You can now download the interview Damian Lewis did for the SiriusXM radio show Ron Bennington Interviews here from our media area. It’s a bit longer than the print interview that was posted at the Interrobang website – there’s more discussion on Homeland and you’ll hear the full story on how Damian got his black eye!
Actor Damian Lewis, the star of the new Showtime series, Homeland, stopped by the SiriusXM studios to talk with Ron Bennington about the new show, which is quickly becoming known as the most exciting show on television. Excerpts of that interview appear below.
Ron Bennington: The most intense tv show on today is definitely Homeland. Damian Lewis is in with us, and you’ve got a black eye, as if you’ve just been through some torture I don’t know about.
Damian Lewis: Danesy. Clair Danes. She gets angry and she wacks me. No, it’s my four year old. He threw Lightening McQueen at me yesterday morning just before I got on the plane to come here.
Ron Bennington: Well congratulations on the show. This tv show, to me is like one of the best movies of the year. Because it has the pacing and the feel like you’re watching a thriller.
Damian Lewis: I’m delighted to hear you say that. We saw the pilot on a big screen at the premier in the Hamptons. I watched an hour of it, and I thought oh I’ve got to go through eleven more of those? That was an intense psychological movie, and you’re right it is shot at that pace. And just from a slightly more technical point of view, the camera stays back a bit more than we’re used to in tv, and it let’s the whole thing breathe a bit. I’m delighted you picked up on that. That’s one of the reasons I love the way this show is coming out.
Ron Bennington: And your character of course, is at the center of this. It’s a guy that we root for, we fear, we sometimes dislike. You really don’t have the normal kind of center to a television show with this.
Damian Lewis: The two central strands of the show are Claire’s character, Carrie Matherson who is a CIA agent, and my character Nicholas Brody. My character represents a threat to homeland security. He might be about to do something devastating and violent and damaging. And yet he’s weirdly likeable because he himself is damaged. And he’s trying clearly to reintegrate with his family, reconnect with people in the world around him. And everyone can sympathize with a guy who…well, we don’t know what it’s like..but people can sympathize with a guy who has been in a hole for eight years. So there’s a lot of sympathy for him. Conversely, her character who is brilliant, and maverick and volatile and a little erratic at times, is charged with really saving America, perhaps. She’s the one person who seems to have a clue what’s going on. But she’s not immediately likeable.
Read the full interview at The Interrobang.
The Showtime counterterrorism thriller “Homeland” has been a breakout hit this fall, earning impressive ratings and raves from critics and the online multitudes who feverishly parse its twists and turns.
But Damian Lewis, the British actor who plays the tormented Marine at the heart of the series, knows the good will could vanish next week if “Homeland” fails to deliver a satisfying conclusion to its first season.
“Television audiences are ruthless — look what happened to ‘The Killing,’ ” he said, referring to the AMC drama that alienated many viewers with an ambiguous season-ending episode. How will the “Homeland” finale, scheduled for next Sunday, avoid such pitfalls?
“It will give answers in an episodic way while leaving you on a cliffhanger, ready for next season,” Mr. Lewis said. “People need revelation, and then they need resolution.”
The series was initially animated by the cat-and-mouse tension between Carrie Mathison, an unstable C.I.A. officer played by Claire Danes, and Mr. Lewis’s Sgt. Nicholas Brody, a former P.O.W. turned war hero who might also be an undercover jihadist. More broadly the show explores notions about identity and belief, Mr. Lewis said.
“What are your values and what will you do to defend them?” he added.
For Mr. Lewis, a London native and veteran of British dramas like the remake of “The Forsyte Saga,” “Homeland” offers another opportunity to dust off the near flawless American accent he brought to shows like HBO’s lauded “Band of Brothers” and the short-lived but well-regarded NBC series “Life.”
While visiting New York recently he talked with Jeremy Egner about “Homeland” and life as a redheaded role model. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Q. Why do you think “Homeland” has gotten such a positive response?
A. The simplistic answer is it’s a thriller, really well told. It’s different from a plot-driven thriller like “24,” which was a bit like crack TV — it kept you on the edge of your seat, but they didn’t spend a lot of time with the psychology of the characters. This takes its time and is a little more pensive. The fact that people are watching and responding to it shows that the anxiety perhaps hasn’t died away yet.
