We talked about Damian’s drama school experience at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama earlier here. Damian graduates from drama school in 1993. Ken Rea, Damian’s drama teacher at Guildhall, describes him arriving at drama school “an articulate, well-mannered young man with a bit of a polite façade” and leaving with “the complete raw vulnerability that really grabs you as an audience.”
We know that “raw vulnerability” part quite well, don’t we?
Fast forward 20 years. Damian goes back to Guildhall to teach a masterclass in TV acting on January 21 2013 just days after winning the Golden Globe Award for his fantastic portrayal of Nicholas Brody in Homeland!
Now, I admire Damian for a number of things varying from his mind-blowing range as an actor to his brilliant sense of humor to his wonderful philanthropy. Yet, as the ultimate IQ freak, I believe, I am most mesmerized by how articulate the man is in speaking as well as in writing. Take your time to hear Damian’s SAG-AFTRA or Times Talks conversations or read his spontaneous answers in the recent Guardian Stage Web chat and you will know. And since teaching is all about communicating an idea, a thought, an argument fluently and coherently, as a college professor myself, I would easily vouch for Damian as a gifted teacher. And, guess what, teaching turns out to be something Damian would like to do – seriously!
When asked about what he would do if he did not act (god forbid!) by Cigar Aficianado, Damian says:
“Teaching. History… And, drama, of course.”
Ha! Thinking of Damian as a potential colleague is quite fun, and I cannot help think about how he would look like as a college professor. Having been on college campuses for the last 25 years, I know for a fact that Damian does not look like your average college professor 😀 And, I am not just talking about the looks but also about the clothes. College professors neither wear Rag & Bone or All Saints (Lewisto is an exception I am happy to report!) nor do have trendy haircuts, to say the least… But, finally, I think I have got THE look I have been looking for: Damian as Martin Gray in The Goat or Who is Sylvia? is as close as he gets to a college professor. Yeah, it would be pretty compelling should this guy get into a classroom and start talking about, say, French Revolution 😀
Besides, I am pretty sure he would get a pepper, too, in his teaching evaluations! “Pepper?” you may ask. YES, in higher education, we have official teaching evaluations run by the university but there exist unofficial evaluation sites like ratemyprofessor.com where students evaluate a professor’s teaching as well as their hotness. Pepper = HOT 😀
Anyhow… Back to Damian’s “pepper-worthy” masterclass at Guildhall School!
The school reports about Damian returning for a masterclass on TV acting and a talk to the entire school. Ken Rea is proud of his student coming back home to teach.
“Damian was a gifted student at Guildhall. I feel proud to have watched his work grow and now to see him getting the recognition he deserves. It’s also great that he can come back to Guildhall and share his own wisdom with our current students. For them that’s very inspiring.”
Please notice the young woman sitting on Damian’s right: She is Kate Phillips, a rising star, and at the time, she probably has no idea that she will play Jane Seymour to Damian’s Henry VIII in Wolf Hall in a few short years.
Joseph Eyre, a student who took part in the masterclass seems to be inspired by Damian’s class:
“He really engaged us all. He talks to us as one actor to another, not like some visiting star. It’s incredibly inspiring because it makes it all not so out of reach for us.”
The seems to have been moving for Damian as well.
“It was surprisingly moving returning to the Guildhall to teach. It’s a such a tough thing to succeed in acting and the students are all at the start of that journey. God, I hope they all do brilliantly.”
He compares and contrasts drama education then and now at Times Talks London:
“In 1993, when I came out, I remember, you know, it was still very much a classical education. It was a training and acting based on the classics, based on the principles of Stanislawski, there was a theatre history that we learnt from the promenade, every man plays of the middle ages right the way through to Chekhov and Ibsen and we sort of stopped there. Yes, an understanding of our heritage was.”
It turns out Damian, as a student, did not study screen work much at drama school. Their screen work teacher had done a lot of radio and so, Damian says, “the fact that he was teaching us camera technique in the first place was a bit of a mystery. But he stuck up a video camera in one corner of the room and sort of taught us where the edge of frame was, and when you were in shot, you were in, and when you were out, you were out, and it wasn’t much more advanced than that.”
“They [drama students he now met at Guildhall] were much much more literate about camera technique. And my class was about camera work and what to expect on set, give them a broad vision of what it is like working in film and TV. These guys seem so mature and contained and present and with a full understanding of what huge stars they are going to be (laughs)”.
Damian shares with Buzzfeed the advice he gives students: “I tell the students, your ambition shouldn’t be to be in Homeland or Lord of the Rings because those really are so rare. You can be a talented, brilliant, successful, well-paid actor without having one of those moments. That moment is a phenomenon when something like that happens. No one goes to drama school to be famous; I had no notion I would be doing American TV shows or films — I grew up going to the theater, a very middle-class family that toddled off to the theater all the time, and that was my love and my experience of the art form. So I went to drama school saying, ‘I’m going to go to the Royal Shakespeare Company and I’m going to be the new generation of great theater actor.’ Then the entertainment landscape shifted dramatically just as I was coming of age as a male actor.”
And we cannot be more grateful for that!