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.