Lewis at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival, February 2015
|Born||Damian Watcyn Lewis
11 February 1971
St John’s Wood, London, England, UK
|Alma mater||Guildhall School of Music and Drama|
|Occupation||Actor, film producer|
|Spouse(s)||Helen McCrory (m. 2007)|
I've discovered just how symbiotic the relationship is between writers, directors and actors. They ask the same questions and strip down texts in exactly the same way.
You know what it's like to feel anxious – it's horrible feeling anxious. It's stressful having that feeling, having butterflies in your stomach, even for a day, and you don't sleep at night.
There are ways of avoiding becoming tabloid fodder and therefore giving people license to pry into your private life. And there's a distinction between being an actor and being a celebrity. You may become a celebrity through acting, but you don't need to do so.
Producing is a world of compromise and actors are utterly spoiled all the time.
Television audiences are ruthless – look what happened to 'The Killing.'
I don't believe Jesus was the son of God, although I'm inclined to think he might have been a great prophet.
A lot of these American actors have this – in my view – misplaced view that they have to look like Action Man. The trouble is, they all run the risk of being interchangeable.
I'm very sad 'Life' wasn't a big hit, But it was undone by politics at NBC. It was intense. I moved my wife, and we had two children back to back. So working those hours and living abroad in L.A. was a handful. But it was a great experience.
I didn't know 'Homeland' was going to be 'Homeland.' I just did it because it was a terrific script, and they pitched me the story line, and I was like, 'Huh, that's interesting.'
For me the rehearsal period is the part I most enjoy. It's the creating of the story.
It's good to be busy on a film set because there is a lot of sitting around, so if you've got two roles to play at one time, then that's great to do.
In the end, there's something of the puritan work ethic about me that roles really must sustain me on an intellectual level.
Quiet people, people who aren't given to emotional outbursts, people who are economic with words – they're also fun to play, but you find yourself needing a laser precision in those roles. Otherwise you just sort of stand around, looking slightly brain-dead. You worry about being uninteresting.
Writing and directing might be a red herring, and really I'm just re-examining what it is to act, to do it well and do it properly.
I've always had a 'Work hard, play hard' attitude to life – I still do – but sometimes you get involved in something that needs a calm, methodical approach.
I don't mean this grandly, but it was never my intention to live in L.A. and do a big network show.
I investigated post-traumatic stress disorder. I've been to a unit where people are suffering from it, and I read a lot of literature. I looked at footage of soldiers in the combat zone. I found 'Restrepo' to be unbelievably useful.
Temperamentally I'm not a natural producer, because I don't have the patience.
A cricket ball broke my nose when I was a kid so I couldn't breath through it. Before I had it operated on I used to stand on stage with my mouth slightly open.
I went to boarding school, and what that teaches you is to cope emotionally at a young age and to suppress a lot of emotion. Being in the army is, in a way, similar.
Of course the lower classes have always felt downtrodden and aspired to a better life. But there is this theory that people respond to a class structure in England – there was a time when people knew who they were and knew whom they served and as long as management wasn't abusive, it was a good life for people.
I have a three-year-old and a four-year-old at home, and my mornings are about just dealing with the fact of that. I oddly enjoy it.
There are jobs that come along in your life, if you're lucky enough, that elevate you in a considerable way. And 'Homeland' was definitely one of those jobs.
If you think you don't want to play another psychopath, but the script is amazing, and the director is fantastic, and the story is incredible, then you may end up playing your third psychopath in a row.
An interesting insight into the ruthlessness of studio executives: I was having a conversation with Alex Gansa, a creator of 'Homeland,' and I said, 'So you guys must have seen 'Life' and liked me in it, right? That's the most recent thing I've done over here.' And he went, 'No, Damian. You actually nearly didn't get the job because of 'Life.''
I guess I'm just good at playing repressed individuals. I'm lucky because those are often the roles that catch people's eyes.
'24' had to withstand accusations of being right-wing, but 'Homeland' is a far more liberal show.
I think people like to be scared. I think people like tension and suspense in a movie.
Seeing a man praying to Allah is enough for some people to assume he is a terrorist.
I think you can't be really posh and be an interesting actor. I'm a bit of a posh rough.
There's something important, as an actor, about allowing yourself to be approached by people to do roles. People see different things in you.
I remember, when I was doing 'Nicholas Nickleby', James Archer came to see me at the interval and said, 'My father would like to see you after the show.' It felt rather as if I had been summoned by the Queen, and I was cocky enough to think, 'Who the hell is he to summon me?'
I was, if you like, a successful schoolboy in that I had a degree of talent in all the required things that make you a success at school.
I've had loss in my life, and I like to think my mother's energy lives on in some faintly Buddhist way. I do find some comfort there.
You know, this idea of going around the world imposing democracy by growing a middle-class, a trading merchant class that is independent of your faith, is a good notion, but we're all partially different – it's no good imposing systems on people that it doesn't suit.
It's certainly true that I was brought up in that British amateur tradition, the one which always held that if you were reasonably good at cricket, knew one or two Latin texts and a few zingy Oscar Wilde quotes for dinner parties, you were pretty much ready to go and run some outpost in Hindustan.
I want to make a clear distinction between people who take acting seriously and people who call themselves actors because they've been on reality TV or something.
I love going for a swim. Growing up in England, anywhere with a pool seems like the height of glamour to me.
The lesson I learned is that sometimes the task you have at hand needs all of your concentration and focus.
When I'm working in America, I wake up with an American accent and stay with it all day till makeup comes off. I just want everyone to be at ease, and not have the show's creators think, 'Oh my god, he's so English, why did we hire him?'
I think very few people still understand the distinction between CEOs on Wall Street and the hedge-fund billionaires operating separately.
I'm one of those idiots; when I'm working in America, I wake up with an American accent and stay with it all day till make-up comes off.
Dramatically it's always more interesting to conceal rather than reveal things.
I'm not an American, but I have this weird connection to America in different ways through my dad living here for five years, my godfather being an American who I'm very close to.
No Western government has ever played the long-term in terms of foreign policy.
You can't do something that is morally vacuous or dysfunctional and then write it off saying, 'It wasn't my film, I was just doing a job in it.'
Seeing a man praying to Allah is enough for some people to assume he is a terrorist.
It's successful, middle-class Arab men and women, professionals with seemingly happy family lives, who are prepared to go to paradise for a greater cause. That's terrifying.
I suppose where I am sort of reflects the work I have chosen to do. Are there occasional frustrations because I can't work with a certain director because it's a big studio movie, and I don't have enough of a studio profile? The answer is yes. But generall… generally, I have the career I have chosen myself.
I'm sponsored by Audi, so I have this rather lovely rather arrangement where they just insist that I'm always in the latest model.
L.A. still ranks as one of my guilty pleasures, along with butter-pecan ice cream and Coldplay albums.
In England we burnt redheads at the stake, because we thought they were witches. There are still young redheads in Britain getting ripped for having red hair. 'Oy, Ginger!'
It's an unfair comparison because when things are developed in the UK, they're developed at script stage only.
None of us, remember, knew that 9/11 was gonna happen. We didn't live in a state of anxiety and fear about Osama Bin Laden. The CIA might have, and they failed to prevent it. But the general public didn't have any knowledge. Now we have knowledge of it, and it's a very clear and present danger in our lives.
Acting can be a narrow and isolated experience, because you only examine your particular part.
Why do you think so many actors are only half-developed people? It's very easy when you're a young actor to have these intense, explosive friendships for short periods of time, because you can control what's shown of you. Then you go on to your next job and reinvent yourself again. I think it's important to find something constant.