Question: What attracted you to this show and this character?
DAMIAN LEWIS: Well, what I read was a thrilling psychological and political thriller with a CIA agent convinced that this hero who returns, having been a POW with Al Qaeda for eight years, might have been turned by them and is a terrorist. I just enjoyed the contradiction that someone could return a hero in the nation’s eyes, but possibly not be that person. That is a thrilling premise. That is a great set-up, for any show. As the first chapter of your novel, that takes you to the next chapter.
This show is not just about the CIA catching terrorists. It’s not about that. It’s a character piece. It’s about more complex issues. It’s about family and identity. It’s about identity on a political, national, spiritual, and faith-based ideological level. It’s about identity on a more intimate, localized level, in regard to family and relationships with your loved ones. It also deals with mental frailties. It deals with mood disorder, in Claire Danes’ character. It deals with post-traumatic stress disorder, in my character. It deals with how one reconnects with family. The motif of parents and children runs through the piece. As fun as it is to just be in a thriller, where you jump from one incident to the next, I was intrigued by the fact that it wanted to tell a broader story as well.
If you’d gotten the same role and it was 22-episode run that was much more grueling and a much bigger commitment, would you still have been interested in the part?
LEWIS: That is a conversation that the networks have repeatedly, as to whether they should start producing 12-part series, instead of these 22 to 24 episode series, in order to get the stars to come do their shows. It’s a big commitment to ask someone to work on one role for nine or 10 months of the year. It does affect your decision-making, definitely.
How do you compare this to previous roles that you’ve played?
LEWIS: Oddly enough, there are similarities with this show Life that I did for NBC, a couple years ago, about a man who goes away. In the case of Life, he was sent to prison and spent 12 years there, and came back a changed man, in some way, from his experience. In this show, he’s a prisoner of war for eight years, and he comes back a changed man. I’m still very sad that Life didn’t go longer. It was one of the better shows on TV, that year. If you look at what NBC had, it was definitely one of the better shows that NBC had. NBC was crazy to cancel that show.
In England, we can’t make this kind of TV. We don’t have the resources. We actually don’t have the writers to write it. We don’t have film and TV language in our DNA, in the same way you guys do here. The big concept, in telling it compellingly and entertainingly, but in a psychologically real and complex way is something we don’t come up with as often as you guys do. So, for me to be here is a thrill.
Do you feel that cable is a little bit more freeing?
LEWIS: Well, they show my ass a lot more. I’ve noticed that. And, I’ve seen Morena’s tits, and that’s weird. But, that’s Showtime. No. If cable wants to distinguish itself from network, just by showing tits and ass, literally, then that’s sad. At times, you do wonder, if that’s the only distinction. It’s like, “Well, we haven’t seen anybody’s bottom in three episodes, so we need to write that scene.” But, is that really so important? No. For personal reasons, because I’m a Brit, I live in London. I don’t mean this grandly, but it was never my intention to live in L.A. and do a big network show. I did Life because it was just so good and I couldn’t say know to it. I really just wanted to do it.
Read the full interview at Collider.com.