I never miss TV’s “Homeland.”
Showtime’s CIA drama, shot in Charlotte, offers suspense, complex characters – and the thrill of watching the Queen City pass as Our Nation’s Capital.
So I’m watching it Sunday night, riveted by the cleverly plotted doings of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and then – Whoa! Wait! CIA agent Carrie is holding her clandestine meeting with a shady go-between for Iran in … Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral!
As a religion reporter, I notice such things.
Two scenes were shot inside the Dilworth church – one of Charlotte’s most stunning, with its awesome icons. And viewers got to see the outside of the church on East Boulevard – site of the Yiasou Greek Festival – as Carrie waited in her car to follow said go-between down the streets of “Washington.”
Why did Holy Trinity get this shot at stardom?
“These things are all script-driven,” said Michael Klick, co-executive producer of the Emmy-winning series. “The script said, ‘Carrie meets somebody in a Coptic Orthodox church.’"
The producers settled for Greek Orthodox. “Everybody knows about Holy Trinity,” Klick said. “And it’s beautiful inside.”
Father Michael Varvarelis, the Greek-born dean at Holy Trinity, OK’d the filming – with one stipulation.
“We wanted to make sure the language was clean,” he said.
“Homeland” is on pay cable, so Carrie and other characters have been known to spout the F-word. Klick said the show made a small change in the dialogue.
And to show its gratitude, “Homeland” wrote a nice check to Holy Trinity, founded in 1923 and spiritual home to 870 families.
“It was a good donation,” Varvarelis said. And though he’s never seen the series, he was impressed with the show’s crew.
“They were very careful,” he said. “And they had all these lights outside to make sure the church looked good.”
His flock, Varvarelis said, was excited at the national exposure.
Holy Trinity is one of at least five local churches to get “Homeland” cameos.
Last year, the series shot a scene – another clandestine meeting – in the meditation garden at St. Peter Catholic uptown. That one starred the show’s other major character, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a Marine POW in Iraq who returns home.
In the first season, Avondale Presbyterian was used for a “funeral service,” and Sharon Presbyterian starred as the church Brody’s family attended.
And Myers Park Baptist has provided sets and production help for the "Homeland" crew since it started filming in Charlotte. The current season's premiere included several scenes shot on the church's campus, including a "congressional hearing" and some bits of romance and drama featuring Brody's troubled daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor). See the church's "Homeland" photos here.
-- Tim Funk