“Coup de Foudre” and Consequences: or How Agnes Met Damian Lewis

Hello all! Damianista here. Welcome to Fan Stories Tuesday!

Today’s story comes from Agnes who is a happy grandmother but also our own personal Wendy! 😀

copyright: Agnes

Agnes is a retired clinical professor of psychiatry who organized the largest psychiatric volunteer program in the country as well as women psychiatrist groups. She and I had quite long and fun discussions about Wendy’s motivations on the blog. And you will see the reflections of her profession in her exploration of our favorite actor’s work. Big thanks go to Agnes for this lovely contribution to our Fan Story Series!

On April 5th, 2013 my phone rang as I entered my home having returned from the hospice.  I was visiting my husband of 50 years who lay there with Alzheimer’s disease.

It was my son John asking about his Father. Concerned about his Mother he wondered if I had enough company and entertainment to keep my mind occupied. Have you seen “Homeland” he asked.

What is “Homeland”?

source: Showtime

I had no idea of what was going to happen to me as I settled down that evening with my glass of wine to watch some TV. Found Showtime, Episode 1. Returning war hero, lot of sex, typical cable show, not bad. Next came the debrief session and suddenly these two sea-blue eyes locked in on me. I was diving into the depth of an ocean that was new to me but felt familiar, scary and exciting,I was not in control but totally committed to the direction. I suddenly remembered of what my French Grandmother told me about meeting her future husband on a train: “Le coup de foudre”, the bolt of lightening, the crack of the whip,the sudden feeling of familiarity, connectedness or even love.

homeland, brody

So there I was, an otherwise sane woman in her seventies who has known love but was never given to crushes on movie stars, sport heroes, pop idols or sudden infatuations. /here I do have to confess to a longstanding adoration of Pavarotti /.

Then my psychiatric self analysis turned on and decided it was a very adaptive and healthy feeling to compensate for my loneliness and grief. That was what I would have told to one of my patients.

I am sure that  was part of it. However I was not ready for the avalanche that was coming. Within a couple days I finished seasons 1 and 2 and the interminable wait started for season 3.

Brody felt like a real person to me in a true story. It did not really sunk in that it was a TV show, written by amazing writers, incredible actors and that I was getting emotionally involved not with a person but a character.

Growing up in war torn Hungary under Russian occupation I do remember a few prisoners of war coming home many years later. They were just like Brody. Desperately needing love and comfort but sabotaging every approach with mistrust or even violence and for the rest of their lives many stayed captive, as their own prisoners.

The real crisis came in my relationship with Brody when it dawned on me that he was not a living person but an actor, a devious interloper who was threatening my happy daydreams.

source: contactmusic.com

It became much worse when I found out that he is British. I was born in 1937 in Budapest. The British bombed my beloved city from 1943 to 1945 leaving it in rubble, lost my home, several friends and such  memories are painfully engraved part of my childhood. After I grew up and understood the politics of those years that since the Nazis ran over Hungary in 1943 we counted as enemies of the British It did not erase the memories of that terror.

It did not take Damian very long to sooth my anger and heal my wounds. The more I learned about him and his oeuvre the more fascinated I became . I have seen all his movies available in the US multiple times, every TV show, read all published interviews and articles and collected over 2000 published photographs. Created drawings, images and numerous photo shop projects about him.

I became fascinated with his ability to project different feelings or attitudes at the same time. It took me a long time to notice how he can use the two sides of his face separately giving a split expression. How his face can be still looking unless you notice the jaw muscles ripping underneath the skin like lava ready to erupt.When he meets someone he loves he can become suddenly very still, the ever present wrinkles of his forehead smoothing out, he slowly shuts his eyes into a smile. his jaw muscles slacken and his lips part just barely.

His ability not only to play but actually became a character is unparalleled. Watching Hamlet I saw Olivier and the bawdy woman yelling at the drunken man was Ava Gardner berating Richard Burton.

