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An Interview with Damian Lewis (Brody, 'Homeland')

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Damian Lewis as Nicholas
Photo: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME
The mark of a successful actor isn't how many roles he or she has starred in, but the quality of each piece of work. Before landing his role on Showtime's psychological thriller Homeland, Damian Lewis made his mark on Hollywood with knockout roles in HBO's award-winning mini-series Band of Brothers (a role which earned Lewis a Golden Globe nomination), Stephen King's Dreamcatcher and NBC's crime drama Life.

Lewis grew up on Abbey Road in London, England and attended Guildhall School of Music and Drama along with actors Joseph Fiennes (FlashForward) and Daniel Craig. He was discovered by Steven Spielberg while performing on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and his career took off from there.

His latest role as a marine who was a POW in Iraq (and has been turned by a terrorist organization) for eight years who arrives home and attempts to resume his disrupted life... as he makes plans to exact revenge on his own country may be his best work yet. I had the amazing opportunity to chat with this incredibly charming actor about his new role on Homeland and what we can expect as Sgt. Brody takes on CIA agent Carrie Mathison.

Q: Homeland is an amazing series; I was addicted right off the bat...

Damian:
"It does have that crack mentality. It's an amazing feat that Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon have pulled off by making a thriller that is exciting, yet it's really taking its time with the characters, the psychology and the politics. I feel lucky to be a part of a show that is so ambitious."

Q: Tell us about Homeland...

Damian:
"Sgt. Nicholas Brody is a US Marine who is presumed dead after he was captured eight years previously in Iraq. He's recovered eight years later, which is where we start our show, having been in an Al-Qaeda cell, tortured and brutalized. He is brought back home a hero. Everyone thinks he is a hero, apart from CIA officer Carrie Mathison, who received information that leads her to believe he may have been turned by Al-Qaeda when he was in captivity. The show plays out from there -- is he or isn't he, is she crazy, is she paranoid, is she right?"

Q: Did you do anything special to prepare for the role?

Damian:
"I watched a lot of documentary footage about soldiers at war. I read books about people's experience with post-traumatic stress disorder. I went and visited a London central mosque, where I was welcomed and invited to sit in for prayer. I studied Islam, post-traumatic stress disorder and what it's like to be in the military -- it was sort of a three-pronged approach."

Q: What can you tell us about the remainder of the season?

Damian:
"I think it's clear now to those who have been watching the show that Brody's motivations have shifted slightly and there might be a more personal vigilantism involved in him seeking some sort of revenge. We don't know yet what Brody is going to do, whether it's going to be some sort of terrorist act or it might be insinuating himself somewhere in the American political life and subverting from within. His relationship with Carrie continues to be a strange, sort of co-dependency where they respond to each other in a magnetic way. They respond to each other, a sort of recognition. I think that is something that is going to continue to confuse them and play out as the series goes on."

Q: Do you think Brody has second thoughts about working for the other side?

Damian:
"Brody is damaged. It's for each audience member to decide how long they think Brody was actually tortured and physically and psychologically abused before he was maybe afforded more generous conditions and maybe schooled by Abu Nazir. It's unclear how successful Abu Nazir has been in bringing Brody into the fold. I think Brody is always conflicted about his relationship with Abu Nazir. This is the man who systematically broke him down, physically and psychologically -- and he was also the guy who offered him help and hope and positioned himself as a mentor for Brody. His relationship with Abu Nazir is extremely complicated. He's like an abusive father to him."

Q: Once Carrie proves that Brody has been turned, do you think she is going to go after him or has she fallen too much in love to do what's right?

Damian:
"You're assuming that Carrie will have proof at any point that Brody's been turned... that's something we don't want to give away at this point; it's something that will play out through the season. Carrie, don't forget, is sort of a one-man band. She has managed to bring Saul in and convince him that there is something going on. Carrie is brilliant; her intuition is finely tuned, but that the moment, the only proof she has is circumstantial and nothing that would stand up in court. That's what is brilliant about the series -- the evidence at times is compelling that Brody is a threat and might do something that constitutes a terrorist act, but yet the evidence is only circumstantial and I think that nuance is what will play for the remaining episodes."
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