Warning: Spoilers about the season 6 finale of Homeland.
Peter Quinn has finally met his fate. Homeland‘s long-suffering casualty of the war on terror was killed off in the season 6 closer on Sunday night. Quinn (Rupert Friend) was shot to death while helping Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and President-elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) escape from an assassination squad. Below, Friend talks to EW about his character’s journey this season and Sunday night’s finale:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So this time he’s really gone.
RUPERT FRIEND: Yes! The nine lives have expired.
When did you know for sure?
Oh man. The phrase “for sure” and this show are not really ever used. It’s so rarely the case that you know anything for sure. I’m sure, you know, I had a “for sure” ending last season which was then rescinded. This, I’m told, is for sure — unless he’s coming back as a ghost, hallucination, or zombie.
When were you told, and how did that conversation go?
It was kind of a déjà vu conversation given that [showrunner Alex Gansa] and I had the same conversation a year previously. Alex said, “This is a courtesy call, and this will be the end of your character, and thank you for all you’ve contributed, and it’s been great having you.” We just did a repeat and Alex was laughing, and he said, “As you know, my word isn’t really worth the paper it’s written on in this regard, but as it stands, this is the end.” It was about a month before [we shot it].
How did you feel about saying goodbye to Peter Quinn?
It was bittersweet. I never want to overstay my welcome for any character. I would rather people are excited by the ideas a character generates in them rather than feeling bored and wishing he would just go away. The storyteller in me thought it was the right time for him to go bearing in mind he had been through so much, and for him to just continue to defy death and suffer felt cruel and unrealistic and sadistic, actually. So I was happy for him, the character. You get very close to these [characters] when you play them for five years. There’s almost so much suffering you can go through on their behalf before you’re just kind of, “Can we euthanize this guy?”
We spoke before the season about your research for Quinn’s condition this season and your desire to portray his brain damage authentically. Did you get any feedback during the season from veterans?
Yeah, absolutely. One of the amazing things about this new wave of communication with social media is I’ve been able to engage directly with not only fans of the show, but specifically this season, I’ve been able to read and engage with feedback from veterans, from stroke specialists and PTSD counselors, and all of them have been incredibly positive about the idea of a mainstream character undergoing treatment and dealing with symptoms of this condition. And being portrayed truthfully seems to have meant an awful lot to people who are in that world. Because we don’t see [stories like this]. We have characters in Western television shows who are in full health with shiny hair and shiny teeth, and they go about their lives having minor problems. And here we have somebody we feel like we know going through something none of us can imagine — mentally and physically — and succeeding to some degree. And I think that’s an important thing for television to embrace.
There’s a hint in one scene on the boat dock that Quinn and Dar Adal might have had some kind of sexual relationship in the past; is that a correct read on that?
I wouldn’t call it a “relationship.” Quinn was a minor [at the time], so there’s no doubt it was an act of abuse. There’s no “relationship.” But the idea is Quinn was preyed on not just by Dar but by cronies of Dar. Quinn was used as a pawn [in the same way that] in more traditional spycraft, young women are used as honey traps.
What was your reaction to his ending, specifically how he goes out?
He behaved in a way that showed us what he’s really made of. He’s sacrificing his life to save the life of a woman who has betrayed him and in effect caused his condition as well as an incumbent president who, as it transpires, is not particularly honorable either. But that he puts (as the episode title suggests) “America first” is a very Quinn thing to do. I was sad that he wasn’t given a send-off. I thought that somebody who has done that, even if he was a black ops guy and he can’t be celebrated or discussed, some private recognition of his sacrifice would have been rather moving.
The twist at the end of the episode is Keane is ushering in this new totalitarian era and that Dar Adal may have been right about her. Were you concerned that could change how we feel about him saving her?
Well, no, because there’s no way for Quinn to know in the moment he saves her what she’s going to turn out to be, so that’s a hindsight judgment.
Were those your own personal photos of you as a kid that Carrie found?
No, the kid is supposed to be growing up through the late 2000s, I think 9, so any photos of me as a kid were from the early 80s and they looked like that. We did look at [my photos], and in the end, they just felt too dated.
Do you think Quinn and Carrie ever could have had a future together had his character not been killed off?
I think Carrie’s actions at the end of season 5 betrayed something deeply disturbing in her psyche, and when Quinn confronts her with the fact she was willing to risk his life to try and get answers she didn’t know he had, she can’t really process that. She doesn’t really understand how to take risk accountability for her actions. And I think one of the things Quinn absolutely understands is the cause and effect of what he’s done, whether that’s shooting a child by mistake or becoming a ruthless assassin. He takes responsibility and has a moral code. And I’m not sure that Carrie does.
What was your favorite scene of all the ones you’ve shot on Homeland?
Wow, that’s a lot of scenes. The saving-the-embassy sequence was amazing because it was very real; there really were two dozen AK-47s firing, and it’s an incredibly daunting thing to have them all pointing at you. But way back in the beginning, interrogating Brody — which was actually my second day on the job — and having to put a knife through this guy’s hand. Damian Lewis is such a great actor and from the same country as me, so we had this bizarre realization that there were two Brits pretending to be Americans in a big aircraft hangar pretending to be the CIA, and it was kind of a head-spin.
What was your last day on set like?
My wife came in for the occasion, and we were at the bottom of a parking garage in a grimy exhaust fume-coated parking ticket office. We had champagne while covered in sweat and grime and blood. It was a very fitting send-off because it was so unglamorous.
Is it a relief to shed this character considering how dark his storyline got?
To me, it’s more of a relief for him. That sounds like some weird actor talk, but it’s sort of like somebody just when you think they couldn’t suffer anymore, they suffer some more. That’s hard to stomach after a while. There’s a sense of peace
What’s next for you?
The blissful unknown! I’m very happy to not know. I’ve known what I’m doing the last five years. To have the time to genuinely breathe out and take stock of where we are and see what interests and excites me is far better than having a full calendar.