It all started with a tweet. One that got a fair share of RTs and Favs and one I sweated delivering a pithy response to. But my response couldn’t possibly fit in 140 characters:
My response to the tweet? Ladies and discriminating gentlemen know something you do not, dear Henry Tudor!
On this side of the pond, most of our first experience of Damian Lewis was Homeland. We saw him and noted how he held eyes on him whenever he was in a shot. The kind of performance the most hardened TV viewer cannot look away from. Like gravity or magnet, from Brody’s first appearance getting cleaned up at Ramstein (the damage in his eyes, the coldness) then on the plane back home to D.C. The way Brody couldn’t look Jessica in the eye at first, embodying in one non-glance the latent shame of being held captive, of being absent from his family, afraid that she wasn’t who she was when he left, knowing he sure as hell wasn’t the same man she said goodbye to the day he left for war. Damian Lewis communicated all of that in a microsecond.
From that first scene of the way Damian had decided to play Brody, my eyes were glued, and I knew immediately why Jennifer Lawrence went all fangirl over him at the 2014 SAG awards. In fact, my first exposure to Damian was via that moment when JLaw just couldn’t hold herself together. I love this girl, the way she rarely does anything inauthentic, no matter how the industry around her demands it. When she loses her composure, you know she’s not putting on an act for the cameras. At least back then, on the cusp of winning an Oscar, and before Hollywood started to have its way with her as only Hollywood can, Jennifer Lawrence always seemed to mean what she said and never seemed to say anything she didn’t mean. So I totally knew her love for Brody was heartfelt. And since I had no idea who Brody or the man who played him were, JLaw’s gushing, coupled with my Twitter timeline blowing up with the Homeland hashtag every Sunday night, was all the inspiration I needed to seek out this show and this actor.
He held our rapt attention and, as the series, ostensibly a spy thriller, took a shocking momentous turn (in a parking lot!) into a riveting romance, the “perfectly impossible love” (as Claire Danes put it), any chance of looking away was long gone. I was hooked on the romance that came out of nowhere, but more so on the way Damian played Brody’s deep damage, his treachery, and eventually, his vulnerability. Really, how can anyone not see and feel in excruciating detail the emotions of a soldier on the front lines when Brody sings the Marine Hymn through gritted teeth with a gun to his head?
Actors have said it’s taken one role to change the way the world perceives them, one role that pulls the switch from, say, a guy who’s always cast as the foil, the sidekick, or the nerd, to a guy who is all of a sudden received as a very believable romantic lead. As I learned as I started stalking his oeuvre, Damian had romantic lead-ish roles before Homeland, see Friends and Crocodiles, The Baker. Often, he managed to lend sympathy to a character that not many would sympathize with, see Soames Forsyte. But it was in Homeland that we saw him as Brody thru Carrie’s eyes.
Carrie lingering on his face in the image of him in a car, his profile, his forearm on the window, all of it served to make our glance linger on his face, too, to be entranced, and to see in him what Carrie saw. Maybe, if I hadn’t seen the way Carrie looked at Brody, I wouldn’t have given Damian a second look myself? Hard to tell at this point. I’m in now, and in deep.
Was she smitten because she was surveilling him, or was she surveilling him because she was smitten? Ultimately, a moot question, but one some of us did think about, because, let’s be honest, as Damian Lewis has himself said, “the color” of him often kept him out of certain leading roles. He defies all definitions of conventional beauty. I’ll be the first to say, he certainly wasn’t my “type”. Before him, I tended to like my eye candy overly candied. Say the in-your-face sexual energy of a Tom Hardy, for instance. That’s something that woulda turned my head, pre-Damian. But, of course, Damian is not simple eye candy.
So what is it about him? Maybe it’s the voice? Velvet with a hint of cabernet. Or the body of a footballer half his age?
Or maybe it’s the indelible confidence, the willingness to be goofy without a hint of self-consciousness, and the easy intimacy he projects?
Who knows, perhaps, it was the posh upbringing that fed into his confidence? Whatever its origins, that confidence, combined with the voice and the boot camp physique, is manifest in a hotness beyond reason.
So, yeah, I was “turned” to Damian Lewis. And, like they say, you can never go back.