Categories Homeland Interviews

Telegraph Interview – Soldiering on: Damian Lewis in Homeland

Damian Lewis opens our conversation with a sheepish mention of his ardent admirers. ‘I’ve a set of fans who call themselves – you’re not allowed to laugh – Damian Bunnies.’ Their name seems to be a reference to those other copper-top characters, the Duracell Bunnies. They have been following him since his 2001 breakthrough in Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed Second World War series Band of Brothers, ‘and they’re absolutely lovely. In the end, I realised they knew so much about me, I let two of them run a fan site.’

A decade on from Band of Brothers, Lewis, about to turn 41 and with a busy, successful and cleverly below-the-radar career on both sides of the Atlantic, explains his approach to work. ‘You want to do something that feeds you and that is stimulating and challenging to you. It makes your time more interesting.’ But such an approach makes for a professional progression with ‘a slower burn. No question. No question,’ he repeats. ‘Associations are the quickest way forward in this business. Not what role you played but who you worked with – what company you keep.’

It has to be said that Lewis has done all right by forswearing the showier roles – for which a drama school contemporary of his, Ewan McGregor, plumped from day one. ‘Ewan was in the year above me. He always said, “I don’t want to be a theatre actor, I want to be a film star.” He was really clear about it. But I was going, “What? Films? I don’t know anything about films! How do you even know how to be a film star?” ‘ Lewis’s head and heart lay with Britain’s theatre tradition. ‘I was still stuck in the 1930s, with Tyrone Guthrie and the Old Vic and Richardson and Gielgud and Olivier.’

On graduating from London’s Guildhall in 1993, Lewis quickly enjoyed notable successes on stage, with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Hamlet on Broadway in 1995, and in a National Theatre production of Ibsen’s Pillars of the Community. But following Band of Brothers, television has been the platform for his greatest work. Playing the emotionally cruel patriarch in the 2002 remake of The Forsyte Saga and in the American drama Life (he played a wrongly imprisoned detective in the show, which ran for two seasons from 2007), Lewis has excelled. And the past six months have seen his small-screen success scale new heights.

In Homeland, made by the American cable channel Showtime, Lewis plays Sergeant Nick Brodie, a Marine who disappeared while serving in Iraq eight years previously. Liberated by US forces and returned home to a country that had long thought him dead, Brodie is greeted as a hero – by his brothers in arms, by a government keen for a propaganda victory in the never-ending war on terrorism, and by his wife and two children.

But there are complications and suspicions. Brodie’s wife, believing she was actually a widow, has begun a not-so-covert relationship with one of her husband’s closest comrades. His military buddies wonder why the back-from-the-dead Marine – regimental motto: semper fidelis (always faithful) – won’t wrap himself more tightly in the flag and play the patriotic let’s-kill-us-some-terrorists card. And within the CIA, an experienced Middle East analyst, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), is convinced that, in his eight years in isolated captivity, Brodie has been ‘turned’ by his jailers. Homeland’s intriguing central proposition is this: what if jihadists had allowed the PoW to be discovered and liberated so he could return to his homeland, and thereafter set in motion the greatest terrorist outrage committed on American soil since 9/11?

Read the full interview at the Telegraph.

Categories Homeland Interviews Interview

“Straight to the sore point,” sighs Damian Lewis, slouching deeper into an armchair in the library room of London’s Covent Garden Hotel. GQ has made the mistake of bringing up the Golden Globes: while Lewis’ stunning new psychological drama Homeland won Best Show at the awards ceremony last month, Lewis lost out to former Frasier star Kelsey Grammar for Best Actor. “I went up to Kelsey to say congratulations afterwards,” says Lewis. “He replied ‘Who are you?’ He didn’t really – but he said it with his eyes.” Although a Londoner, Lewis is a Hollywood veteran, impressing in the likes of Band of Brothers and shortlived NBC drama Life, plus a recent stint opposite Keira Knightley in the West End in The Misanthrope. Homeland is his biggest gig yet: a smart, adult thriller with a knack for explosive twists, led by Lewis’s prisoner of war and Claire Danes as Carrie, a paranoid CIA field agent convinced that he has been turned to Al Qaeda. Ahead of the series’ debut on Channel 4 later this month, we chat to Lewis about the difficulty of sex scenes, TVR problems and Billy Idol karaoke… After your marine training for Band Of Brothers did you go back for a refresher course for Homeland?
Damian Lewis: No, I didn’t – even though I’m playing a US soldier this is very different. I researched a little bit into what it’s like to be a sniper, because Brody is part of the sniper platoon. I also read Brian Keenan’s An Evil Cradling, which is a brilliant account of his three and a half years in prison in Beirut.

