When Damian Lewis was summoned to Buckingham Palace to receive his OBE — awarded for services to acting — he decided to treat himself to a new morning suit.
He hadn’t worn one since his school days at Eton, where it is the uniform, but as he would be receiving his honour from Prince William, himself an Old Etonian, he thought it would be an appropriate reminder. ‘I had it made by a Jermyn Street tailor called Favourbrook, but as I’d spent five years at Eton wearing a black morning suit, I had my new one made up in blue material,’ he says.
‘And when I met the Duke of Cambridge at the Palace, I told him: ‘I hope you don’t mind that this is navy blue, Your Royal Highness — I didn’t want you to think I was just showing up in my old school uniform.’ And, quick as a flash, he said (ever the actor, Damian tightens his jaw and drops into a perfect imitation of the clipped royal tones): ‘Well, I should think that would be a bit tight for you by now, wouldn’t it!’
‘And then he stuck the medal on my chest and said, ‘Nice to see you, Damian, we’re great fans, Catherine and I.’ And off I trotted home.
‘Now I’ve been given a gong, I feel like I have been made a school prefect, so I can’t misbehave.’
Not that the impeccably mannered and well-brought-up Lewis is likely to stray off the straight and narrow. If he has a problem, he says, it is his children realising that their father and mother, actress Helen McCrory, are, well, a bit different to other parents due to their day jobs. ‘The street posters don’t make things easy. There was one huge hoarding of me to advertise my TV thriller series Homeland near our home in London.
‘We drive the children to school and it’s only a ten-minute journey, but there’s always a jam at the same traffic light every morning — you know, that achingly frustrating 15 minutes when you’re stuck in traffic trying to travel 100 yards to get your kids to school.
‘Of course, the jam would have to be opposite this 40ft-wide poster of me that was there for about six months.
‘I kept distracting the children from it by changing the radio and talking about anything I could think of, and for three months it worked. Then one morning, my son Gulliver looked up and said: ‘Dad! There’s a huge picture of you on the wall!’ ‘
It was, he admits, the conversation he and Helen had been trying with all their might to avoid.
He says: ‘The children know what Helen and I do for a living, because they come on film sets and meet the crew. They don’t really understand what acting is, because what on earth does acting mean to a child — or to anyone, quite frankly?
‘We tell them we are storytellers because that’s something they understand, that we get paid to tell stories and that makes us very lucky. But very occasionally, one of them will look at me and say, ‘You’re famous, aren’t you Dad?’ And that’s a conversation we try to move on from, it isn’t healthy for anyone.’
It is a subject that will only become more difficult to avoid as far as Damian’s children, Manon, nine, and Gulliver, eight, are concerned.
In the past decade and a half, between being cast as the upright Richard Winters in Band Of Brothers, the grasping Soames in The Forsyte Saga, the conflicted Nicholas Brody in Homeland and, most recently, Henry VIII in Wolf Hall — ‘looking like a beautiful big bumble bee,’ he notes, affectionately — Damian has been a part of some of television’s most visible and successful series.
Now he’s about to hit the small screen again in Billions, a drama series set in the world of New York high finance, in which he will play ruthless hedge fund dealer Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod, who clashes with U.S. attorney Chuck Rhoades (played by Paul Giamatti) in a 12-episode battle of wits that reputedly will make Homeland look like a vicar’s tea party.
It is likely to be screened in the UK early next year.
A few more weeks to go until the US premiere of the 6-part miniseries Wolf Hall on Sunday, April 5 at 10/9c on PBS. Make sure to check out PBS’s Wolf Hall page for trailers, exclusive interviews, and more: pbs.org/wolfhall
Original article here
Damian Lewis and Mark Rylance revel in a new take on king and countryman in Masterpiece Theatre’s Wolf Hall.
