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Interview

Damian Lewis Brings Depth and Mystery to 'Homeland'

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Damian Lewis Brings Depth and Mystery to 'Homeland'
Photo Source: Nadav Kander/SHOWTIME

Damian Lewis brings depth, mystery, and complexity to Nicholas Brody, the American patriot turned terrorist on Showtime’s “Homeland.” While filming in the U.K., “ ‘Homeland’ dropped into my lap,” Lewis says, crediting his work as a mentally disturbed father in the film “Keane” as the catalyst for the offer. Michael Cuesta (who directed the pilot of “Homeland”) had seen Lewis in the indie and alerted “Homeland” executive producer Alex Gansa. “Everyone and his dog wanted to play this role, and I think there were lots of people who could have played it,” Lewis says. “I think in the end it was ‘Keane’ that got me the job.”

Lewis is thrilled that he took the role, but at the time it was a difficult decision because he was living with his family in London. He felt “Homeland” had the potential to be a piece of work that he would be proud of, and he was interested in the subject matter. “It was going to be psychologically nuanced and complex and political; at times it would be subversive and controversial, and it just seemed like something that I wanted to be part of,” he says. The fact that Mandy Patinkin and Claire Danes were already cast was icing on the cake. “It seemed like a really classy project. Of course there was no way of knowing it was going to end up resonating with people in the way that it has.”

To prepare, Lewis focused on three main questions: What was it like being a soldier? What was it like being held hostage? And what could he discover about the Islamic faith? Although he didn’t know exactly how things would play out, he says, “I always had a good sense of what was going to go on.” He cites as an example the moment in Season 1 when Brody plans to commit an act of terrorism. Lewis knew Brody was going in that direction, but he didn’t know exactly what the character was going to do. The decision that Brody would have a suicide vest was made quite late in the process. “When I first heard it, I was pretty taken aback and I wasn’t certain that that was the right way to do it,” Lewis recalls. “It was absolutely the right way to do it; it was a brilliant, visually strong way of doing it and also just a symbolic gesture that was the right thing to do.”

Lewis views Brody as a victim of circumstance and a victim of war. “He has a catastrophic set of experiences which transform him as a person, break him as a person,” Lewis says. “[They] dismantle him entirely from the person that he once was and turn him into something else. Ultimately, he becomes a dangerous man. Dangerous to himself, dangerous to his family, dangerous to America.” In Season 2, CIA analyst Carrie continues to try to use her relationship with Brody in an effort to convince him to choose her over abstract ideology. Similarly, in the first season, “Brody finally doesn’t [detonate the vest] because the voice of his grieving daughter, his desperate, panic-stricken daughter, pierces his trance and he chooses human flesh, real, everyday present love over the idea of some abstract ideology,” Lewis says. “So there is redemption for Brody in those moments, I think.”

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