8 Things You Need to Know About Julia Roberts and Sam Esmail's New Amazon Drama, Homecoming

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8 Things You Need to Know About Julia Roberts and Sam Esmail's New Amazon Drama, <i>Homecoming</i>

Plenty of TV series are based on books. Now, a growing number—like Amazon’s Lore and IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang!—have mined (mostly) nonfictional podcasts for source material. But a TV drama based on a fictional story told in podcast form?

Welcome to Amazon Prime Video’s new series, Homecoming. Launching on the streaming service on November 2, the story is based on Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg’s popular serialized audio story and stars Julia Roberts as a caseworker at a secret government facility that supposedly helps soldiers reacclimatize to public life. If that weren’t enticing enough, Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail directed the episodes, and other stars include Bobby Cannavale and Dermot Mulroney.

Ahead of the series’ premiere, the cast and crew teased more details at the Television Critics Association’s biannual press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. Here are some of the highlights.

What genre is Homecoming?

“We loved the idea of telling a thriller story—something that had the bones of a thriller—and sort of turning it inside out,” co-showrunner Bloomberg says. They aim to make a “really scary, compelling story.”

How was it to adapt this show from a podcast?

“It forced us to approach the scenes in a character-based way,” co-showrunner Horowitz says. “We didn’t have the genre elements to rely on, because we couldn’t do these big set pieces, so it forced us to approach this from a weird angle.”

Did Esmail find directing the series to be different from directing his USA show, Mr. Robot?

“This did have that old-fashioned, old-school vibe,” Esmail said of Homecoming’s look, adding that he drew inspiration from auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma.

Homecoming is a half-hour drama. Why this format instead of an hour?

“These are cliffhangers, and we felt that to really hook people and get them going and going and going, [it helps] to have that half hour and make people desperate” for more, Esmail says.

Did Roberts enjoy the experience of starring in a TV series after a career in film?

“It was a great mental challenge every day, [and] I kind of love that,” she says. “It became exciting as a crew and a cast, we enjoyed how challenging Sam made all aspects of it.”

Like Mr. Robot and its take on corporate greed, Homecoming deals with the topical theme of soldiers returning to civilian life.

“It’s about processing and reactivating to civilian life and to doing normal things again,” actor Stephan James says of his research for the role of military vet Walter Cruz. “But uniquely with Walter, he was very optimistic about coming into this program—very eager to come into a situation where he felt like he could help and was ready to accept that help.”

Will there be a Season Two?

“I think we’re going to peel one onion at a time,” Roberts says.