Damian Lewis’ Inspiration for Wolf Hall’s Henry VIII: ‘Wills and Harry’
Damian Lewis reveals the unlikely inspiration behind his portrayal of Henry VIII
by Hannah Furness and Gaby Wood – The Telegraph – 21 January 2015
As he plays a handsome Henry VIII, pacing his palaces as he negotiates a split with Rome, one might have thought Damian Lewis would turn to the history books for assistance.
But the actor has disclosed an unusual inspiration for his part in Wolf Hall: The Duke of Cambridge and his brother, Prince Harry.
The Homeland alum relied on two decades of invaluable Hollywood lessons to tackle lead roles in a pair of new television projects, BBC Two’s period drama Wolf Hall and Showtime’s high-finance pilot Billions.
When Damian Lewis faced the press on Jan. 19, for the first time since he was killed off Showtime’s Homeland in December 2013, the 43-year-old still bore an uncanny resemblance to Sgt. Nicholas Brody, thanks to his close-cropped hair, rigid posture, and clean-shaven face. But it quickly became clear that, on the inside, he couldn’t be more different than the man who signed on to the series in 2011.
Thanks to Homeland, Lewis — who calls himself an “autodidact” — was afforded some incredibly unique learning experiences. “I love doing projects where there’s something to be learned,” Lewis told BuzzFeed News, sitting at the far end of a long, empty dining room table of an ornate hotel conference room in Pasadena, California. To properly bring Brody to life, he studied the Qur’an and learned about the Islamic faith and the experiences of U.S. Marines deployed in Afghanistan. “The wonderful thing about acting is you can be on a 40-year university course.”
But Lewis has also grown through the wisdom gleaned from his own professional mistakes — again, most recently through his role on Homeland, for which he won an Emmy Award in 2012.
Lewis’ character, Nicholas Brody — an American prisoner of war who was rescued and returned home a changed man (not so spoiler alert: He was a sleeper agent for the enemy) — was not designed to remain on the series indefinitely. But when the show clicked with critics and fans took a shine to Brody’s burgeoning relationship with CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), the creators’ initial plan was scrapped. But by the third season, many viewers had grown weary of the duo’s increasingly operatic romantic entanglements and the character was, as initially planned, killed off in a brutal and shocking death scene.
“He had to go,” Lewis said, without hesitation. “When I took the show, I was really of the understanding I would only be there for two years. I stayed for a third season because TV rollover came into play: ‘This is our show and we can’t get rid of him.’ I think the one area of the story the writers weren’t clear would work was this relationship. So when it worked, they were ambushed by success of that central storyline and they had a problem because people were now tuning in to see this relationship.
“We set out to make a different drama: a show about the flawed characters at the center of a flawed central intelligence agency that is protecting the interests of a flawed country in the name of a flawed idea — which is called democracy — against a bunch of radical, violent people. This was our big central idea and [then we had] people tuning because they want to see if these people are going to get together or not.”
A Brody-less Season 4 of Homeland premiered in October 2014 to promising reviews, as hopeful critics noted the show looked to be returning to its roots. That promise paid off — in spades — as Homeland experienced a complete creative resurrection. “I think they did a brilliant job of just extricating themselves, tiptoeing away from the situation,” Lewis said of the fourth season, which went on to earn rave reviews. “What they’ve been able to do in Season 4 is get back to the nuts and bolts of the CIA and this great, brilliant, flawed character, the manic-depressive at the center of it all.”
Homeland’s presence is still felt in Lewis’ life. “It can be aggressive, that kind of adulation,” he said, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair. “People can go a little bit crazy, so there’s quite a lot of manhandling in the streets. Now I know what it must have been like to be Brad Pitt for an entire lifetime, ever since he did that scene in Thelma and Louise where he took his top off — I’m straight and that scene did it for me as well. There’s a very small group of people who have lived at that elevation and at times it was overwhelming, but I’ve enjoyed slightly calmer waters subsequently.”
