Showrunners Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg on how the singer's new role opens up the series to more star-studded seasons.
When Homecoming, the half-hour psychological thriller about a caseworker working at a mysterious facility that helps soldiers transition back to civilian life, debuted in 2018, it marked Julia Roberts’ first starring TV role three decades into her celebrated career. Not long after the Amazon original premiered, it was revealed that the star would not be returning as Heidi Bergman despite the show’s initial two-season order. “We knew no Julia from the pitch; we really wanted to kind of tell the complete story of that character and bring her to a natural resting point,” showrunners Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg tell ET about replacing the Oscar winner with Janelle Monae, who brings a whole new vibe to season 2.
With that in mind, the pair, who also created the podcast the series is based on, knew they wanted to expand the world of Geist, the corporation behind the military rehabilitation project, and some of its existing characters, including Audrey Temple played by Golden Globe nominee Hong Chau, while introducing a whole new mystery. And in 2019, it was announced that Monae would be playing a military veteran who wakes up in a boat in the middle of a mountaintop lake with no memory of who she is or how she got there.
“We had these pieces that we liked,” the pair says of these two seemingly disparate ideas. “And then a lot of the work was finding the right way to line them up and connect them.”
What unfolds in season 2 is a twisty, character-based thriller as Jackie tries to retrace her steps while Audrey is navigating unexpected challenges at Geist after making significant jumps up the corporate ladder. Eventually their two stories merge, with the characters colliding in unexpected ways and key moments along the way filling in the gaps of what went on behind the scenes at Homecoming.
Ultimately what audiences learn about Jackie and Audrey isn’t even the biggest twist that comes in season 2, which intentionally wraps up their story as concisely as Heidi’s was in season 1 -- something the showrunners hope serves as a map for future seasons of the series. “This is the show that we imagined: that each season you’ll tune in, so to speak, to meet a new, exciting central character,” they explain, adding that the “fun is discovering how the story that you’re watching is connected to what you’ve seen that’s come before.”
Horowitz and Bloomberg go on to explain that they want each season to feel self-contained in many ways and tell their own stories. “Having stars like Janelle is what gives us the ability to do that,” they add.
While there is a desire to continue Homecoming beyond two seasons, they explain that they don’t have anything outlined for multiple seasons or some mind-bending ending they’re working toward. “We like to spitball and improvise our way out of whatever narrative gyms that we get ourselves into," they say.
In fact, if they get renewed for more seasons, Horowitz and Bloomberg want to explore new characters and different parts of the universe they’ve created. And that would likely mean no future cameos by the likes of Monae or Roberts, who they say has such a gravitational force that she would ultimately prove more distracting than good by even appearing in season 2.
“We want to respect our audiences’ expectations and at the same time, focus people’s attention and get them hooked onto the exciting new season they were experiencing,” they explain, adding that Roberts is “one of the biggest stars in the world. So you just have to be very careful about even indicating or flavoring something that's going to be a part of the story because I think your impulse is going to be to expect that.”
Season 2 of Homecoming is now streaming on Amazon.