Damian Lewis: ‘The Homeland writers are desperate to kill Brody’
For five months of the year, Damian Lewis lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where his hit TV series Homeland is filmed and where, after taking a break between seasons, he goes through the same acclimatisation routine. “The first week you think: I may never go home, this is amazing. The second week, you think: right, now I can get over my jet lag, this is really good fun. And then, after the second week, it’s a disaster. I have kids and a wife; you spend a lot of the time quite homesick.”
He is at home in London, gearing up for last weekend’s UK launch of Homeland season three, which has some ground to make up after a disappointing second season. Lewis is at the zenith of his fame, ebullient with success and exposure, and throwing out an energetic charm that rests, one imagines, on a firm faith in his own likability. (“Where is your dress from?” he asks. And, later, exhibiting high-level surveillance skills that feel, as in Homeland, mildly operational: “You bite your fingernails, but not all of them.”)
He is in a jacket and tie, and has come straight from tea at the Ritz with a couple of bankers who won him in a charity auction. It’s an odd sort of duty, but two years into his post-Homeland celebrity, the 42-year-old is getting used to it, as well as to furtive stares in public places. (Sergeant Brody or no, a 6ft 1in redhead is hard to miss.) “I think we’re OK,” he says, sliding into his seat at a restaurant in Piccadilly, while a ripple of recognition moves through the room.
The problem with Homeland season two was that, after a solid start, it rapidly descended into a series of Houdini-like escape scenes and ludicrous strands of coincidence. The show’s premise – CIA operatives battle terrorist sleeper cells on US soil – suddenly looked absurd. “Yeah, I’m aware of the criticisms,” Lewis says. “People feel betrayed. It’s like football matches. There’s a sense of betrayal if it doesn’t live up to expectation. We gave all our time to this shit.” He grins. “People get irate.”
It’s hard to imagine getting this kind of assessment out of his co-star Claire Danes. Lewis’s Britishness gives him a certain licence, perhaps, and he is almost ostentatiously robust about the show and his own prospects within it. The success of Homeland took everyone on the production by surprise, and the success of the Danes/Lewis love affair upset the writers’ planned trajectory. Lewis is pretty sure they had intended to kill him off by now, and had to change direction when the public responded to their weird chemistry. His strength as an actor has always been his ability to play ambiguity, particularly the bad behaviour of men in torment. (Think of Soames in the 2002 ITV remake of The Forsyte Saga, a monster for whom one nonetheless felt sorry.)
As Sergeant Brody, Lewis has undergone more twists and turns of character than he ever did when he was doing Shakespeare. The appeal of the character lies in his cold, clear intelligence and inscrutable motivation, although it must be said I know a lot of women who enjoy watching him for less elevated reasons. If season two went off the rails, he says, it was because everyone was caught on the hop by the success of season one. “I think we had second novel syndrome. Second album syndrome. They ended up having to make melodramatic leaps and start using coincidence, which is never good. That’s where the criticism was; that it wasn’t quite as taut, psychologically, as season one. Suddenly characters were doing all sorts of extraordinary things. In its defence, Alex Gansa and the writers have always maintained that this is a fictitious world, not least because the CIA don’t operate on home soil. So the whole thing is spurious. And second, look, we’re not making a documentary.”
Read the rest of the article at the Guardian