'Tyrant' Preview: Dark Secrets Lead to Trouble and Shifting Relationships
'Tyrant' Preview: Dark Secrets Lead to Trouble and Shifting Relationships
Carla Day
Carla Day
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
FX is launching a new show this week, Tyrant, about the son of a dictator who returns home after a 20 years absence with his American family. Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed has kept his past a well-guarded secret from his wife and their children. 

At his wife's insistence, the family goes to his childhood home in Abbudin to attend his nephew's wedding. Their visit was supposed to be short, but circumstances beyond their control extend their stay.

Earlier this year, the executive producers and cast held a press conference for reporters at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. Read on for excerpts of the panel from Executive Producers Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff, as well as, stars Adam Rayner (Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed), Jennifer Finnigan (Molly) and Moran Atias (Leila).

On the origins of the premise

Raff:  Well, I'm from the Middle East.  I was born and raised there, and so I'm fascinated with the region. And recent years in the Middle East have been earthshattering, really, all the revolutions and the Arab Spring and everything, and the civil wars going around. It's a fascinating time. And I was watching TV one day in my apartment in Tel Aviv and on the news there was a thing about Bashar al Assad, the President of Syria, killing a few dozen people in a city called Daraa.  

Everybody was hating on him and saying how horrible he is and a mass killer and he has to go and we have to replace him. And I was thinking that just a few years earlier, everybody was so happy that he, educated in the West, married to a British woman, is coming to replace his father. And I thought he probably misses his life in London now very much. And I thought how do you go from being that to being hailed a mass killer, and that journey was really, really interesting to me.

A family drama

Gordon: This is really a family drama against this very tough political situation in which this family and its ability to hold onto itself and, again, through Barry's eyes, his acceptance of his frankly, I hate to use the word "destiny," but that's what it is as he comes to accept his destiny that he can perhaps naively navigate this parallel situation.  Helping his brother navigate the situation really becomes the cornerstone of what happens. 

On what Barry's American family knows about his past and homeland

Raff: I think part of the charm, the seduction of this place is that there is a lot of wish fulfillment.  It's almost a fairytale. You're coming to a palace and to wealth that you can't even imagine. Behind all of that are some very, very dark things, and together with these characters, we're going to find out what it is, and we're going to have to make the decisions, you know, the hard decisions that these leaders have to make. So I think it's all of it.  It's that there's this wish fulfillment, and then there's this very dark side, and it's all very complex. 

On Barry's complex character who isn't black or white

Raynar: To begin with, he appears to be white in the sense that he hasn't got much darkness.  He has assimilated fully into American life.  He's a doctor.  He has a beautiful wife.  He has kids. But as he is drawn back into his former life, you begin to see that that is not the whole story and he has a darker side to him. And in a sense, that is the journey that he goes on certainly to begin the show.

On Molly's journey

Finnigan:  As far as the pilot goes and her story, I just wanted to tell the story of a woman who has been kept at arm's length by her husband their entire life. I mean, can you imagine being with someone for 20 years and never knowing that side of them, never knowing how they grew up, never seeing their place of birth, and the fact that it's in the Middle East and the fact that it's basically royalty and to not know that side of him?  

That's a pain that she's felt for 20 years, and I love that it finally came to a head in that last scene. And the way that the pilot itself is kind of a jumping point for the rest of the series  it very much is for this character as well that last scene, I think, dictates a massive shift in their relationship, and that's what I'm really curious to explore. 

On Leila's relationship with Jamal and Barry

Atias: I really was attracted to Leila because she's so mysterious and we don't really know what relationship she truly has with each of these men. But I found it really interesting that a woman would be married to a husband like mine and not be a victim and actually choose to stay in that country with that power and be seductive in a certain way; but at the same time, trying to find her own voice; which I think is a true challenge in certain countries like that because most women are voiceless.  

With Barry, there's, to me, a kind of like naive history that she doesn't know what it means, what is meant in the past. And now when he comes back after 20 years, I think they will both try to discover what that meant when they were young and naive running around in the palace court.  

First Look Video

Tyrant airs Tuesday at 10pm ET on FX.

(Image courtesy of FX.)

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