Homeland gives Canadian actor stateside breakthrough
Photo credit: Marc Cartwright
Canadian actor Diego Klattenhoff deploys no doubt sincere flattery when asked to describe what Damian Lewis does well. On the phone from Los Angeles, he calls his Homeland co-star “a stand-up guy” and “a real professional,” but a note of mischief enters his voice when he adds: “What doesn’t he do well? He has great acceptance speeches.”
Klattenhoff is referring to the British actor’s recent elegant onstage acceptance of his Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Dramatic Series. Joining Lewis in the winner’s circle that night was Claire Danes as Outstanding Lead Actress, as well as the show’s writing, editing, and casting teams. Homeland also won for Outstanding Drama Series.
Based on an Israeli TV show, Homeland, which airs on Showtime in the US and Super Channel in Canada, stars Danes (TV’s My So-Called Life) as Carrie Mathison, a CIA operative told by an asset that an American soldier has been turned by Al Qaeda. Mathison becomes convinced that the traitor is Nicholas Brody (Lewis), a captured Marine rescued from Iraq after eight years imprisonment and recently returned stateside. Brody becomes a national hero, making it all the more difficult for Mathison, who suffers from bipolar disorder and whose case against Brody is mostly based on instinct and circumstantial evidence, to convince her superiors of the threat.
Klattenhoff, meanwhile, plays Captain Mike Faber, Brody’s superior officer and best friend, whose relationship with his old pal is complicated by the fact that he’s been secretly dating Brody’s wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin, TV’s Firefly) in the wake of what they both assumed to be his death.
Born outside of New Glasgow in Nova Scotia, Klattenhoff moved to Toronto at 19 to pursue acting. He bussed tables and bartended while attending acting workshops before getting his first break with a small role in the Tina Fey-written, Toronto-shot Mean Girls (2004) opposite Rachel McAdams and Lindsay Lohan. Guest spots on shows like Supernatural, ER, Mercy and Falling Skies followed, as well as roles in small films like Lucky Number Slevin (2006) and the ill-fated Bret Easton Ellis adaptation of The Informers (2008).
Klattenhoff was in Toronto two years ago when he received the call from his agent about an “amazing project” called Homeland. He says he “geeked out” at the script’s quality and immediately called his brother to share the news.
“I just kind of freaked out at how great it was: the writing, the characters. From the word go it was a project where you remember where you were when you read it and what was going on because it was that good.”
Asked to describe what he likes about Faber, Klattenhoff offers: “His moral compass is always very, very true and pointing north. There’s really great conflict in there. The writers have done a fantastic job of always keeping things interesting. There’s just great conflict between these characters [Brody and Faber] and in situations I’ve found myself in in Season Two.”
For those who have not yet seen Season One of Homeland, skip this paragraph and go rent it immediately. For those who have, Season 2 sees Carrie having left the CIA for a teaching position until she’s asked back to help extract an operative from Lebanon. Brody, meanwhile, is now Congressman Brody and struggles to hide his true allegiance to terrorist leader Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) even as he is being groomed to be vice presidential material.
Klattenhoff is leery of revealing too much about his character’s role in the new season but says, “It’s more of the same from last year. There’s been a time jump in Season 2, and Brody and myself have patched things up. And I think that inevitably I’m always going to be there for the family, for Brody, for the kids, and inevitably I’m going to find myself in that orbit, pulled into certain situations and scenes that create pretty good conflict.”
As to why audiences as well as critics have reacted so strongly to Homeland, Klattenhoff says: “I think it’s pretty simple. People just respond to great characters, great writing, great story. I think the writers [and] the creators of the show are all just topnotch at what they do. It starts from the first words on the page, and I think people responded to a story that is very plausible. I think it’s easy for people to watch the show once and be hooked on it.”
As to the future, Klattenhoff will co-star next summer in director Guillermo Del Toro’s big budget, sci-fi epic Pacific Rim, playing the brother of Sons of Anarchy actor Charlie Hunnam’s character. He shot the part in Toronto this past winter, between filming Homeland’s first and second seasons.
I finish our chat by asking Klattenhoff if his sense of what he can accomplish career-wise has changed since Homeland’s success.
“I think it’s been great, just this glimpse into what things could be,” he says. “I think that a lot of people have so much respect for the show. And in general we don’t get numbers like Glee gets, but we have all the right people watching. I think hopefully in the future, knock on wood, I get to audition, collaborate, work with people who I admire and respect, and have seen the show and have seen me work. I would like to think that the possibilities are endless.”
Homeland broadcasts on Super Channel Sundays at 10pm EST.