But Keane was always Keane, the tortured soul, the mentally ill vagrant who still had warm  embers of fatherly love in him or ,maybe he was just a child molester looking for a victim. I wanted to take him home,give him a hot bath, feed him a good meal and tuck him into my bed… no, no no I am going crazy, what is the number of the police? Help!

As I watched and rewatched  his work eventually it felt that I was learning to understand how he uses the tools of his craft or better said, his art. How he coordinates his body, his movements, the sounds, the expressions of his face, he is the conductor of his large orchestra to express his message to the viewer.

It feels both learned and spontaneous, practiced or just invented, playful or at times serious. He is blessed with a great talent that has been honed by serious study over many years.

I put together an interpretive dictionary of the possible meanings of small movements like: slow right to left licking of lower lip indicates erotic reveries. Of course I might not know him well enough to make statements like this and might have to discount them as only my projections.

There are so many questions that I would like to ask him but at the same time protect him from the intrusiveness of fans like myself. I wish we would try to submit some questions to him and see if he might be willing to answer some. For example:


How frequently have you read  lines in a script that made you reflect upon yourself and alter your personal development or behavior? How long has it taken you to learn to distance yourself to the point where you can safely can enter a character’s hell?

Have you played any roles that you considers pivotal in your development as a person?

As an actor your metier is to choose the writing of others you considers worthwhile and bring them to life on the stage or in front of a camera?

source: telegraph.co.uk

What is good writing? Is it elegant style, a powerful message , content that is timely and demands to be heard? Is there great writing that is unsuited for performance but not because of legal, moral or political grounds? Have you written stories; poems or plays and if not, do you think you might wish to do so in the future?

How do you handle if your fellow actor would not have been your choice for the role? Now that you are a world class performer how much control do you have over the casting?

Being about the age of your mother I have a deep sadness over her untimely death and that she did not have a chance to delight in your success. Words are probably inadequate to express the impact of her loss on  your and your children’s lives.

Damian, I am very grateful to you for enriching my life and to all of you who work on this blog and have created a community for us to share in this pleasure trip.

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

36 thoughts on ““Coup de Foudre” and Consequences: or How Agnes Met Damian Lewis”

  1. What a wonderful story Agnes! Thank you for sharing it. I think you really understand the essence of Damian the actor and have shared your thoughts so beautifully. I do believe you and I are of the same generation; seems like we are the grandmothers in the crowd. While I’ve never met him, I always felt that if I ever did, I would be brash enough to give him one piece of advice, value your family above all else. When you get near the end of this long road we call life, careers won’t matter, but spouse and children will. Perhaps I can assume you may feel the same.

  2. Sehr geehrte Agnes,
    dies ist für mich die bisher bewegendste Fangeschichte überhaupt. In Deinen Worten liegt so viel Ehrlichkeit sich selbst gegenüber und über die Gefühle, die man für diesen tollen Menschen hegen kann. Ich glaube auch, dass eben gerade diese sofort entstehende Verbundenheit und dieses in „ihm verlieren können“, die Begeisterung ausmacht.
    Auch für mich ist er „der“ absolute Ausnahmeschauspieler, ein begnadeter Schauspieler der unser aller Leben enorm bereichert, uns Kraft geben kann und ich hoffe natürlich auch, dass er sich über unsere Begeisterung freut und auch wir ihm ein bisschen zurückgeben können.
    Außerdem möchte ich Dir meinen größten Respekt über Deine Interpretationen bezüglich seiner Kunst aussprechen. Phänomenal. Fantastisch. So etwas habe ich noch nie über ihn gelesen.

    Vielen, vielen lieben Dank auch für das schönste Bild, welches ich von Damian je gesehen habe.
    Quelle: telegraph.co.uk

    Ich wünsche Dir alles, alles Gute und freue mich auf eine weitere gemeinsame „Lustreise“ mit allen Damian Lewis-Fan`s.
    Herzliche Grüße aus Deutschland !

    Hello, all. Damianista “google-translates” Petra’s message here 🙂 It’s not ideal but it is the best we can do to have communication in our very international group. Thank you.

