cover story: Home­land’s thor­oughly mod­ern vil­lain

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - CONTENTS -

BRITISH ac­tor Damian Lewis is liv­ing in an al­ter­nate world of sorts. While it sur­prised him more than any­one when he snatched the Emmy as best ac­tor for his role as the in­scrutable ex-pris­oner in Home­land, with sea­son two be­ing fast-tracked to Aus­tralian screens by Chan­nel 10, he ad­mits that such char­ac­ters are a sub­lim­i­nal part of him.

‘‘I come from a tradition where I be­lieve that act­ing is the in­verse of ly­ing,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s not ly­ing and trick­ery. It’s truth and hon­esty and sin­cer­ity. You oc­cupy an al­ter­na­tive re­al­ity, and you com­mit to that re­al­ity ut­terly and hon­estly. And that’s what will be con­veyed to an au­di­ence, if you do it right.’’

So far he’s done it right. Amer­i­cans first no­ticed the tall red­head in Band of Broth­ers. Lewis por­trayed a lieu­tenant who’s forced to take com­mand of Easy Com­pany when Amer­i­can para­troop­ers storm Nor­mandy. His Amer­i­can ac­cent was so flaw­less that his fel­low ac­tors re­fused to be­lieve he was British.

In a com­plete turn­around, he next played the ac­quis­i­tive and up­tight Soames Forsyte in the The Forsyte Saga. And later starred in his own Amer­i­can se­ries, Life.

But it’s the role in Home­land that sets him apart.

‘‘If you cap­ture the essence of some­one re­ally con­flicted at the heart of a se­ri­ous drama, with el­e­ments of tragedy in it pos­si­bly, I think they reg­is­ter with an au­di­ence just that much more strongly than lighter comic roles,’’ he says.

‘‘I think if I am at­tracted to those sorts of char­ac­ters – in­tense char­ac­ters or se­ri­ous char­ac­ters – I think it’s not so much that they’re in­tense and se­ri­ous, I think I’m in­ter­ested in peo­ple who are con­flicted. That’s the most in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter to play. It al­lows you to ex­plore sub­text. It means there is a sub­text . . . I’m re­ally just drawn to good writ­ing – what’s con­cealed and not re­vealed. Per­haps that’s a par­tic­u­larly English thing, as the English don’t let their emo­tions out that much.

‘‘But it’s those things, which are con­cealed, and I think it’s al­ways far more in­ter­est­ing to watch an ac­tor try not to re­veal some­thing than that mo­ment of reve­la­tion.’’

But for a long time Lewis, 41, de­spaired of ever re­veal­ing his face on film or tele­vi­sion. ‘‘I was filled with the most doubt just af­ter I’d done two years at the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany,’’ he re­calls.

‘‘I’d done the­atre pretty much ex­clu­sively be­tween leav­ing the­atre school and fin­ish­ing at the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany, and that was about a six-year stretch,’’ he says, fold­ing his arms in front of him.

‘‘I’d done some TV, pretty in­con­se­quen­tial stuff. Be­cause I hadn’t been primed or groomed in any way for film or TV, I had no in­ter­est in it . . . Then I started to see there was this whole other in­dus­try out there with in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties and started be­com­ing in­trigued by be­ing on set – the cam­eras and the me­chan­ics of the in­dus­try, the in­dus­trial na­ture of putting a film to­gether with the ma­chin­ery and lights . . . and I thought that was fas­ci­nat­ing and re­ally des­per­ately wanted to get into some good TV shows.’’

He au­di­tioned for three of them. But he failed at all three. ‘‘I didn’t get any of these jobs. And I thought, ‘Maybe I’m just go­ing to be one of these Ian McKellen types, An­thony Sher types. I thought, ‘Maybe I’m a bit too big and beefy for the cam­era and maybe it’ll just take me 20-30 years of work­ing in the­atre and get­ting a rep­u­ta­tion be­fore I fi­nally do some cam­era work.’’

But he landed a role in the se­ries The War­riors – a pro­gram that went on to win the British Os­car.

‘‘I was so happy. I’d thought maybe it’s the the­atre for me, (TV) was an­other world. And look where we are now,’’ he says, cir­cling the room with his right hand, ‘‘sit­ting in the Bev­erly Hil­ton in LA be­cause lit­tle things fell into place. And I’m in­cred­i­bly lucky!’’

Still, coax­ing things into place has not been easy. Lewis is mar­ried to British ac­tress He­len McCrory ( Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hal­lows) and is the fa­ther of two chil­dren – a girl, 5, and a boy, 4.

Manag­ing two ca­reers and two chil­dren can be a chal­lenge, he says. ‘‘You caught

Ten, Ten SC. Damian Lewis. me on a very in­ter­est­ing week­end. He­len is in Lon­don work­ing in a new play. My kids are in Char­lotte, NC, with a nanny. And I’m here. That’s not some­thing that has ever hap­pened to us be­fore. Be­cause we’ve al­ways suc­cess­fully man­aged to dove­tail in and out of each other’s jobs and al­ways have (one of us) with the kids. . . . They came out for sum­mer va­ca­tion. He­len came out too,’’ he says.

‘‘She had to go back, and I just had to come here for three days, but I’ve kept the kids with me in Amer­ica for two more weeks be­cause then I get to see them and be with them and they don’t miss me so much. Then I have to send them home to mummy be­cause mummy misses them.’’

Sigh­ing, he says, ‘‘It’s a lit­tle bit of a re­lay, hand­ing the kids around like lit­tle pack­ages. I hope they don’t think we’re di­vorced. But I don’t think they do. They’re just happy be­ing with us on what they think is just a great va­ca­tion. They’re in the sun swim­ming, eat­ing hot dogs, vis­it­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans – Chero­kees and cowboys.’’

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