as Molly and Adam Rayner as Barry in 'Tyrant' (Credit: Kata Vermes/FX)
Jennifer Finnigan as Molly and Adam Rayner as Barry in ‘Tyrant’ (Credit: Kata Vermes/FX)

Turning to Tyrant… I really thought, especially after the Season 3 finale, that you were set up to go at least a couple of more seasons telling these stories.
We — we, meaning Chris Keyser and me — were disappointed, but not [surprised]. We knew this year needed to be sort of a breakout kind of year. But I don’t think we got enough either critical notice or the numbers that would have really proven our case. I think the network and the actors and everyone involved was very happy creatively, and I think the fans were, too. I think it was a very successful season. I just think the numbers didn’t come in strong enough. They were respectable, but not convincing. I think for a network like FX to be compelled to pick up a low or semi-low performing show, we needed to get some critical awareness, and for reasons that remain mysterious to me, that never happened.

If you had known the show was going to end after that episode, would you have done anything differently with Season 3 overall or with the finale?
The answer is, probably not. These stories tend to tell themselves if you’re open enough to listen to them. I think this is how we always saw this season ending, and we recognized that it would be a satisfactory series ender if it had to be.

Playing off that for a minute, as you said, this is a satisfying ending, we see Barry (Adam Rayner) has gotten to this key place. Did you have in mind that he would continue to evolve as a leader? That this may not have been his ultimate position as a leader?
I think the full breadth of the tragedy that he now is enmeshed in really hasn’t gotten to land. I think he recognized it, really for the first time, tragically, in that last moment of the season. But I do think there’s more story to tell in terms of, what do you do once your foot’s stuck in traffic and all the awareness in the world doesn’t get you out of it? I think it is dramatic and is a story that has yet to be told. We’ll see whether that happens. We’re out there to a few places, and I wouldn’t even want to sort of quantify our odds, because I honestly don’t know.

Is that something you’re definitely interested in though, continuing Tyrant elsewhere?
Absolutely. Chris and I are really committed to the show, and inevitably when you think about an ending you start saying, “Where else could it go? Are there other places and other ways for it to end?” We’ve definitely talked about it and would be thrilled if we got that opportunity.

What Chris, who ran the show this year, did, and I think really, it was a super high degree of difficulty and challenging… he introduced all these [new] characters into the drama, in just 10 episodes. We met a whole bunch of new people and new points of view that we hadn’t been exposed to before. I think there is definitely more meat on the bone with a lot of these characters. That was a pretty expansive ensemble, notwithstanding all those people who were killed or who are no longer with us.

Related: ‘Tyrant’ Series Finale Postmortem: Adam Rayner on Barry’s Full Circle Journey and the Chances of the FX Series Living on Elsewhere

The roles of the female characters in particular were so much stronger in Season 3.
That was something that was definitely intended, that I think was very successful in the end. Once this patriarchal and broken character, Jamal, left the stage, as with any power vacuum, [you ask] what happens: Who steps up? Whose character changes? I think it was really fun to watch those characters evolve and even for them to connect — there were some very unlikely alliances that were forged and some wary ones and some unlikely bedfellows. I think we only just got a chance to touch on them, we didn’t get a chance to exploit them fully or as fully as we would have liked.

Is there a time frame in which, if it does go to a new place, it would have to happen? That’s a lot of cast to keep in the loop.
My guess is that it would be some sort of streaming service, I think. I don’t know if it’s a week or a month… I don’t think it’s a year. If someone’s going to be interested, they’ll be interested sooner than later. Somebody came to me and actually asked if we’d be interested in doing it in the Middle East. I think the budget probably would preclude that, but we’ve been approached by other countries and broadcasters in other countries for format rights. Who knows? The show might live on in other ways, which would be really satisfying.

As 24 has done.
As 24 has done.

Claire Danes in 'Homeland.' (Credit: Stephan Rabold/Showtime)
Claire Danes in ‘Homeland.’ (Credit: Stephan Rabold/Showtime)

Homeland will be back with Season 6 soon, and it’s shooting in New York, which is exciting. Rupert Friend’s Quinn has kind of become the Jack Bauer of that show, certainly a character we’re very invested in. What can you say about the new season?
The dailies I’ve seen so far and the scripts are really exciting. What I really admire, and I can do this without tooting my own horn, because I can’t claim very much authorship except a distant secondary involvement, is that there are some very complex ideas in the world that we’re living in now, which is increasingly complex. Some of the themes that we introduced at the very beginning of the series — some of the questions we posed thematically, like what is security? What should we be afraid of? How do we assess real threats and ones that we create, and are the threats that we create because of our fear? — those ideas are being explored this year in a way that I really admire, and in a place that obviously is central to the national trauma we suffered 15 years ago. It’s really ground zero for the show in many ways, literally and figuratively.

Related: ‘Homeland’ Shuffles Season 6 Production After Co-Star Rupert Friend Gets Injured

Which is a big reason it seems so fitting that it’s finally filming in New York.
I’m telling you, I’ve been in this business for 30 years. I’ve set eight things in New York over the years. New York has been Toronto or a green screen. And finally we’re actually shooting in New York, and I’m in Madrid. The irony is not lost on me.

Homeland Season 6 premieres Jan. 15, 2017 on Showtime. 24: Legacy premieres Feb. 5, 2017 on Fox.