Throwback Thursday: Damian Lewis in Touch of Frost

Before he hit the big time in cable TV, Damian did some smaller, lesser known roles in British television. The role of Adam Weston in a feature-length episode of mystery drama Touch of Frost may not be a role that Damian is particularly proud of, given how disdainfully he spoke of it at the NY Times Talk in May 2014.

Nonetheless, I’d say the role begs remembering, if, for nothing else, to give us a picture of Damian at 25. According to Damian, roles such as this one were the few available to British actors in television in 1996. It was either Merchant-Ivory-esque period drama or stories of the struggles of the underclass left in the wake of Thatcherism, both “classes” of roles Damian would have been uniquely qualified to play, but only later. First, he had to build up a resume with things like Touch of Frost. So here’s Damian at 25, a Shakespearean trained thespian and, they ask him to get down to his skivvies. Okay, he’s still doing parts that get him into his skivvies some 20 years later, but, hey, who’s counting. As Bobby Axelrod would say:

Those who can, do.

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For the Yanks reading this, Touch of Frost follows the formula of a lot of mystery/crime drama. We see a crime done in the first few minutes and the next hour or so is devoted to a detective solving the crime. The show is very focused on showing that one detective at work and the rest of the cast are shown as either adjunct hangers-on, obstructions to the investigation, ornery bosses, and/or victims and suspects. Thus, the formula is more Columbo than Law & Order . The series is widely available, and I saw the episode featuring Damian, “Deep Waters”, both on You Tube and on Hulu. Strangely, the two versions are different: the version on YT has been converted in an odd way that makes everyone appear as if they speak very very fast, and, more importantly, it’s missing a pivotal scene featuring Damian, while the version on Hulu is missing another scene, somewhat smaller, but still quite pivotal, also featuring Damian. Thus, since he was only in like three or four scenes, it’s worth seeking out and watching both versions!

The premise: A woman is killed. She’s an Asian woman working as a cashier at the family bottega. Then a blond college student, a swimmer, is hobbled. The two crimes are connected, but, this being 1996, the show seems to care a bit more about the blond college student and characters related to her. Damian, as a fellow college student, is one of the characters in the blond girl’s orbit. The first we see of him is a speedo-clad lad, very confident in his speedos, coming out of a pool. Learning of Adam’s crush on the blond girl, the detective on the job waits to question him in the locker room.

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I don’t know enough about the various dialects in Britian, but I take it that the accent Damian speaks at first is not a posh accent. As the conversation progresses, we learn that he is putting on that not-posh accent and is in fact a rich kid attempting to slum it up in Denton. By the end of the conversation, he’s speaking as an entitled posh kid, who looks all kinds of guilty. Inspector Frost (David Jason) understandably suspects an association to the crime and starts trailing him.

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Frost follows Adam to a pub. Now here’s where I sort of indulged in a personal little Throwback Thursday in my head and imagined myself in my 20’s strolling into a pub with my college friends and seeing a table full of young men, with Damian holding court among them. I’ll tell you right now, he wouldn’t have caught my eye. My eye, in my 20’s and well beyond, always went to the beefed up guy, a bit on the short side, dark-haired and dark-eyed. That was always my “type.” In my 20’s a Tom Hardy in the crowd would have caught my attention immediately and held it as long as he wanted it held…so to speak. So, yeah, my eye wouldn’t have stopped immediately on Damian in a pub downing pints with his mates, but, I have a feeling, it would have kept going back to him, despite itself. Something about him, maybe the confidence, maybe the irreverence and the easy goofiness, would have drawn my eye back and, in my 20’s, I would have had no idea why or what to do with it. Heck, I probably would have chided myself for looking at him when there were Tom Hardy’s in the room that could much more easily, and requiring much less thought, hold the gaze. Let’s just say, seeing Damian, even as a gangly mop-headed 25 year old, leads one to believe that he most likely had no problem at all getting the attention of any girl (less myopic than I was back then) whose attention he desired.

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Back to the story: Frost follows Damian out of the pub back to his dorm. The bloke Damian left the pub with goes in to the dorm with him and then exits again, leading Frost to follow him instead.

