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Interview: This Much I Know – April 4, 2009

Carrot Tops and Fishing Turds Out of the Bathtub

by Tony Horkins | The Guardian | April 4, 2009

Damian Lewis, actor, 38, Los Angeles

I’ve got Wikipedia insight. I used to be able to sit at dinner parties and talk at length about a novel, having just read the jacket in a bookshop. Now it’s like I’ve got the jacket and the inside cover as well, but nothing more.

Boarding school gives you precocious social skills for life. You’re separated from your parents and you learn about peer groups and gain confidence. When I was in my 20s people would remark on it, which I now realise was them remarking on your awful precociousness. I’m undecided as to the damage it possibly does to an eight-year-old, especially learning not to cry.

Being with Americans is a bit like hanging out with a teenager. They haven’t quite developed the confidence to have a sense of humour about themselves, which just comes with age. And they also have that forward-thrusting energy a teenager has.

It’s quite easy to assume when you first have children that you’ll manage your life as you always have but you’re just accessorised in some interesting, cute way. It’s not entirely true.

Manners are exceptionally important. I was brought up with a rather Edwardian attitude towards them – I was encouraged to call people Sir, and there were occasions when we were encouraged to knock on the living room door before going in.

Grief is very lonely, and even with your closest, most cherished people around you you’ll rarely experience the same stage of grief together. If we were really civilised in our western culture we would give people grief leave, much like maternity leave.

People find it very difficult to be indifferent to red hair. You get more nicknames than anyone else, which is nice. Rusty, Duracell, Carrot Top, Copper Top, Ginge. Out here it’s “Big Red”. Packing’s harder, because you have to take a lot of sun-cream.

It’s a good time to stop partying when you’re surrounded by Hydras, when people start growing second and third heads in front of your eyes, and everything goes into that muffled sound. Unfortunately, for a long time I didn’t get out in time. Now, if I can get a good solid hour-and-a-half’s partying in between 9 and 10.30, I’m happy.

Having gone to Eton doesn’t further my career. I kept the fact I went there quiet for the longest time, because I didn’t want to be stereotyped. I got to a point in my career when I wasn’t being stereotyped and then I started to admit it. Almost the next day any article I did was “Old Etonian Damian Lewis”.

Measure yourself against yourself, not other people. There will always be someone more successful, better looking, wealthier, brighter, smarter, funnier. Just learn to appreciate what it is you’ve achieved for yourself, and if your success for the day is successfully wrestling one of your children’s turds out of the bath then that’s good.

I missed David Cameron at Eton. Although it didn’t stop me making jokes about him on Have I Got News For You. I bumped into him on Hampstead Heath and apologised. I said, “I hope you didn’t mind me making sexual references about your good self on the show,” and he looked at me blankly and said, “It’s all fine.”

There was a curious moment on set the other day where there were a lot of redheads in the room. My initial response was, I don’t really like this. I didn’t feel quite so special.

Read the rest of the original article at The Guardian here