I’m Not as Screwed Up as Soames
by Daphne Lockyer – The Evening Standard – 4 April 2002
Damian Lewis has been parking his motorbike somewhere in the bowels of London Television Centre. As a result of his wind-blown journey he is trying to instil order into his appearance as he approaches, running long fingers through a mop of messed-up hair that is, rather dramatically, the colour of blood oranges.
What with the whiff of tungsten and motorbike oil and all that Easy Rider stuff, it’s difficult for a moment to imagine him as Soames – the quintessential, lavender-scented, tightly corseted, late 19th century man – in Granada TV’s much-vaunted remake of The Forsyte Saga. He just seems too, well, modern.
“Ah, Soames,” he says, sitting down now, rubbing together chilly, bluetinged hands. “Dependable, upper-middle class, privately educated, solid, fastidious, arrogant, meticulous, emotionally repressed … I had to button myself down considerably when I was playing him.”
For all that, some of the adjectives at least apply to Damian himself. He’s an Old Etonian, after all, and there’s a certain classy self-assurance about him that only a very expensive education tends to buy.
“I can see why they cast me,” he says, “but I’m a lot more ef fusive than Soames – a lot less screwed up. I also don’t express my dangerous side by expecting my wife (if I had one) to flip onto her back and think of England.
“There is something quite pinched and ugly about the character, the kind of thing that meant you needed a couple of drinks at the end of a day playing him to shake the guy off. But I didn’t dislike him – I wouldn’t have been able to play him if I did. If I thought he was just a Machiavellian bastard, I wouldn’t have given him any chance to redeem himself. And as far as I’m concerned, no character, including Soames, should ever truly be beyond redemption.”