The Women Who Run TV: 'Homeland' writer Meredith Stiehm on Claire Danes, new FX pilot

Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

Writer Meredith Stiehm, 44, shares similarities with Homeland‘s Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes): both work in male-dominated places (Stiehm is the Showtime series’ sole female writer) and both have personal connections to bipolar disorder (Stiehm’s sister, like Carrie, suffers from the condition). Stiehm  has penned some of the series most acclaimed and talked about episodes, including season one’s “The Weekend,” where Brody (Damian Lewis) and Carrie go to her cabin in the woods, and season two’s “New Car Smell,” in which Carrie finally arrests Brody.

“I didn’t come in until like episode 4,” says Stiehm. “[Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa] created the character and the show. Around episode 4, they realized that there were all male writers and they had a female lead so they wanted a female writer.” Adds Danes, “She’s really incredible. Her voice is so distinctive and so honest and funny. She has a very wry sensibility that’s so in keeping with who Carrie is.  But she also is very warm and feeling and all of that translates into all her work. I owe an enormous amount to Meredith.”

But now there’s a chance that Homeland could be losing the talented writer. Stiehm has a much-buzzed-about pilot with FX called The Bridge about a dead body found on a bridge between Texas and Mexico (it’s a remake of a Scandinavian series of the same name). If the pilot, starring Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds) and Demian Bichir (A Better Life), goes to series, it’s likely that Stiehm will also leave the Showtime series. “It’s a high class problem,” admits the writer. “It’s so hard to get your own series. But, at the same time, what kind of idiot leaves Homeland right now?”

Danes admits that she’s not looking forward to potentially saying goodbye. Says the Emmy-winning actress, “I’m worried because I adore her and I think her talent is rare. She’s been crucial in defining who this person is. I’m sure there are other brilliant women out there who could contribute wonderful things but I just like her! She asked me to talk to Diane about my experience working in television and hopefully encourage her to accept the role. And I talked to her for about an hour and was really selling her on it. I thought, ‘Wait a minute—what did I just do?’ I love Meredith and I support her totally but of course I don’t want her to go anywhere.”

Read more:
The Women Who Run TV: Q&A with ‘Vampire Diaries’ EP Julie Plec
The Women Who Run TV: Amy Poehler on the best show she never pitched; plus, who’s on her inspiration board?
This week’s cover: Lena Dunham, the beautiful (and dirty) mind behind ‘Girls’

Follow Tim on Twitter: @EWTimStack

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