Given the number of twists, how much did they tell you ahead of time?
I had long phone calls with the creators. Starting out I was keen for Brody not to be a brainwashed soldier à la The Manchurian Candidate but that he had made a strong choice himself to convert to Islam. Then it would be up to [series producers] Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon as to how much they preyed on audience fears that when someone converts that therefore make them a terrorist. It is far more interesting if a Marine choses Islam as a force of good that helped him and for him to be able to find the beauty in a religion that a lot of people are suspicious of. The writers agreed with that but they also said “He has to be the threat.” In the end the reasons for why he acts are different than you might expect.

You and some of cast lived together during filming. What’s a Homeland party like?
Ginger and lemon tea, a nice vegetarian dish… maybe if we’re feeling raucous an After Eight, and then home to bed. We’re very committed. [laughs] A lot of us lived in the same apartment block, so we were quite good at giving dinner parties. My proudest moment was cooking eggs and bacon for brunch before going off to watch the Carolina Panthers play – we lined our stomachs for drinking a lot of cheap beer.

What’s the best thing you can cook?
I’ve gone back to my favourite book which I used when I was a bachelor, which is Gary Rhodes’ Great Fast Food. It’s absolutely brilliant. It does take forever if you have to buy all the ingredients just for that recipe though – you go around the aisles and it takes about three hours.

What restaurant do you always go back to?
I do love J. Sheekey. Pop in quickly late night for the fish pie and buttered green beans. The Arboath Smokies they do are great and they do a fantastic kedgeree, with a lovely poached egg just sitting on top. Potted shrimps are also a favourite.

GQ cover star Keira Knightley recently said she has vodka before sex scenes and champagne after. What’s your secret?
That’s like a medicine and a celebration, isn’t it? I don’t have champagne after sex scenes. I’m full of self doubt and self analysis – just like in real life! In my view there’s usually a much sexier way of bringing two people together than seeing explicit sex. In Homeland they’re not healthy, functioning experiences. They’re an indication of the psychological breakdown and the damage that now exists in a marriage, particularly for this soldier returning from war. Sometimes on [American cable channel] Showtime there’s an obligation to do sex scenes, just because they can.

Read the full interview at the (UK) website.

Categories Homeland Interviews

Channel 4 Interview

Damian Lewis is sitting opposite me, drinking tea in a wood-panelled library in a discreetly opulent Central London hotel. With his clipped Old Etonian accent and understated self-confidence, he seems the epitome of Englishness. Which is why it’s surprising that so many of his highest profile roles have been Americans.

His latest drama, Homeland, is no exception. Lewis plays US Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, who has been held as a prisoner of war for eight years by Al Qaeda. On his return, he is feted as a hero. But CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) believes that, far from being an All-American patriot, he has been turned, and represents a grave threat to national security.

Here, the charming and affable Lewis talks about the series, his career to date, and how he’d give it all up in a heartbeat just to change one single moment from his past.

You had a great education, went to Eton, and at the end of it, you turned around and said to your parents that you wanted to go into the most capricious business imagineable. Parents dread their children wanting to act. How did yours react?
They were brilliant, and oddly supportive. They had seen me on stage at that point. A group of us put on a play at school, and my parents saw me, and I think they decided that it wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time. And so in the last two years, when I should have been working for my A levels, I decided that I wanted to go to drama school. I’d stopped working, and my shocking A level results reflected that. So I was only going to go off to a not very exciting university anyway, and so I went to drama school. My mum said “Go, with our blessing.” And what she really meant was “And that means you can stay at home with me for another three years.” I grew up in London, so I lived at home throughout drama school. It was a very un-studenty three years. I went back to a nice family house every night where, if I was lucky, mum had left out a fishcake.