After “Homeland,” Damian Lewis Looked To His Past To Plan His Future
January 20, 2015 Continue reading After “Homeland,” Damian Lewis Looked To His Past To Plan His Future, Buzzfeed, January 20, 2015
Damian Lewis Says Henry VIII “As Big A Brand As Coca-Cola,” While Plugging PBS’s ‘Wolf Hall’
Television Critics Association Press Tour, Winter Tour, Panel Discussion
by Lisa de Moraes – Deadline – January 19, 2015
“Henry [VIII] as a brand, is right up there with Coca Cola,” Damian Lewis said, of the oft-portrayed Tudor king he plays in PBS’s six-part miniseries Wolf Hall. “My vanity will always relish a challenge,” Lewis said, of trying to turn in a fresh performance of the historical figure. “In fact, that probably encourages me.”
Not so fresh, maybe, were his answers to question about his character, on stage this morning at Winter TV Press Tour 2015; his “syphilitic, philandering Elvis” line, in re how Henry VIII is most often perceived/portrayed, is getting a little worn out as Lewis make the press rounds to promote the project.
PBS’ ‘Wolf Hall’ Starring Damian Lewis Could Be TV’s Next Great Antihero Story
by Ryan Lattanzio – Indiewire – 19, January 2015
Will Henry VIII be Emmy winner Damian Lewis’ first, great post-Nick Brody role? Directed by Peter Kosminsky and written by Peter Straughan (one half of the Oscar-nominated “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” duo), this six-part BBC drama adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s hit novels “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies” will broadcast stateside on PBS April 5.
Lewis plays the eighth Henry opposite top-shelf Shakespeare thespian Mark Rylance, playing the King’s ruthless counselor Thomas Cromwell. Claire Foy, Mark Gatiss, Charity Wakefield, Joanne Whalley and Jonathan Pryce, who was recently seen as a narcissistic asshole professor in Alex Ross Perry’s “Listen Up Philip,” head up the sprawling cast.
Damian Lewis’ Henry VIII in Wolf Hall Has Killer Calves
by Jasmin Rosemberg – Variety – 19 January 2015
Henry VIII, infamous King of England in the sixteenth century, is often remembered for his gluttonous form, his string of wives, his disharmony with the Pope and his brute beheading spree. But Damian Lewis, star of the BBC’s new miniseries “Wolf Hall” — a six-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning novels that will premiere in the UK on January 21 and on PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre on April 5 — plans to introduce you to a different sort of monarch.
“He was generally regarded as the preeminent sportsman of his era,” said Lewis on Sunday afternoon, at a quaint tea held at the British Consul-General Chris O’Connor’s Los Angeles home to honor the series. “He was one of the best hunters, horsemen, jousters, archers. And he was an incredibly trim, fit man — very proud of a fine pair of calves that he had. He used to boast that his calves were better than Philip the Fair’s of France.”
How did Lewis, fresh off of “Homeland,” hone his own physique for the role? “I stuck handkerchiefs down there,” he joked (of his calves), before adding, “No, I wore boots to cover them up.” He also grew a beard and donned square-toed boots, which he thinks “might set a new fashion.”
Sunday Express TV Editor David Stephenson has uploaded the audio of the Q&A interview panel that was done after a screening of Wolf Hall episode 1 back on December 10th. Damian Lewis, Mark Rylance, Claire Foy, director Peter Kosminsky, writer Peter Straughan, and executive producer Colin Callender were there for the interview. Damian comes in at the 19.08 mark.
Here are a couple write-ups from that Q&A:
The Telegraph – Wolf Hall TV show uses ‘too small’ Tudor codpieces
Deadline – ‘Wolf Hall’ Creatives & Cast On Codpieces, Tudor Politics And Killing Anne Boleyn
theartsdesk.com – Wolf Hall comes to BBC Two
Radio Times – Wolf Hall director Peter Kosminsky urges the nation not to “p**s away” the BBC