"Homeland": An unlikely, timely success

Damian Lewis and Claires Danes in "Homeland."

(CBS News) "Homeland" received nine Emmy Award nominations for its first season. So what accounts for the show's success so soon out of the gate? Mark Strassmann has found some answers:

"Homeland" is a drama about demons in our post 9-11 world, the story of an American POW-turned-terrorist, and the unstable CIA agent obsessed with learning his secrets, and stopping him.

Its premise might seem unlikely for successful television. At first, even the stars weren't aligned with the idea of a drama about the war on terror.

Actress Claire Danes said that when she was first asked to consider the pilot, "It still felt really risky, and maybe too timely, maybe too relevant."

But the series, on CBS's Showtime, was one of the most acclaimed new shows of last year. It won Golden Globe Awards for Best Drama, and for Best Actress to Danes as agent Carrie Matheson.

"One of the things that the show does to great success is hold a mirror to our times," said Strassmann.

"Yes, yes," said Danes. "And I think there are very few representations of what our society is wrestling with now in this post 9/11 moment, extended moment, which is, you know, brimming with anxiety."

Mandy Patinkin, who plays Saul Berenson, Carrie's mentor at the CIA, said, "I think it hits a nerve, a universal, international nerve.

"It's a show that is desperately trying to find the common ground between the conflict, the violence," said Patinkin. "I don't think entertainment changes the world or fixes anything, but maybe, sometimes, it has some effect."

"Homeland"'s first season kept viewers questioning - who's good, who's bad. What's right, what's wrong.

English actor Damian Lewis plays Sgt. Nicholas Brody, America's newest war hero, freed after eight years of captivity in Iraq.

"Brody is really a victim of war, that's what he is, said Lewis. "He comes back absolutely eviscerated by war, damaged irreparably. And that's the human cost of war."

Carrie suffers from a bipolar disorder, a Cassandra character who speaks the truth that no one else believes. By the end of Season 1, she unravels and undergoes electro-shock therapy, while Brody - at the last minute - aborts his suicide plot.

"This thing came right out of the gates," said Lewis. "It was, you know, within episode two or three, people were talking about it."

But Lewis never imagined who was talking about the show. Last spring, he was invited to a state dinner at the White House for the British Prime Minister. President Obama told him he was a fan of "Homeland."

"I said to him and David Cameron halfway through dinner, 'When do you guys get to watch TV?'" Lewis recalled. "'Because aren't you supposed to be running the free world?' And the president said, you know, 'Saturday afternoons. Michelle takes the girls to go play tennis and I turn on "Homeland."'"

Danes loves her character: "She's badass and brilliant, infinitely more than I could ever be myself, so that's fun. She has a kind of superhero quality."