You went to The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Have any of your contemporaries from there gone on to stardom?
There was a very rich seam of talent all around us. Joseph Fiennes was a contemporary of mine. Ewan McGregor was in the year ahead, Daniel Craig was in the year ahead of him. Just in front of them were people like Ben Chaplin and Rhys Ifans. Dominic West was just behind me.

And from there you went on to the RSC. Was that a valuable part of your education as an actor?
Yes it was. It gave me a campus life that I hadn’t had. It was a bit like going through another training – you’d have voice lessons and verse lessons, and you’d rehearse all day and perform all night. And you just happened to be living in a small wendy house of a 17th Century workman’s cottage right next to the River Avon, with Shakespeare’s graveyard 300 yards one way and where he lived a couple of miles the other way. It was a rather extraordinary, rarified existence for a year. I loved it. And I would imagine, having visited Oxford and Cambridge many times to go and see my friends who were studying there, and I played cricket there quite a lot *cough* – where I scored a century – (the only one I’ve ever scored, and it was against a team called The Grannies!) I imagine our existence [at the RSC] was quite similar, just living in these beautiful, bucolic surroundings.

Read the full interview at the Channel 4 website.

More recent press:

Press Association – Damian Lewis wants Mad Men job
Digital Spy – Damian Lewis: ‘Homeland is more psychological and political than 24’

Categories Download Homeland Interviews

More from the BAFTA Q&A

The audio of Monday’s BAFTA Q&A with Damian Lewis and David Harewood is now available on Youtube. You can download it here from our Media archive.

The HuffPost has an article on the Q&A:

“You have to have a black man and a red head”, says Damian Lewis, explaining the American success of his espionage thriller Homeland.

Lewis and his fellow Brit co-star David Harewood have received a fantastic reception in the States for their roles as Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a marine and former prisoner of war, and Director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center David Estes, respectively.

The Golden Globe Award-winning drama, which also stars Claire Danes as determined CIA agent Carrie Mathison, has taken the US by storm. It’s reportedly Barack Obama’s favourite television programme and The New York Post have called it “the best thriller on American TV”, while the Los Angeles Times notes “it’s the first telling of a post-9/11 story that is all the things it should be: politically resonant, emotionally wrenching and plain old thrilling to watch.”

Now Lewis and Harewood are getting the chance to show off their lauded work back home, as Channel 4 brings the drama, loosely based on Gideon Raff’s Israeli television series Prisoners of War, to UK screens in February.

The compelling series centres on an American soldier (Brody) who was taken prisoner during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Left for dead, he miraculously returns to the US after years in captivity and the nation welcomes home their hero. However, tightly-wound CIA officer Carrie, who is battling her own psychological demons, is solely convinced that all is not as innocent as it seems.

Carrie puts her career on the line as she pursues her theory that the intelligence behind his rescue was a setup – and that he may be connected to an Al-Qaeda plot to be carried out on American soil.

At a sneak preview of Homeland at BAFTA’s headquarters, with Lewis and Harewood on hand to discuss their roles, it is clear that Homeland is going to become addictive. It’s not just a brilliantly-plotted espionage thriller with compelling and fascinating characters, it’s also a brave exploration of the difficulties of fighting terrorism a decade after September 11.

But how did they feel when they received the script for the first time – were they sure they were on to a winner?

“It was very exciting. The show sets itself up as a thriller and of course there’s a page turner left at the end as he’s standing staring at the White House. But what struck me was what they took on thematically, in just an hour’s worth of TV. The depth both in incident and character is something we don’t see over here,” explains Lewis.

Read the rest at the The Huffington Post UK.

Categories Download Homeland Interviews Video

BBC America Interview

Click below for a video clip of Damian at BAFTA LA’s 18th Annual Awards Season Tea Party on Jan 14th. You can download the HD version of the clip from our Media archive here.