‘Homeland’ Star Maury Sterling Explains What’s Behind Season 4’s Non-Stop Adrenaline Rush

Melissa Smith

Homeland Season 4 has critics raving and fans sitting on the edges of their seats. And while the show has assaulted its cast with a barrage of kidnappings, killings, and other nightmare scenarios, one character who has managed to survive and thrive this season is Max, the socially awkward surveillance expert played by Maury Sterling.

We sat down with Sterling for his take on Max’s development, his relationship to Carrie (Claire Danes), and how he’s looking forward to this Sunday’s finale as much as we are. Spoilers below, so if you haven’t caught up yet, get to binging!

Fans have been blown by the action this season. Has it also shot a new energy into the cast?
Absolutely. There was this big question of where we were going to go now, especially where season 3 ended. I’ve been blown away with how the writers have put this together, and the amount of tension they’ve created again. It feels totally fresh; this season’s just been a rollercoaster.

How have you seen Max grow this season compared to the previous three?
He’s gotten to emerge, and we’ve learned more about him. Introducing the character of Fara, who Max may or may not have a crush on, and what that’s brought out in him, has, especially in the last two episodes, really pulled out more and shown his mettle and his courage.

Did you ever think that Max would last this long? It must be scary to get the script every week.
[Laughs.] People die on Homeland. It’s a dangerous show to be on. I’ve been keeping under the radar in previous seasons so I thought he was safe. But this was the first season where I was like, “This could be very, very dangerous.” [Laughs.]

Have you created a backstory for Max?
We did. I always wanted Max to have his moment, because he sits around obsessively watching Bruce Lee movies to the point where he’s actually gotten pretty good at martial arts. [Laughs.] That never really came to pass, which is fine. We started off with the possibility that he’s on the [Autism] spectrum, which we developed by making him good at his job — he notices details and things that are different, the anomalies or what stands out. That’s why he’s valuable.

How has Max’s relationship with Carrie developed this season?
He’s a truth teller — he doesn’t lie. Especially in this season, he’s gotten to be a bit of Carrie’s conscience in calling her out and seeing through all of her noise and the difficult decisions that she has to make. He’s just so blunt and I love that he’s shined light on her. He says it like it is, and there’s a friendship there for her as well.

What is it like to work with someone who’s as intense on screen as Claire Danes?
Claire is just all business in a good way. I think “professional” is a really good word for her. There’s no drama, there’s nothing unnecessary, and she’s really committed to what she does with very little fuss. And with the amount of stuff she’s carrying, to carry that show — no pun intended — it’s impressive.

How far in advance do you get the scripts? Has there been anything this season that made your jaw drop?
I get the script maybe like a week or so before depending on how many rewrites they’re doing. The writers are furiously tinkering and making it as good as it can be, which I am so grateful for. Almost every episode, every time I think they’ve earned a crescendo — when Carrie is on the drugs and hallucinates — I’m wondering what the next episode wil be. The following episode starts off relatively calmly, but by the end there was another another twist. I think that’s what they have done so well this season. They crafted it in a way where you get these pauses but by the end they just jerk your chain again. It’s a trip.

Now without giving away too much, what can we expect for the finale?
I actually haven’t read the finale, so I can’t say. Part of the joy of being in the show is that I watch it as a fan. And even having seen the scripts, I’m just as excited. I’ve been live tweeting and it’s been fun to do that. I’m taking the ride, too.

Will Max appear in the finale?

What do you recommend for people who are about to go through Homeland withdrawal?
Game of Thrones is coming back — I don’t know, that might be playing for the other team. [Laughs.] Try paint ball, maybe? Take up martial arts? I don’t know.