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Real-life spy shows Nazanin Boniadi of 'Homeland' how it's done

Nazanin Boniadi homeland carol rollie flynn The real spy, Carol Rollie Flynn, with "Homeland" actress and faux spy Nazanin Boniadi.
Credit: Getty Images

Nazanin Boniadi had a lot of research to do before stepping back into the role of Fara Sherazi this Sunday on "Homeland."

The Season 4 premiere of Showtime's CIA counterterrorism drama finds intelligence agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) embedded in Pakistan with new recruit Sherazi, shifting her from her desk job as an analyst to the field.

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Though Boniadi had studied the lives of CIA agents before starting out on the show during its third season, she had the opportunity to see one at work during "Spies Among Us," a Sheraton Club event that took place last month in New York City.

In a suite at the Sheraton New York Times Square, attendees at a cocktail party were drawn into a sort of live version of "Clue" in which they had to discover who among three guests (Mses. Red, White and Blue) was an actual former spy.

sheraton spies like us cocktail party ms blue Attendees grill one of the possible spies at Showtime's "Spies Among Us" event at the Sheraton New York Times Square.
Credit: Getty Images

After several rounds of (friendly) interrogation, the spy was revealed to be Carol "Ms. White" Rollie Flynn, a 30-year CIA veteran and former executive director of the agency's Counterterrorism Center, as the agent. Flynn offered a glimpse into her career during a post-event "debriefing."

Could an analyst turn into an agent?

"Absolutely. The current director of the CIA started life as an analyst."

How much does "Homeland" get right?

"I think there are some things that 'Homeland' gets absolutely correct. And one of them is: They capture the incredible dedication of CIA officers to mission — and certainly, the American people. The other thing that 'Homeland' gets right is: It’s a very ambiguous business. You never quite know what you have. It’s a gray world. And 'Homeland' really, really gets that."

How did you deal with your children and your job?

"You know, my daughter had always said, 'Oh, Mom, you have this boring office job.' But they were not really at an age where they could understand. They were not aware of my CIA affiliation. I told the kids when we were back in the States and when my daughter was a teenager and my son was in middle school, old enough that they could handle it and keep a secret."

As for Boniadi, though she's tried out several "roles" in her 34 years — studying medicine and being assistant editor-in-chief of the medical newspaper at the University of California, Irvine, before becoming an actress — she doesn't see herself changing careers again to become an actual CIA operative.

"I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to do what they do, just based on the research I have done," Boniadi said. "And Fara is Muslim, and she has all these other priorities, but really the CIA has to become the most important thing in her life."

"Homeland" returns Sunday, Oct. 5, with two back-to-back episodes starting at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

 
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