Mideast political minefield keeps 'Tyrant' producer nimble

Tue Jul 8, 2014 8:31am EDT
 
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By Dan Williams

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - It's hard to keep up with the social and political hurly-burly of the Middle East, but U.S. TV producer Howard Gordon got a hit out of it with "Homeland" and hopes to do the same with new series "Tyrant", even if it requires last-minute tweaks.

    While fellow Americans celebrated over the July 4 weekend, Gordon was back in Israel for his latest whirlwind visit to fine-tune upcoming episodes, based on feedback he has received about the series set in a Middle Eastern dictatorship buffeted by demands for change arising from the Arab Spring.

    There were complaints from Muslim American groups to weigh, as well as input from Middle Eastern dissidents. They are factored in to Gordon's drive to empathize, though he wants the series to work as a universal drama divorced from actual events.

    "I like to think that, as sort of amateur cultural diplomat, I create these stories as bridge-building," Gordon told Reuters.

    "We are listening to our Muslim colleagues and adjusting the material as much as possible. I appreciate the sensitivities, and no one is setting out to perpetuate or exacerbate stereotype, but we are here to tell a good story, a family drama, a saga."

    He likened the tale of an Arab-American doctor embroiled in the Middle East autocracy run by his father and brother to "The Sopranos" or "Sons of Anarchy" - shows about a New Jersey mob and a Californian motorcycle gang, respectively.

    "Tyrant" take place in a fictional Arab country stripped of the sectarian or political labels that abound in the news.

    "You will never hear Sunni or Shia or Alawite or Hashemite, because it is too complicated to render dramatically," Gordon said.   Continued...

 
Producer Howard Gordon arrives for the world premiere of the Fox series 24: Live Another Day in New York May 2, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson