The Many Faces of Damian Lewis: Part I

Hello all! Damianista here.

We are extremely pleased to welcome a new blogger, Holliedazzle, today to our blog. Here is a short bio in her own words:

“A life long lover of gingers, Holliedazzle hails from the midwest and spends her free time cosplaying, indulging in all her geeky interests, and also on the stage as a burlesque performer!  Also a mother to one sweet little boy, and wife to her own foxy ginger man 🙂 She discovered Damian through her husband’s recommendation to try out this new show “Homeland”, who starred an actor that had been on his radar since “Band of Brothers” became one of his all-time favorite shows.  So, really, its all his fault that she’s here!” 😛

Having enjoyed Holliedazzle’s spot-on commentary on Damian’s acting on the blog, we asked if she would be interested in writing about Damian’s acting, in particular about the ways he uses his face and body in bringing our all-time favorite characters to life. We are delighted she has kindly agreed and is giving us the many faces of Damian Lewis today. And it goes without saying we sincerely hope to keep her around for more than two posts. Fingers crossed! Enjoy.


Our favorite guy.


OK, maybe he’s not your favorite guy. But he’s the favorite guy here at the blog that bears his name.

318 dl

When I think of what Damian must be like in everyday life, I think of the stories told from his cast mates, his wife, and from the lucky fans who have met him. He’s genuine, smart, funny, caring, dedicated, polite and kind. These words describe him as a man-but what of the men he plays? How does he create characters so diverse, and so different, at times, from who he is?
Well, the simple fact is that he is a superb actor. He dedicates himself to a role, studies the character, understands his motives and what “makes him tick”, and he uses this all to create these characters.


One of the easiest ways, physically, that he can reinvent himself with each role, is by his use of body language. We are looking beyond how costuming, styling, and even accents are used to create these men. We are looking at the physical ways he communicates, the non-verbal cues he gives. From what we’ve read about how deeply he immerses himself in his study and creation of these character, I don’t for one second think his use of body language isn’t 100% intentional.

As a student of body language, via a long-lost study called Delsarte, I have been able to decode many of the great ways that Damian uses his body to create these convincing characters. And in this post, specifically, we’ll talk about how he uses his face to create Bobby, Brody and Charlie.

I realized recently, as I bounced between episodes of Homeland, Life, and Billions, just how different these three men are, all due to how Damian creates their characters. But when I first started mapping out the words that came to mind about each of them, I actually found many similarities in the characters, themselves. When I explored those similarities further, and compared their stories, there’s a lot of commonality that you’d never really catch without deeper thought and exploration. And the whole reason you’d never really catch it is because Damian made them each a unique man.
All three men are vengeful. Brody is finding justice for Issa, Bobby and Charlie are finding justice for themselves. Two of the three are very wealthy! All three men are being deceitful- Charlie is secretly investigating the frame job that put him away for a decade. Brody is hiding his conversion to Islam, and more importantly, his conversion to radical islam and the cause of the jihadists, as well as an affair with Carrie. Bobby is hiding his shady dealings around 9/11, and insider trading. Interestingly enough, all three men also feel completely justified in their deception, as if the law, or right and wrong, is just a technicality. Two of the three men have been held captive, Brody was held by terrorists, Charlie by the state. They both endured physical and emotional torture, prolonged solitude and violence. They did things during that time for which they feel much remorse and guilt for.

But despite these similarities, Damian used his incredible abilities to create three completely different men.


“Every day I spend above ground is a good day.”- Charlie Crews
Charlie is, by far, the most powerful of these three men. That might surprise you, but follow me here for a moment. The relaxation in his face, the absence of tension, shows his power. He found his “zen”, and he is grateful for each day he spends outside of a barbed-wire fence. He survived what would have broken most men, and he came out on the other side a winner. And on the plus side, he still manages to to feel-he feels pain when there is pain to feel, joy when there is joy, and anger when it is appropriate. He even manages to display his anger in a calm manner.

The way he threatened the tech guy during the episode “Civil War”? He could have screamed and yelled and swore. Somehow, the eerily calm way he warned the man, without a speck of anger or escalation on his face(or in his voice for the man on the other end of the phone), was way worse than any raised voice or harsh words. There are times, though, when anger does get the best of him, as we see early on in the series when he seems to flash back to his prison survival instincts. He knife fight with a Latino man in the season one episode “Let her go” comes to mind. For a moment the “zen”vanishes, and he’s up against a wall, just like he’s fighting for his life in the prison yard. In which interaction did he appear more powerful-the one with the tech guy, or this one? Surprisingly, it’s the one without the weapon. This is Charlie’s power, it’s the “zen”. The man who has been to hell and back, been through a time worse than death, and has absolutely nothing to fear and nothing to lose.


Look at Bobby next to Charlie. You can really see the shift in characters in these stills. And it really has nothing to do with the decade’s passage of time between these roles.  Bobby keeps all that tension in his forehead.


Unlike Charlie, who put the map on the wall, Bobby’s map is in his head. “He sees the whole board”, they say. And those brows are almost permanently peaked, his mind constantly engaged.


We see it drop for Lara.  We even see it, at times, drop for Wendy(but much less as we see him lose his faith in her). He tilts his chin down, his forehead forward, in conversation.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

He throws his head back, chin out, when he feels powerful. The corners of his mouth are extra tight.  His jaw is clenched in anger he is trying to control(“I used to be an animal”, he told Lara). The tension he holds shows a man who is desperately clinging to his power. His tension is growing as we see him slip further and further.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

He squints a lot. Squinting is critical-he’s judging everyone. No one is as smart as Axe. Go back and re-watch the scene in the pilot episode, the one after the “alpha” conference. I do not think his eyes could get any smaller! His disdain for Chuck Rhoades.. you can taste it! But when his eyes do widen, and the vital whites of his eyes show, its usually in anger. In shock. And what follows will be…unpleasant.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

The times when he truly feels threatened, and not in control, are those times when his eyes widen. His speech on top of the filing cabinet at Axe Capitol-his eyes are wide, fearful, frantic. The tension is all over his face, in every feature. In that moment, actually, I finally saw a little bit of Brody sneak into Bobbys face. Because Brody spends most of his time being afraid.


Poor Brody.

A man pulled in every direction. A man who has hardly ever been given the chance to make a choice of his own. He shoulders tremendous pain, and harbors layers upon layers of secrets. When you look at Brody’s face, its all about his eyes.


Eyes fall into a part of the face that are the easiest to show thoughts and emotions with. As a Delsartean, I know them to be included in both the mind and the heart zones. Eyes can tell what you are thinking and what you are feeling. And Brody spends a lot of time trying not to feel…which does not usually work out for him. He disassociates at times, tries to forget and move on. But the trauma he has endured finds other ways to come back. Often times, it comes back with rage.

“This is quite a nice wake we’re having here…would be a shame if I lost my damn mind…”

source: showtime
source: showtime

He also spends a lot of time lying.

His two smiles here: one is genuine, the other is fake. The genuine smile radiates through his whole face. There is no tension, there is no control. The fake smile is only at the corners of his mouth. The rest of his face is dull and tense.

Body language certainly isn’t limited to the face!  Stay tuned for a part 2, where we discuss how he uses the rest of his body to create living, breathing characters we know and love!  And join me in the comments for further discussion…..

33 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Damian Lewis: Part I”

  1. Two of his roles come to mind when considering his ability to portray vastly different characters….Soames Forsyte and William Keane. Both of those were “available” to us not long after Band of Brothers and differed so much from Richard Winters that I was barely able to believe all three were actually the same actor. Then there was the comedic The Baker; there is no end to the man’s versatility.

    1. I might have to bite the bullet and finally watch “Band of Brothers.” I have a little trouble, at times, with shows that are too intense. But I suppose if I survived “Homeland” I could probably handle it. 🙂 My husband LOVES rewatching that series.

      1. Holliedazzle, you absolutely MUST watch Band of Brothers! It was the first thing I saw him in, when it first aired in 2001, and watching it now, almost 15 years later, you won’t “see” Damian at all. I would not have been introduced to his work without that series and it remains unique, and in my mind, in a category all its own. I’ve never met him (although have had the pleasure of meeting 11 of the real Easy Company vets, including Major Winters), but the contrast between his portrayal of the Major and Damian’s personality is like night and day. Damian gives the appearance, in interviews and such, of being far more outgoing and flamboyant and that is all buried in his role as the WWII vet. As has been said, less is more, but that is also the case with Soames, and with Rizzo in The Escapist, so he can do that equally as well as that magnificent scene this week as Axe with Dollar Bill which is quite the opposite.

      2. You could turn the sound off if it is too suspenseful and later go back and watch with sound if you decide you could handle it. Anything about war is going to be violent and scary. The acting and production values are so great it’s worth watching through your fingers at times. And I am very affected by the music in films and the music in this series is like a major character. It doesn’t distract, it enhances it. It really captures the feeling of the scenes.

        1. It’s a brilliant series in every way. Utterly convincing performances – Winters’ dual reserve and soulful might for right characterisations, Nixon’s pain masking impishness and righteous indignation. And yeah, the elegant production values and gorgeous musical theme. I have that recording and have listened to it probably a thousand times; my reaction to it is the same every time – I’m completely bowled over and swept off by the beauty and conviction of that composition. The musicians and other artists who dress and style the actors Nd create the mood have also amazed in their ability to interpret character and enable Lewis’ characters and their powerful stories.

          1. September 2016 will mark the 15th anniversary of Band of Brothers, one of the best, if not THE best, WWII series ever made coming to small screen! We plan to do a special celebration in the fall. Stay tuned! 🙂

    2. You are absolutely right, Connie! I should not have put in better words: “There is no end to the man’s versatility.”

      The wonderful thing about Damian, in my humble opinion, is that he has never allowed himself to be a Hollywood “brand.” You know, many actors in Hollywood are always type cast, and they always play that certain type. Your character’s name changes but your role is almost the same. You set a standard in a “type” and make a living. Easy.

      Damian has never done that for which I will stay eternally grateful. Your examples make perfect sense. From WWII hero Dick Winters to Victorian/Edwardian could-not-be-more English Soames Forsyte to completely lost and sad William Keane, to light-hearted, comedic Milo (the guy is a natural comedian, his performance in American Buffalo was mind-blowing!) Damian gave us four completely different men! If you don’t know the man, it is hard to understand they are all the same actor.

      What I see in Damian is that he loves a good challenge. And this is what a real artist is in my opinion. You should constantly develop as an individual and as an actor and it is not really possible if you shy away from challenges. Damian does never shy away from them. He tackles them and delivers! And I believe THAT IS one main reason why he is our favorite actor.

  2. Welcome Holliedazzle! And can I say WOW! What a great post! You are spot on with your analysis of the characters, and how even though a similar thread runs through them, they are all individuals! Not many actors can play such strong characters and not be totally type cast (the Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino come to mind), but DL does it so well! I’d be curious to hear your observations regarding DL’s Henry VIII in Wolf Hall. We have talked about the similarities between Henry and Axe, and I’d love to get your take!
    Congratulations on a very insightful 1st post! Welcome to the family!! 🙂

    1. Thank you! I had so much fun analyzing and writing this. It was hard to leave Henry out, that role was incredible for him and he did amazing things with it. A tale of two kings might have to be a future article.

    2. A Tale of Two Kings! Henry and Axe absolutely have much in common — well, Lady Trader is right, we’ve been talking about similarities for a while in recaps and in comment threads as well and I would LOVE to see Holliedazzle’s take on how Damian uses his body language to portray these two different kings in two different times. What a brilliant idea!

  3. brilliant analysis! I agree with Connie, Soames Forsyte is also a very complicated character. with the view of this analysis, now I can recall a lot of facial and body language in DL’s portrayal of him, too.

    1. I still remember that scene in Forsyte Saga Episode 1 in which Soames speaks to his father only using his eyebrows and nothing else. No words. Love it!

  4. I knew it! I KNEW IT! When we talked about the possibility that you may write a post or two about the way Damian uses his body language in bringing our most favorite characters to life, I knew that this would be a brilliant post that I will learn from and here you go!

    Hahaha it’s amazing in how many different ways Charlie, Brody and Bobby are, in fact, similar. I really did not think about them — thanks to Damian’s wonderful versatility, I have always seen them as three completely different men. And they are. As in your words: Unique. And it’s amazing to see how Damian makes them completely different using his facial expressions. It’s the eyes with Brody. It’s the forehead with Bobby. Love the brows being peaked all the time and drop only for Lara. And you are right, sometimes with Wendy, but Bobby seems to be all forehead with Wendy at the funeral, doesn’t he? Oh all roads lead to Billions these days 🙂 What you do is a real microanalysis of how he uses the face – brilliant! I really need to go back and read again and go study the face — be it Charlie, Brody or Bobby or one of the others!

    I never thought of Charlie as a very strong man. Now that you are making that argument, I am sold. I think it is the comedic nature Life that has not made me think of Charlie as seriously as I thought about Brody, which is a shame on my part, but the other thing is that I saw the entire two seasons in a week or so that I never had the time to digest Life as much as I wanted to. Now I know what I should do this summer! 🙂

    Holliedazzle, welcome on board and we are extremely delighted to have you with us. Much Love!

    1. Life really did portray Charlie as very quirky. I always wondered if Charlie had been a quirky guy before, or was he more serious and kind of came out of prison with this silly side? A unique reaction, for sure, to something so horrible happening. Most people come out of prison with a lot of issues. He came out loving fruit? So odd. But he made it work.

      “Life is what they gave him, and Life is what he got back.” What a sense of relief he must have felt when he got out. Relief and gratitude are very empowering feelings. I think they give Charlie strength.

      1. I remember a conversation between Charlie and Dani about his love for fruit. I believe she never really eats any exotic fruit he offers her and she is now mocking with him about the fresh fruit he eats. And I remember the look on his face telling Dani if she had eaten prison food – probably some plastic, disgusting food – for years, like him, she would have come out of prison loving fruit, too. I think it is all about missing fresh food in prison. You are absolutely right about people coming out of prison with a lot of issues. It should be inevitable. In Charlie’s case, fruit is one, but space is another. I think not buying furniture is all about having all that space for himself. Even furniture would make him claustrophobic in his own house and I still remember how he could not stomach to have a fence built around the house so coyotes could not come visit. I think that was what I loved about Life the most. Conveying an important story through a comedic narrative. But, sometimes, as I made a point earlier, I just could not take Charlie as serious a character as Brody. But when you now say he is the strongest of all, I am buying that argument.

  5. What a great, enthusiastic post. I appreciate this site with the upbeat attitudes and engaging posts. Lots of positive energy from bright women from all walks of life. It’s great to have a site where our favorite actor is the topic of discussion.

    I used to act, studied theatre in college and later in NYC. I studied for awhile with Stella Adler at City Center. What an experience. I was drawn to acting from a young age. I’ve always been fascinated by it. I’ve always wondered – why? Why are some of us drawn to perform? Is it because I’m a Leo? (and I’ve done all the other arts also)

    I just love it when an actor shares how they approach a role and create a character. A lot don’t say much. Maybe they want to keep it a mystery so you just believe the character. I’ve just heard dribs and drabs from Damian in different articles and interviews.

    Every actor is different in how they do it. We can guess but don’t really know unless they tell us. Outside in? Inside out? Costume? Character animal? Emotional memory? Write a history of the character? Use an acting coach on roles? And each film director is different so some might give you rehearsal time and some not. Some might encourage improvisation and some won’t.

    I appreciate your showing the differences in Damian’s characters. The subtle changes in his face. I always wonder if things are conscious choices or just instinctual.

    One acting coach I know says “whatever works”. You have an acting toolkit and if one tool doesn’t work, take out another and try it. There are no formulas. You can’t apply a one size fits all technique to every role. Or if you do, you might just wind up seeming the same in each role. Some actors seem to always be themselves in roles.

    I saw somewhere (here? an article? Forgive me if I quote you and don’t realize it) Damian said he was trying to find Rizzo’s walk in “The Escapist”. He wore women’s thong underwear. I watched it recently (Netflix?) and there he was walking with a hip-twitching strut as Rizzo. (Sorry, I have never worn a thong and can’t imagine it except for a sexy rendezvous. I read younger hipster women are getting into granny panties now because they are comfortable!!!)

    But I love hearing little clues like that. I tend to think a lot of acting is instinctual. But maybe for some actors there is more choice involved. I wonder what he learned at Guildhall that he still uses. He speaks fondly of his alma mater.

    In theatre you keep getting another chance during the run to try new things and evolve your character. To react to what’s happening with the other actor(s).

    I have much less experience in film. One time in college I did something on video and I was jumping out of the frame. You have to make it so much smaller. More controlled.

    I saw some outtakes of them filming “Life” and just before “action” Damian had his face to a wall and was going over lines. Lines!!!! Just remembering lines!!! I guess you build up the muscles but learning so many lines for a TV show and they might be changing all the time – that is a real skill. As actors get older I hear it gets harder to learn and remember lines. And there are now apps that help actors learn lines.

    Thank you for giving us this forum to discuss our favorite actor Damian Lewis and all the roles he’s played on stage and film. And recaps of this complicated and fascinating new show he’s in – which was renewed!!!!

    They like him at Showtime. They really like him!!!! (Sally Field Oscar reference).


    1. I know! I really respect that line-memorizing ability. And while we are speaking about that, about how someone like Damian’s wife, Helen, with her learning disability, has to have lines recorded to memorize, as reading comprehension is difficult for her.

      I love being here with so many dynamic and smart women of all walks of life. It’s a wonderful safe space to come and talk. So much of the internet is not safe for us. This is definitely its own island. With its own tribe! 😀

      1. The things you get to do in college that you might never get to do later. I played Clove in Beckett’s “Endgame” when I was 18! It has a repetitive, poetic type of language. Easy to get lost. One time I did and had to work my way back.

        I later found out kids were following along with a playbook checking our lines!!!! I’m glad I didn’t know.

        And the things they ask you to do! If the director believes in you, you do it!!! I had to wear big clunky work boots and carry a huge 14 foot ladder onstage and then climb up it to a tiny little window. One night I felt the ladder start to tip towards the audience but I got it back. Jeez!!!! I don’t think all productions use huge ladders. Some use small ones.

        Just stories about things that happen onstage are so funny. A phone that rings after you pick it up. Things like that. You just keep going.

        I’m sure Damian and Helen have stories. I’m just impressed with anyone who can have a working career as an actor. The odds are so great for it not to happen. It takes great confidence in yourself and persistence. Damian and Helen seem very self-confident and not neurotic. Elizabeth McGovern said that British actors tend to think of acting as a “craft”. Not a career per se. I think they focus more on the doing of it and loving the art and craft than how they look or are perceived or being in the next blockbuster. I think that’s what she meant. Not sure.

        I hope I get to see Damian onstage someday. Can someone tell me – when he was in “American Buffalo” was his character American? Did he use an American accent? Were they all American in the play? Just curious.


        1. This is Holliedazzle’s post so I don’t want to pry but let me just make a note about American Buffalo. It’s a Mamet play that takes place in Chicago so Damian was doing American accent on stage. He was with John Goodman (amazing as ever) and a young talent Tom Sturridge who is now nominated for an Olivier with his role in American Buffalo.

          If you wanna take a look, I did a review of the play here.
          Act I:
          Act II:

          Well I had so much to say 🙂

          1. Thanks. I knew it was a Mamet play and American but I still wondered if they “transplanted” it. I never got around to reading it. It sounds so heartbreaking. But it sounds like a good ending where they stick together and nobody got killed. And I appreciate the big view of what it says about corporate greed. Boy, being in the corporate world myself for years – it is cutthroat. It doesn’t have to be like that. I hope it will change more. More human values. Thank you for the recap of the play. I would love to have seen it. Hope they restage it. Or bring to Broadway. Wow – what if they did it with all women??? That would be cool.

  6. Thank you Ann for your kind comment about us being bright women. I think Damian Lewis has a pretty special fandom. No wonder he is being called “thinking woman’s heartthrob.” This applies to us all. The very discussion on this blog’s comment threads speaks for itself. It is just a pleasure to share the love we have for Damian here along with all the discussion on the characters he brings to life.

    A little anecdote about lines: My husband caught Damian on the street (a sweet story that I shared earlier on the blog) in London just before he performed in American Buffalo and he told me Damian was totally out of this world mumbling to himself “his lines” an hour before the performance. It is the job. And what everyone says about him on TV sets, too, is that he comes having done his homework and extremely prepared.

    The Escapist: Yes, he talked about the thong at the New Yorker Festival which we shared here. He finished the story and said: “You guys have great underwear.” This guy! 🙂

    I didn’t know Helen had a reading disability. Quite a challenge for someone that wants to do acting where reading is huge chunk of prepping. Hats off to her one more time!

    1. That is so cool your husband saw Damian walking along muttering his lines. I often see people muttering in NYC and I try to decide if it’s an actor going to an audition or someone talking to themself (that is if I don’t see the telltale earphones).

  7. I’m shocked. I had never read that Helen McCrory was dyslexic. Obviously it has nothing to do with intelligence since she is extremely intelligent and articulate and witty. Must just be the brain transposes the order of the words. Doesn’t seem to have held her back. Wow. That does make her job harder. But everyone has different things they have to work around. Think of all the news anchors who have speech impediments – Tom Brokaw, Connie Chung. Didn’t stop them.

    I’m just glad to have a site where someone responds to me. There is another forum where I posted and posted and most of the time no one responded. I periodically give up. Then I go back for awhile and give up again. I’m not into Facebook or Twitter so it’s hard to find a place to discuss Damian’s work and read others post about it.

    I’m not that into online stuff period. I do tend to lose interest quickly. I still need to go back and read my way through all the posts on this site.

  8. Thank you to all who stopped by to read, discuss and leave your kind words. I look forward to writing the second installment-I started last night!

    And thanks to our lovely webmasters here, who gave me such a wonderful platform to share on! This blog is a tremendous labor of love, I appreciate all you do!

    1. I’m really impressed with the design of the blog. The great photos you get – I don’t know how or where you get them. The great links you put in the articles if we want to know more about something. I like the simplicity and elegance of the design. It’s a great creative project and my hat is off to you for jumping in and doing it. Excellent writers. Women from all different backgrounds can give comments from their experience and perspectives. Your enthusiasm is contagious. We have enough negativity in the world. Sarcasm and snarkiness. It’s refreshing to see your positive comments and support for Damian and his work. Your creativity is very inspiring.

      1. Thank you for your kind words! Where should I start? The idea is to keep it simple and focus on the content. You are right it’s women from all different backgrounds – we can’t be more similar in some ways and we can’t be more different in other ways. We could not be happier if our enthusiasm was really contagious. One of the best comments I got on the blog was from a very dear HS friend, and not a Damian fan, who said we could convert people with no idea about Damian to Damian and his work with our enthusiasm and writing 🙂 And, okay, I don’t like bragging about creativity but just because Damian has called our work “creative” I will go ahead and accept the compliment! Thanks so much, Ann, for all positive feedback and discussion and personal stories and all! <3

  9. I can’t wait for part 2!

    And I agree: our webmaster is a wonderful person and we are so lucky to have her to thank for bringing us all together!!

    1. Thank you so much for the love! Everyone that has contributed to this blog, from the fans reading and commenting to each and every one of us that has been writing, is wonderful. The whole experience has been more FUN than I had ever imagined. Cheers to the fandom <3

  10. Welcome aboard Hollie.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this insightful dissection of Damian and his characters. You cannot imagine the delight I had on reading you describe Charlie as dangerous. I often felt a lot of people missed that in him, but it was there.

    I am now going to pay attention to Bobby’s forehead for the last two episodes. It may be very telling indeed!

    Looking forward to part 2.

    1. Charlie was really fearless, at times. He wasn’t unpredictable or unstable, like Brody, or quick to anger, like Bobby…but he was very calm and collected and that’s a lot worse, at times. I would suppose in a prison situation, you’ve gotta develop a pretty strong poker face. Like, don’t show your fear. Don’t show your struggle. Don’t let them know they can get to you. And there’s something to be said for the confidence gained by enduring something like that.

  11. Holliedazzle, thank you for the description, fantastic, Damian and , characters he interpreted! I looked several times LIFE, the series I found Damian, in France, but I had never studied Charlie, as you do!
    Tell us what you think of Wolf Hall, Damian in Henry VIII!
    Without the ability to analyze as you, I must say that I loved Damian in this role!
    Thank you, you’re right, we have the chance to be in a wonderful blog, run by great girls! I love them!

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