As a TV producer, it's obvious you're onto something when your new series earns a stunning nine Emmy nominations for its first season. But it's another thing altogether when you learn your show is regular Monday-morning watercooler talk for the head of the CIA, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and, oh, the leader of the free world. For Howard Gordon, executive producer of the intense spy-thriller series 'Homeland' (its second season debuts September 30th on Showtime), the secret sauce is that the show doesn't strive to be anything other than fiction. And so while he admits some of the hi-tech gadgetry on the show doesn't exist (yet), still, he says, "it's a fiction that should feel real." A few highlights from the story:

• It turns out the CIA actually cooperates with the show, providing a liaison to answer questions about CIA culture and practices – though it doesn't allow anyone to divulge details of specific operations or speak to journalists.

• The 'Homeland' staff has intimate knowledge of the realities of intelligence work. One producer is the son of a CIA agent who spent his childhood in foreign capitals such as Baghdad and Tehran. Another is a former British special-forces soldier. And co-creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa learned insider details about counterterrorist work during their work on their other genre-redefining hit thriller, '24.'

• Similar to a key plot from the first season, a consulting producer for the show learned that the CIA actually does recruit highly paid Western girls who work in harems in the Middle East. "My first reaction was that it was pulp fiction. But [a CIA source] said, 'Think about it. These girls are paid a lot of money. They don't necessarily feel good about it or like the guys – that's a very good possible recruit.'"