The Many Faces of Damian Lewis, Part I

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.

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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…..

9 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Damian Lewis, Part I”

  1. I love this thread Hollie. I’ve spend a good bit of time since I started following Damian’s career back in 2001 just finding hints of one character or another in the variety of roles he had played. Perhaps when you can you could compare and contrast Soames with Wm. Keane. The Dick Winters role also is a study in how he projects without words, but since Band of Brothers is pretty much in a class by itself, that may not be as feasible. Looking forward to the next entry!

    1. I’d love to do more of his other characters, for sure! In just the small amounts of footage and stills I have seen, there is a rigidity and tension that comes through. I know that this time period was very repressed, very stifled, and he plays that very, very well. Tension always indicates struggle, or stress. Folks who are powerful and in control are fluid, they are free from tension, they are at ease in their power. It’s especially interesting, as Delsarte made his study and started teaching at the height of the Victorian era, where people were so repressed. Here comes this French guy who says that we should value our “vital” zones as well as heart and mind? We should be balanced and free and natural? He was really revolutionary.

  2. perfect description of the strength of Damian’s talet! I wish I could express myself like you!
    Lately I watched Forsyte, the talent Damian is superb!
    We should hate him, but no, we love him, we would like to console him!
    His stiff walk with his cane, his often dismissive look, but also his suffering in his blue eyes, on his face!
    I think this is the most difficult character to interpret, because everything is in the eye, the body!
    As in Keane, where he has an awkward walk, a face full of anguish, sorrow, and in Life he shows us all his talent, to express, all feelings, anguish, anger, hatred, ‘hope!
    I do not see what other actor, is able to express all this, without doing too much!
    With my little talent, I try to express what I feel, but you surely understood, that I love Damian!

    1. What’s really great, Monique, is that the man who invented the style of movement I study is a Frenchman! Delsarte is part of your heritage, Monique!

  3. Fantastic blog, Holliedazzle! And it definitely shows it has been written by an actor and from the heart for another actor.

    The wonderful thing about Damian, in my humble opinion, is that he has never allowed himself to be a Hollywood “persona.” 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. Damian was saying in his recent Sag-aftra interview that he also had people ask him “what’s your screen persona?” and he said all of this was too much for his little head to take in. I love his little head and his choice of going not for some persona but for good writing and for bringing us characters that cannot be more different from each other.

    I love the way you compare and contrast Charlie, Brody and Bobby and how Damian uses his face differently — eyes for Brody, forehead for Bobby — for each role. Love the brows being peaked all the time and drop only for Lara. LOVE THIS!!! Other examples abound. 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 gives us completely different men! If you don’t know him, it is hard to understand they have been brought to life by the same actor. And YOU ARE THE ONE that has taught me about Charlie and him being a strong man and in fact stronger than the other two. I am completely sold on this argument now.

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

    1. I enjoy the range and specifics he brings to his characters. He certainly plays people way outside of his nature, as a man, and I think he quite enjoys doing so. I think that his comedic roles probably come closest to being like he is, naturally. In interviews, and photos, words from others he has worked with, etc they all seem to highlight his ability to keep things light and fun. I always love that he and Helen seem to be laughing together at events and red carpet stuff.

  4. Hi ! Excellent comparison between the three characters.I still could not see “Life” but after this, I´m dying to see it !!! Saludos.

  5. Charlie Crews will always be a personal favorite character because he regained his humanity via Zen in a place that strips a human being of all dignity.

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