TCA: ‘Tyrant’ on FX seeks to humanize conflict in Middle East

From left, "Tyrant" executive producers Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff, and actors Adam Rayner, Jennifer Finnigan and Ashraf Barhom speak during Television Critics Assn. media tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena,
(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Howard Gordon won’t turn his back on the Middle East.

The executive producer of counter-terrorism shows “Homeland” and “24,” Gordon is now the man behind an entirely different series about the subject.

Called “Tyrant,” and premiering on FX this summer, the show takes place in a fictional Middle Eastern town. When the prodigal youngest son of a dictator returns home from the U.S. (after 20 years) with his American wife and children, all hell breaks loose.

Production takes place in Israel, but on Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. media tour in Pasadena, the producers were quick to point out that it could’ve been anywhere.


The idea for the series, Gordon said, “was instantly evocative, not just of the tyranny of a country, but of ourselves.”

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To look at any boiling situation in many war-torn areas across the world, is to acknowledge the flawed nature of colonial-inspired policy itself, he continued.

“One of the things we don’t want to do is be reductive,” he said, “or ignore the redundancies and follies of American policy.”

Perhaps because “Tyrant” aims to give a fresh coat of perspective to the conflict in the Middle East, the project initially sparked a bidding war. Hopes are now high for the series, although those involved are trying to manage expectations.

“The thing that I realize is that I’m a story junkie,” Gordon said. “Fifty percent of the ink is what’s happening in Libya, Syria and Egypt, and to put a face on that felt good enough to ignore my health entirely.”


At the end of the day, “Tyrant” is asking a simple question: “What does it mean to be a good man?” Gordon said.

“You have to keep your own council, and the council of people you trust,” he said. “This will be a Rorschach test and people will see what they want to see. I’ve been called an Islamophobe and a torture monger, so what else can they call me?”


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