An interview with Damian Lewis
Whether they realized it or not, viewers of the popular Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks miniseries Band of Brothers were watching an English actor in the starring role of Major Richard Winters, the taciturn American hero of an airborne unit during World War II. The real Major Winters is salt of the earth from Pennsylvania. The actor Damian Lewis is from London’s Abbey Road and attended Eton. Otherwise, you’d never know the difference.
While on hiatus between the production of series one and two of The Forsyte Saga, Lewis played Jonesy, a possessed college professor in the forthcoming film of Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher.
Lewis recently talked by phone from London about the Forsyte remake, Soames’s inner life, and what it’s like to play an alien.
Have you read all of Galsworthy’s Forsyte novels?
Yes, absolutely. I also bought a couple of books on Victorian mores and social customs. And I have some quite useful printouts from the Internet about the roles of wives and husbands in Victorian England. So I’ve got a wealth of information to go on.
Did you watch the 1960s BBC adaptation as part of your research for the role of Soames?
No, though I have seen little clips of it. That was a seminal piece of work, and a whole generation loved it. But I find that television dates very quickly. The language of the camera has moved on since then, audiences have become more sophisticated. We would find it very sedentary compared to what we expect now. Our cast is a lot younger than theirs, and I think the relationships are scripted in a slightly different way, more ambiguous perhaps. I’ll see it someday, but I don’t feel the need to go to it for guidance.
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