When we last left our intrepid CIA agents on Homeland, things were not good. A bomb had detonated during a memorial service for the Vice President, killing CIA Deputy Director David Estes, the Vice President’s wife and son, and many, many more.
Paste recently caught up with the Emmy-nominated Rupert Friend, who plays the mysterious Peter Quinn on the series, to talk about the hit drama and what’s coming up for Peter and his colleagues this season.
Paste: What can viewers expect this season?
Rupert Friend: There’s definitely a return to the kind of taut, psychological thriller of the first season. It’s far more about spy work and about the machinations of espionage and less kind of panicky, actiony.
We’ll see a kind of fluctuating, very powerful team evolving comprising of Quinn, Carrie [Claire Danes] and Saul [Mandy Patinkin] and how they all work with one another. It’s one of the fascinating things about season three because obviously, as you know, nobody trusts anybody. So how do you form a covert operation at all? That’s one of the really interesting things about this season I think.
Paste: Did you know when you signed on for season two that you would return for season three?
Friend: No one knows anything. I was thrilled to be asked back. I thought there was fun stuff to be had from this dynamic of Saul and Carrie and Quinn, as a little kind of power unit. The idea that this extremely grounded, experienced man that Saul is combined with the mental instability and yet therefore flashes of genius that Carrie has and then this absolute ruthless dedication to the task that Quinn has. As a sort of trio, they struck me as a great sort of super team for the CIA. And I was intrigued to see whether that would be explored, and it really is.
Paste: It was revealed last season that Peter was a black ops officer deployed to kill Brody when the time came? Did you know when you joined the cast what Peter Quinn’s deal was?
Friend: [Getting the part] was very clandestine. It was very CIA, the whole operation. There was no script, no character arc, no character description. Nothing. It was kind of a big gut instinct on everyone’s part just to take a chance. I loved the show. I was doing a play in the east end of London and made a tape for them. And then, two weeks later, I was on the set. It was all very, very fast. I was thrilled that my first foray into this medium would be a show I loved—literally one of the only shows I watched.
Paste: Until Homeland, your career was movies and theater. In those productions, you know your character’s beginning, middle and end before you begin. Was it difficult getting used to the nature of television—that you don’t necessarily know what’s coming next for your character?
Friend: The thing is I don’t know what my deal is, and yet I make choices every day not knowing what the future holds. So I feel like it’s actually maybe more accurate. With this, you have to just think in the moment. It’s a wonderful lesson of just being in the moment and not trying to force an outcome because you can’t know; no one knows.
Paste: Peter is a bit of an enigma. He’s a highly trained, ruthless killer. But he clearly has a great deal of compassion for Carrie and protected her in many ways last season. What’s it like to play someone with that kind of internal conflict?
Friend: I oddly don’t find it extraordinary. Someone that only had one facet to their character, I would find that very odd. All of us have multiple people inside us. For me, I’m always interested to explore that and grateful that the writers are keen to explore that kind of extreme polarity.
One has to remember the guy is a staunch professional, so he’ll complete the job before he quits and the job will be completed perfectly. But yes, the moral compass has swung, and he’s found his truth north, if you like, and I think that cannot but affect everything you do when you’re doing the work that is designed to be covered up. You’re doing the dirty work. You’re doing the stuff that the organization doesn’t want anyone to know about.
Paste: Over the course of last season, Peter’s opinion of Carrie clearly changed. What happened? Why do you think he feels protective of her?
Friend: I think there’s a huge mutual respect there. They’re both brilliant at what they do. They recognize that you have to take yourself to extreme personal lengths in order to conduct yourself professionally. It’s not like a job you can just switch off at five o’clock and come home. They both have to go through things that I think most people would find very difficult. We see that with Carrie and Quinn this season. They put themselves through the mill in the name of something greater than them. Those people are quite rare and I think they find each other, they recognize each other and they stick together.
Paste: What made you get into acting?
Friend: I love the idea of shape shifting. I love the idea of being offered the opportunities to do things I would never normally get to do. Playing a covert CIA black operative who’s running around blowing up buildings—when am I going to get to do that? So for me it was very much a door into a world of adventures and, since I’ve done it, I’ve found there’s adventures all over the world anyway, but this job has given me many wonderful adventures and I’ve met many many exciting people through it so, in that respect, I’ve done what I’ve set out to do with it.