In the new Homecoming Amazon series from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, Bobby Cannavale plays Colin Belfast, a low-level manager at the titular facility that helps American troops re-enter society. Unlike star Julia Roberts’ Heidi Bergman, the caseworker he supervises, Belfast is very much the type of business bro who wants to climb the corporate ladder as fast as possible, even if someone gets in his way.
A version of this character exists in the original podcast, also titled Homecoming, on which Esmail’s television show is based. Funnily enough, as Cannavale tells Metro, his friend and fellow actor David Schwimmer brought that incarnation to life for the original audio series.
Bobby Cannavale on the differences between the Homecoming Amazon series and podcast
“The person who turned me on to Homecoming was David Schwimmer. We’re good friends, and he played Colin on the podcast,” says Cannavale. “I’m late to everything, including podcasts, so when I brought it up at dinner he mentioned he’d just done one. ‘You should listen to it,’ he told me. ‘It’s good.’ So I did, and he wasn’t lying. It is good. Everybody on it is wonderful, of course, but David smashes it.”
Unbeknownst to Cannavale, who was working on Mr. Robot at the time, Esmail was hard at work putting a television adaptation of the podcast together. So when he mentioned the Homecoming Amazon series in passing to the writer, director and producer, the actor was surprised to learn about the connection.
“I came into work the next day and was like, ‘Is anybody listening to this Homecoming thing?’ And of course, they all were,” Cannavale laughs. “That’s when Sam told me, ‘Yeah man, and I’m producing it.’ I’d had no idea he was working on it, so I immediately asked him who was playing Colin. I couldn’t have been playing a more different type of character on Mr. Robot, and I was itching to do something like this character. So I told Sam I’d love to do it.”
After lobbying for the role with Esmail and the Homecoming team, Cannavale managed to secure the Colin role after a few months. As excited as he was to play the part, however, did the prospect of taking on a character a close friend of his had previously played prove to be a daunting challenge? After all, someone in Cannavale’s position wouldn’t want to simply do an impression of what had come before.
“I just put it out of my head,” he says. “I approach every role like it’s mine, like it’s never been done before. There’s no value in doing any kind of an impression of, or even an homage to, what’s come before. I have to bring whatever I can bring to it. Plus, the role was different enough from the podcast that it didn’t really interfere with that process.”
As is most often the case with streaming, all 10 half-hour episodes of the Homecoming Amazon series were released last Friday. This means that, should audiences who haven’t already watched it find some free time over the weekend, they can easily binge the entire series in one or two sittings. It’s a way of viewing things that most viewers are accustomed to now, and Cannavale prefers it that way.
“I’m usually very late to things, just by virtue of the fact that I’m busy working and I’ve got two babies at home,” he says. “So the idea of watching something whenever I’m ready to appeals to me. It’s really unbelievable how quickly our habits change. Like, appointment television doesn’t really exist anymore. So I take full advantage of that and binge something whenever I’ve got the time. I binged all of ‘Atlanta’ when I was on a job, ironically, in Atlanta. I was on my own without the kids and I caught up on everything in like two weeks.”
The first season of Homecoming is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.