Exclusive Interview: HOMELAND star Damian Lewis delves into the two sides of patriotism
The actor talks about his new series and his feelings about the end of LIFE
Showtime’s HOMELAND, which concludes its first season with a special ninety-minute episode this Sunday at 10 PM, has had its audience dizzy with plot twists. At first, CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is sure that newly-returned POW/war hero Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody, played by Damian Lewis, has been turned into a terrorist sleeper agent during his years in captivity. Then it seems that Brody’s friend, who Brody wrongly believed he killed, is really the sleeper. But then, no, wait – for those who like their political action thriller television suspenseful and unpredictable, HOMELAND is the mother lode.
London-born Lewis has a thoroughly English accent in person, but Brody is far from the first American – or even the first U.S.soldier, or prisoner – he’s played. Lewis was Major Richard D. Winters in HBO’s BAND OF BROTHERS miniseries; more recently, he spent two seasons as police detective Charlie Crews, just released after having been wrongly imprisoned on murder charges, in NBC’s LIFE.
ASSIGNMENT X: Do you like playing Americans?
DAMIAN LEWIS: I love you guys! I do like playing Americans. BAND OF BROTHERS was the first time I did it and I had to concentrate quite hard, and then as a result of that, I got asked to play a lot of Americans, and as time’s gone on, I’ve developed an American persona that I just feel comfortable with. I slip in and out of it when I’m not at work, when I’m just at a store on the weekend. It’s become part of me. I spent a lot of time here as a kid. I think my family was always quite connected to America. My dad lived in Chicago for five years, then my mother’s brother moved here with all his kids, and we were always here as kids. I was always coming over toAmerica. And so I feel comfortable. That’s the best way to put it.
AX: What attracted you to HOMELAND?
LEWIS: I think its potential to be a challenging, politically and emotionally challenging show, for it to be thematically complex, to challenge the notion of identity on a political and national scale, and also on a more intimate, personal scale, while also all the time being driven by this compelling story, which is effectively a ticking clock, with one person trying to find out if the other person is going to do it.
AX: Do you feel HOMELAND is at all comparable to THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE?
LEWIS: Not so much – well, there are echoes of that, yes. It would be disingenuous to say not, but I think what’s important about this – I don’t want to give too much away, but I think this is interesting for the choices people make. People aren’t brainwashed in this show. Characters choose things. And it’s because of their need that they choose to do things that often compromise themselves as individuals. But it’s about choice, more than more than being subjugated to other people’s will.
AX: Morena Baccarin plays Brody’s wife Jessica. How is it playing opposite her as her husband?
LEWIS: It’s absolutely delightful. She plays my wife and she’s totally committed to the story and I think [Jessica] longs for some tenderness in their relationship, which is hard to come by, because they’re both so damaged. [Brody is] possibly holding onto the biggest secret of the show, which is that I seem to have converted to Islam in my time away – that’s not giving too much away – and nobody knows, including my wife and children, and she, by the same token, has a pretty extraordinary secret, which is that she thought I was dead and she’s been having an affair with my good friend, who has become a father to my kids. So this relationship is very broken and it will take time to mend and we’re enjoying its awkwardness and its strangeness. It’s great working with her.
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