Amazon’s tense psychodrama ‘Homecoming’ brings Julia Roberts to series TV

‘Homecoming’ – Psych thriller as morality play

Julia Roberts and Stephan James star in “Homecoming,” which begins streaming Friday, Nov. 2, on Amazon.

It seems hard to believe that in her 30-plus years as a working actress, Julia Roberts has never been a regular on a TV series. But that changes this week when she headlines a tense psychological thriller debuting on Amazon.

In “Homecoming,” which begins streaming its 10-episode first season Friday, Nov. 2, the “Erin Brockovich” Oscar winner stars as Heidi Bergman, a caseworker working for her demanding boss Colin (Bobby Cannavale, “Boardwalk Empire”) at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, which helps soldiers transition back to civilian life.

One of those is Walter Cruz (Stephan James, “Shots Fired”), a seemingly normal Gulf War vet who’s eager to begin treatment and get back to his life stateside. Others such as Shrier (Jeremy Allen White, “Shameless”) aren’t so trusting of the corporate-owned facility’s motives and resist treatment every step of the way.

Julia Roberts stars in “Homecoming,” which begins streaming Friday, Nov. 2, on Amazon.

Flash forward four years and it’s apparent something has hit the fan. Heidi has moved back home to live with her mother (Oscar winner Sissy Spacek, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”) and work for low pay as a waitress, while Walter is nowhere to be seen. And when a Defense Department investigator (Shea Whigham, “American Hustle”) comes around asking questions, Heidi isn’t talking.

The half-hour series is based on the popular podcast of the same title by Gimlet Media and boasts a creative team that includes Sam Esmail, the man behind the USA Network sci-fi drama “Mr. Robot.”

“Well, honestly … Sam Esmail is what attracted me,” Roberts told a recent gathering of journalists in Beverly Hills, Calif. “And I just think that what Eli (Horowitz) and Micah (Bloomberg) have written is such a great sort of old-fashioned yarn set in this really modern conundrum of a morality play. And to put that in Sam’s incredibly stylish, capable hands, seemed a very safe place to be.”

Like “Mr. Robot,” the idea of the evil corporation permeates “Homecoming,” and is evident when Shrier spits out his medication at dinnertime or tries to convince Walter that the vets have all have been duped into believing the facility is located near Tampa.

And that level of distrust, says Esmail, is merely art imitating life.

“I do think that there is something in the air about corporate greed and especially since the 2008 financial collapse, we’re still reeling from that,” he says. “I mean like how many … of the perpetrators of that actually got arrested or jailed? I mean, I can count on one hand. And it’s actually probably to that point, none.

“So … I don’t want to say that all corporations are the villains,” he continues, “but there is that untrustworthiness right now with capitalism in general, but corporations, especially large corporations specifically.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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