Q. You’re a British actor living in London, how did you end up playing an American war hero on Showtime?
A. I just got a phone call. “Band of Brothers” was my first time playing an American, and it was my first time to have that kind of exposure here and globally, because “Band of Brothers” became such a big deal for people. I’ve played Americans ever since.
Q. You played one in “Life,” which people liked even though it only lasted two seasons. Is that why they thought of you for “Homeland”?
A. An interesting insight into the ruthlessness of studio executives: I was having a conversation with Alex Gansa, a creator of “Homeland,” and I said, “So you guys must have seen ‘Life’ and liked me in it, right? That’s the most recent thing I’ve done over here.” And he went, “No, Damian. You actually nearly didn’t get the job because of ‘Life.’” Because I was the lead guy on a show that the people at Fox 21 [which produces “Homeland” for Showtime] didn’t consider to be a hit — it wasn’t “House” or whatever. And I went, “Right, well it was kind of a hit — people loved that show and it was honored by AFI.” And he said, “Two seasons. And you were the lead guy.”
Read the full interview at NYTimes.com.
The NYTimes.com website also posted a video of Damian discussing a scene from Sunday’s upcoming episode, “The Vest”. Watch it below. You can download the clips from out media area here.
The Showtime series Homeland is one of the most exceptional dramas of the year, wowing us with emotional power and resonant storylines about terrorism and the CIA and how that relates to family, politics and religion. It’s carefully crafted and extremely well-acted, with the talents of Mandy Patinkin, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis shouldering the lion’s share of the work. We recently got a chance to sit down with the extremely charming Lewis and talk about the challenges of playing a POW who has recently returned home and may be working for Al Qaeda.
TWoP: How much about the show and your character did you know when you signed on?
Damian Lewis: I knew only what I had read in the first hour and it was clear that this guy was going to be the inciting incident if you like writer jargon. He [Sergeant Nicholas Brody] was going to be the possible threat to homeland security. I then had a chat with writers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon and they explained, a little bit, their ideas for the first season. I just had one request for them, which was that if this man was going to be a Marine that finds Allah and becomes a Muslim, that there weren’t going to be lazy associations drawn out between violence and Islam. I think that’s irresponsible and just panders to a lot of ignorance that still exists — which is that people with darker skin are going to blow you up. It is ridiculous.
TWoP: I think they’ve done a good job avoiding that for the most part, especially in the recent episodes with the attack on the mosque.
Lewis: I always knew that the threat of terrorism was going to be linked because it was coming from Al Qaeda, or this organization that Abu Nazir represents. So I always knew that, as a device, the fact that this Marine prays to Allah and is fluent in Arabic would be suggestive of a turning of some kind. I think that what’s been revealed [just recently] is that Brody finds Allah, he finds Islam, he becomes a Muslim, but it’s for a spiritual sustenance when he was at his lowest ebb. He was looking for something, some sort of salvation and he turns to Allah as opposed to God, because he is in the Middle East. Islam is a force for good. When religion is used well, his faith is a force for good. It sustains him and nourishes him. We just found out this week that he may still be capable of a violent act. It may be something devastating and atrocious, but what we saw is that the motivation is different than we had suspected.
TWoP: Yes. The episode where we see Brody with the little boy — and the spin by the American VP on that attack on a school in Afghanistan — was extremely impactful.
Lewis: The thing that I think is important about Brody is that he was, is and always will be a soldier. He will respond like a soldier. He identifies an enemy, and in this case it seems pretty clear that it is Vice President Walden, for what he considers a terrorist act of sending unmanned drones into school. I am aware that is a very liberal viewpoint to take politically and there will be more right wing conservatives who say, “This is so ridiculous. And are you justifying terrorism? Saying we’re worse than they are?” The show is careful, I think, to say not that one is worse than the other, but that they are versions of the same thing. Not all Americans… this is the thing. I think it was right… which is my own particular viewpoint, but I think it is the majority held viewpoint, which is that it was right to commit some sort of war on terror to deal with [9/11] in some way. But I think a large portion of the electorate believe the way we’ve gone about it hasn’t… did we target the right people? Did we do it the right way? And that’s a grayer area. That’s the world we are in now ten years later and I think this show accurately reflects that.
Read the full interview here at TWoP.