Somewhere in the sequence of events…I’m not sure where because both copies of the episode I saw had scenes out of order…Adam Weston visits the blond girl and questions her as to why she sent the detective his way. He’s not happy about it, and makes some sinister Soames Forsyte-esque (but way before Damian birthed Soames) motions towards her. It’s a great scene in which Damian goes from hot to cold, imploring and weak in one shot to scarily sinister in another, back to apologetic and sweet in the next. It gives a nice microcosm of the emotional range he would grow to hone and develop throughout his career. While most of the other kids were delivering run-of-the-mill performances befitting the small roles they were given, Damian’s performance was anything but flat.

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There’s another scene (again not sure where in the story it originally came) of Inspector Frost’s assistant visiting Damian in his dorm room and questioning him further on another clue they found. The perpetrator of the crime apparently had a thing for the writing of Oscar Wilde. So the assistant inspector asks Adam Weston if he’s familiar with Wilde. Damian scoffs and delivers this great line:

Oscar Wilde? Please, I’m strictly medieval.

It was pretty darn funny.

And that’s it, that’s all we get of Damian Lewis as Adam Weston in Touch of Frost, “Deep Waters”, circa 1996. That makes it four scenes, right? Unless there exists another version somewhere that has even more Damian. Did he turn out to be the murderer? I know we’re generally free and easy with spoilers on this site, but since the sole raison d’etre of a whodunnit, is, um, who done it, I’d be remiss in giving that bit away. Suffice it to say, Damian made a mark in this role for British tele. A mark that, thankfully, lead to many many more marks, increasingly indelible, in the years to come.

19 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Damian Lewis in Touch of Frost”

  1. I really really need to see this now. I have the link to YT version. I just don’t get how YT and Hulu versions could be different, but apparently they are!

    Yes, TOF absolutely deserves a mention if it is only for seeing a young actor with all his future in front of him — I feel the same about Poirot! And even though he mocks with his roles on TV in 1990s, I am sure he was very excited to get those parts then.

    So, if TOF is in 1996, then by this point Damian was already in a couple of stage productions, already played Hamlet in Regents Park and is getting ready to play Laertes in the production of Hamlet that would come to Broadway and open to rave reviews. That’s why I am not surprised a bit that he is a notch (or two) above the other young actors in the episode.

    Would he catch my eye in the pub? OH YES. The hair. I would fall in love with that hair!

    1. I’d recommend the Hulu version, clearer copy, and has the longer scene, what I called the microcosm of his emotional range. The YT version has the Oscar Wilde line, which is missing in the Hulu version. I’m sure it’s available on DVD too and you can see it uncut and pasted together.

      He was RED when he was young. Much more so than now…I think you guessed right that they may be darkening his hair for Axe. I miss the red.

      1. You will laugh at me but I don’t know anything about Hulu. We have it on Apple TV but never used it. Do I need to pay to watch this episode of TOF?

        Oh, yes, he was RED. I think red fades a bit over the years. It was flaming RED in his 20s. Yeah I think they play a bit with the hair on Billions but there are times I see it in its natural color, too. So, I don’t really understand what’s going on 🙂 Maybe it’s the light?

        1. Yes, it may be the hair product they load on him for the pompadour that may be darkening it somewhat. The underlayer in the back above his neck, where the hair product hasn’t darkened it if you look closely, which, as we both know, we both are wont to look CLOSELY, has more red…but more crimson now than orange.

          I subscribe to Hulu…it’s my only access to most of TV and Showtime, since we have only basic cable on our TV. But Hulu is available for free too. And, voila, just checked, they do have full episodes: http://www.hulu.com/search?q=touch+of+frost

          1. True. When we see his head from the back, the hair looks natural — but yeah it’s not red red anymore. Yep, it could be the product.

            We don’t even have basic cable. We use iTunes and Showtime Online thru Apple TV. Voila indeed! I owe you big time, partner! Thank you <3

      2. Oh I also love his red hair, but in a few films, they appeared less red (BOB and now Billions)
        They are a beautiful red in Hearts and Bones, Much ado about nothing, Chromophobia, The situation Keane!
        I miss his red hair!
        Monique

  2. I absolutely love A Touch of Frost. I grew up on it and I know that I saw this episode in the 90’s with my mum before I even had a clue who Damian was.

