By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Emmy-nominated psychological thriller "Homeland" will focus more on personal relationships in its second season, but will play out once more against real-life geo-political tensions between the United States and the Middle East, producers said on Monday.
The Showtime drama - one of U.S. President Barack Obama's television favorites - played out its first award-winning season in a post 9/11 world of suspicion, war-damaged soldiers and extremist tensions.
But when the drama starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis returns on September 30, it will delve deeper into the cat-and-mouse game between their lead characters - a bipolar CIA agent and a returning U.S. prisoner of war whose loyalties have been turned by the Taliban.
"I think this season has moved to really explore the relationship between Carrie (Danes) and Brody (Lewis)," said executive producer Alex Gansa. "It becomes less global and more personal."
Nevertheless, "Homeland" will continue its ripped-from-the headlines feel, opening Season 2 against the fictional backdrop of an Israeli bombing on Iranian nuclear facilities while in Washington, D.C., Lewis's character rises through the political ranks.
The first few episodes are set in Beirut but were filmed in Israel.
"We do everything we can to make this thing feel believable. We also try the best we can to ask the questions rather than answer them," Gansa said. "It does explore whether our fears are justified and warranted."
"Homeland" has earned nine Emmy Award nominations, including acting nods for Danes and Lewis. Danes won a Golden Globe in January for her role as a highly strung but brilliant CIA operator in a first season that was packed with plot twists.
Obama in March invited Lewis, a British actor, to a White House dinner and admitted that "Homeland" was a favorite TV pleasure.
"I asked him about watching TV and President Obama said 'On Saturday afternoon, Michelle and the two girls go and play tennis and I pretend I am going to work and I switch on 'Homeland'," Lewis said on Monday.
The second season storyline resumes six months after Danes' CIA agent seeks electro-shock therapy for her mental disorder after being convinced that her suspicions about the enigmatic POW were ill-founded.
"She has been very humbled and she is struggling with a crisis of confidence. She gets her mojo back but it takes a little time," Danes said on Monday.
As for Lewis, he has been elected to Congress as a war hero and appears on course for a vice-presidential run.
"He will live in a state of paranoia and anxiety," said Lewis of his character. "Last time he was damaged, and he won some sympathy from the audience. He's more numbingly juggling balls this season."
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)