As part of the Showtime portion of the TCA Press Tour, President of Entertainment David Nevins took some time to talk about current and upcoming shows for the network, and the end game for a few of their long-time series. During the interview, he talked about how he felt about the creative direction of Homeland for Season 2, whether he’d consider continuing the series without Damian Lewis, how Dexter is progressing, that the contemporary genre thriller The Vatican (from Paul Attanasio and Ridley Scott) will go into production in April, how John Logan will be writing every episode of Penny Dreadful with the hope that Sam Mendes will direct, that it will be a psychological and highly erotic story set in Victorian London, what fans can expect from The Borgias, when Californication might end, the plan for when Episodes will return, what makes Masters of Sex a compelling series, and the epic feel of the multi-episode event documentary Years of Living Dangerously, from James Cameron. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
NEVINS: I love it. I really liked Season 2. I think it started really strong, and it ended really strong. I will say that I read probably everything you guys write. I do follow it, and I think there’s a level of critical discourse on television right now that’s never really existed before. It feels like television criticism is where book criticism was in the ‘60s and movie criticism was in the ‘70s. I think some of the criticism seems fair, but I think suspension of disbelief is the scaffolding all storytelling is based on. There’s a truth to the way that show is written, and a truth to the characters that overcomes all. But, the fact that people are that deeply engaged meant that there were things that we got away with Season 1 that we couldn’t get away with Season 2. I think it’s a good thing for the health of the show, and I have enormous confidence in the people who write and perform that show. It’s going to maintain at the very highest level.
Is Homeland a series that needs an end game, or can it continue to evolve?
NEVINS: Homeland is a show that is incredibly changeable and can go in a lot of different directions. I think it’s got a really long life. It’s obviously still on the rise. Dexter is still on the rise, and it’s just finished its seventh year. Each year has exceeded its ratings from the previous year, and this year by a large amount. And I think Homeland is in a very interesting place. We made the decision to end this season with a fairly clear set-up for Season 3, which is the opposite of how they ended Season 1. Seasons 1 and 2 were fundamentally about working out the initial movement of Brody and Carrie, and they came to a rest at the end of Season 2, but with a very clear launch for Season 3. They are at the very early stages, right now. There are some things that I know, but there’s a lot that hasn’t been shared with me yet, and I’m very excited to find out.
Is it fair to ask if Damian Lewis is back as a regular for Season 3?
Would you consider doing the show without him?
NEVINS: I would have to, yeah. Everything on that show is vigorously debated, but if, after the end of that vigorous debate, that’s what made sense, storywise, I could conceivably say yes to that, absolutely.
Is Dexter heading into its final season with Season 8? What do you see as the end game of that series?
NEVINS: I’m not making any announcements today about when Dexter will end. I think I will clarify that before Dexter goes on the air for this next season. There’s a clear end game in place, but I can’t talk about it just yet.
Part of the revitalization of Dexter was the idea that they had the finish line in sight. How will that factor into your thinking of what you’ll decide to do with the show?
NEVINS: I do think the bringing of Deb into Dexter’s private torment and turmoil is what revitalized the show. The decision of when to end Dexter is ultimately a creative decision, and it will be made for creative reasons.
What can you say about your upcoming series, The Vatican and Penny Dreadful?
NEVINS: The Vatican is a contemporary genre thriller that examines the complex political intrigue within the Vatican. Two-time Oscar nominee Paul Attanasio created a rich ensemble drama, and we’re lucky enough to have Sir Ridley Scott, a master of modern cinema, making his pilot directing debut. That begins production in April.
And Penny Dreadful is a fascinating horror series that comes from John Logan, a three-time Oscar nominee, and Oscar-winner Sam Mendes. The two are fresh from their collaboration on Skyfall, the most successful and most critically acclaimed James Bond film ever. Penny Dreadful unites literature’s most iconic and terrifying figures, in turn of the century Victorian London, including Dracula and Van Helsing, Dorian Gray, Dr. Frankenstein and his creature, and maybe even Jack the Ripper, for good measure. Beyond the amazing level of film talent behind both of those projects, they’re both incredibly exciting and original scripts.
What will the tone be for Penny Dreadful, and will that show have a central character to follow or is it an ensemble piece?
NEVINS: John Logan is really one of the great writers. He wrote Skyfall, Gladiator, Hugo and The Aviator. He’s a very interesting brain, and has written in all sorts of genres. He’s going to write every episode of the series, and he has been obsessed with monsters in literature since childhood. It’s a show that he’s always wanted to do, and I’ve been wooing him to Showtime for a very long time. He presented this to me, and it’s very realistic. It’s very grounded. This is not Bela Lugosi. The characters are all in very human form, all existing around the turn of the century London. And there will probably be one central point-of-view character, a little more than the others, but it’s an ensemble, in the way that Downton Abbey is an ensemble. It’s very psychological. I think it’s going to be highly erotic. And it’s my hope and intention that Sam Mendes is going to direct it.
NEVINS: No, it was not. There’s just a lot of secrecy around it. That just wasn’t accurate. It hasn’t changed. It was always an ensemble.
What can you say about the new season of The Borgias?
NEVINS: The new season of The Borgias is a lot about the family starting to come apart, in a really fundamental way. It’s about Cesare and Lucrezia really coming into their full power, as the next generation, and then what that does to Alexander. I would say that that is the main thrust of this season. I just watched the last episode of the season, and it gets very intense.
Is there an end game in place for Californication?
NEVINS: No. We are about to launch Californication, and we’ll make a decision about another season fairly quickly into this run. I’m optimistic. We make that decision on a year-by-year, season-by-season basis. I think that’s a show where there are certain overall movements that (show creator) Tom Kapinos is trying to accomplish with Hank Moody, but it’s not as intensely story-driven as Dexter.
What is the plan for when Episodes will be back?
NEVINS: Episodes is going to be split between London and Los Angeles, and it will be on the air fairly early in 2014. I love the show and that’s not my choice, but I made a pact with David [Crane] and Jeffrey [Klarik], when we went into this, that we would do the show on their schedule. They write every word. They edit every cut. I said we would produce the show on their schedule, and their schedule won’t allow us to get it on the air until 2014.
NEVINS: We have the ability to be adults and try to use the lack of restrictions that we have, because we don’t sell to advertisers, to the most interesting effect. There are taboo subjects that we can explore, that other programmers don’t have the same freedom and ability to explore. Masters of Sex feels like a show that only pay cable could get away with. It’s such an interesting story. It’s such an interesting, peculiar relationship, that I think is going to make for really rich storytelling. We are doing an ongoing series about two contemporary characters that are just really interesting, and you forget the fact that it’s period. It feels very, very today. That starts production in about two weeks. I’ve read a handful of scripts, and it’s really good.
What can you say about Years of Living Dangerously?
NEVINS: Years of Living Dangerously is a multi-episode event documentary about climate change, from executive producers James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it will air in the Fall. Marquee stars who have already signed on to participate are Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Alec Baldwin and Ed Norton. James Cameron has promised it will be large-scale, impactful and exciting, and he means it. I’ve already seen some pretty amazing film that they’ve shot, and it feels really epic.