    David Jason is a great actor himself and proves it with the fact that Frost is so far removed from his role as Del boy in Only fools and horses.

    Back to Damian. What to say about that man? It is so funny to look back on this show and see the decidedly 90’s trends. The floppy hair being a point. He did this weirdly creepy thing with his tongue in one scene and I immediately thought “You did it. Weston, you slime ball.” I shall not give away whether he did or not for those yet to see it.

    So even if Damian isn’t too proud of it, I am very happy that my favourite actor graced one of my favourite TV programmes.

    Thank you, JaniaJania, for going there and bringing this all back. I love those gifs!!!

    1. Like I am sure I saw the Poirot episode with Damian in 1990s without having a clue about him. So your TOF is my Poirot. Yes, BIG thank you to Jania Jania for going there and bringing Damian with his flaming RED floppy hair — decidedly 90’s style, not the greatest style but it was OUR style – X generation loved floppy hair. 😀

  3. Are all of the Fan Fun writers from Europe? You seem to know European shows and I detect some words and wording in the writing that suggests a European origin.

    I watched that Touch of Frost Damian episode – I couldn’t understand what he was saying, it was so fast. One version I looked at seemed to have been speeded up, it seemed unnaturally fast. But if you are from Britain I bet it’s easier to understand than it is for us Americans. Do people normally talk that fast?

    It’s a cute show. Kind of a British Columbo. What accent was Damian doing? It wasn’t posh. Everyone starts in those types of roles.

  4. Neither Damianista nor I are from England. I do tend to sponge off of their way of speaking when I’m talking about British shows.
    Like I said in the post, the version of this episode on YT was unnaturally sped up. No, I don’t think people in England really talk that fast. I also wrote about the likeness to Columbo in the post.
    Thanks for reading!

  5. I am just getting caught up here on this thread and enjoying the comments on Damian’s hair. Noticed right away in Billions that his trademark locks were much duller. Perhaps the product on them is doing it, and in my opinion, that pomp he wears as Bobby makes him look older, since it appears rather stiff instead of relaxed and a bit mussed. Going back to Band of Brothers, the entire series was filmed and aired with much less color than we are accustomed to. I’d read it was with the intent of resembling newsreels of the day, in coloring that is. Also, in an interview ages ago, on London TV with someone named Parkinson, he commented that someone in either makeup or costuming told him to never let anyone change his hair color. However in the TV production about Jeffrey Archer, it was gray for part of the filming. I was happy to see from photos in early March of this year, when he and Helen met the Queen (Prince’s Trust perhaps) that it appeared a very vibrant red orange again. The lighting must affect it.

    1. Connie, you have probably read our comments on this thread so yeah we also think it may be the product they use on Damian’s hair that makes his hair look darker than it is. His hair looks natural in shots from behind and especially in outside scenes. So, there should be some light effect, too. I believe red hair fades over the years, but yeah Damian still looks vibrantly red and very handsome with the Queen, and yes, it is Prince’s Trust.

    2. Hi Connie!
      Telling you, it was no exaggeration when I said it took like 15 colors, variations of red, orange, brown, yellow, for me to capture all the inflections of light in his hair (we all got together to color pictures of him for his birthday in February and posted it…check it out: https://www.fanfunwithdamianlewis.com/?p=8431.) 😀 The colors change depending on the light, where he stands in a room, what he’s doing in a scene. Talk about drama!

  6. In addition to the Deep Waters episode of A Touch of Frost, one of the best pieces to show Damian’s vibrant tresses is Warriors, or Peacekeepers as it was titled the one time it was shown in the States. At least, I think it was aired only once, September 2001 I believe. Could be mistaken. The tv show Hearts and Bones, which preceded Band of Brothers, was also done when he was young and so the “ginger” was very bright. I have a relative who was a redhead in his youth but it dulled with age until it became a warm brown. One of my daughters was a redhead at birth, and then when the baby hair fell out, what came in was blonde. However, in certain lighting, in some photos it still looks red, so obviously the lighting has a great deal to do with it.

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