    “Dear Agnes,
    This is for me the most moving catch story ever. In your words, there is so much honesty about yourself and about the feelings that can be felt for this great human being. I also believe that precisely this immediate connection and this in “to him can lose” makes the enthusiasm.

    For me too, he is “the” absolute exceptional actor, a gifted actor who can enormously enrich our lives, and I hope, of course, that he is happy about our enthusiasm and also we can give him back a bit.

    I would also like to express my greatest respect for your interpretations of his art. Phenomenal. Fantastic. I’ve never read anything like this before.

    Many, many thanks also for the most beautiful picture I have ever seen from Damian.
    Source: telegraph.co.uk

    I wish you all the best, and look forward to another joint “Lustreise” with all Damian Lewis fans.
    Greetings from Germany!”

  3. Agnes, that makes at least three of us! I and Connie are femmes dun certain age. I was so disconcerted when I realized I was in love with a character on tv, I made an emergency call to my sister! Bless her heart she was completely understanding.
    Since I admire the characterization of Bobby but dislike the character I keep Brody and Charlie close to hand. I just finished Wolf Hall. He was brilliant and Mark Ryland is completely his equal.
    Your analysis is priceless, your understanding of the art of acting seems accurate to me. God, I hope he answers your questions!
    Please keep sharing!

  4. Dear Agnes,

    That you met Damian during such difficult times and him bringing you joy during that time is moving beyond words.

    I love the part you say “otherwise a sane woman in her seventies…” 😀 I was a sane woman, too, believe me, attending to her own thing, teaching college kids and writing academic papers… UNTIL Brody came along and turned everything upside down. I love it that we both fell for him, and that we both felt like he was a real character. There is no other fictional character that I have loved like Brody. The affection I had for him was so huge that I wanted to cuddle him so badly and tell him all would be fine — knowing that it would not. Oh My God your post has brought all my love for Brody to surface again!!!

    I love your analysis on Keane! It is a brilliant movie (it is sad that it is also a very underrated movie, Damian always says 5 people watched it…) and I know you are looking at it from an expert’s perspective. No wonder Alex Gansa had no option but giving Damian the Brody part after watching Keane.

    I also have to thank Damian, exactly like you do in your post, for bringing this joy to me, since this blog has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. And one big reward is absolutely having met you, Agnes! Thank you for being here with us. I really want to make that trip and have that glass of wine with you. And, maybe, you will show me the “interpretive dictionary.” I am dying to see what our own personal Wendy makes of Damian’s different moves and gestures. Sending all my love!

  5. I love your fan story Agnes! I was never given to crushes on movie stars either, until Damian. You are so right, his ability not only to play but actually became a character is unparalleled and he is indeed a conductor of his large orchestra. So prevailing. It sounds like you got struck by the same “Thunderbolt” Michael Corleone did for Apollonia in the Godfather 🙂

    1. Thunderbolt! I lOVE THIS, Krista! Yesss, this is what it is – we got struck by the same “Thunderbolt” 😀

  6. Agnes, my husband passed away about a month after the demise of Brody. Watching my collection of Damian DVDs proved to be a welcome distraction, however brief, in the many, many months that have followed. I never mentioned this before because it is so personal to me, but reading that you too were affected in a somewhat similar situation certainly rings a bell. Also, I think I have decided, after nearly 16 years of following his career, he does not really “become” his characters. Instead, those characters inhabit him. Perhaps there is a slight difference.

    1. Connie, thank you so much for sharing such a personal story with us. It is very moving to find out Damian’s work could be a welcome, if brief, distraction during such hard times. I cannot imagine at this moment as hard a time as losing my husband, and I really hope we have a long-lasting and happy marriage like yours. Much love!

  7. Connie, it is so interesting that we had a similar emotional experience after the loss of our husbands. I have never heard anyone ever talking about this before. I will have to think about this and hope that we might have a chance to discuss this in the future. The possibility of at least a partial “transferability of love” in event of grief could have great importance in how we are able to handle the emotional process of
    Your comments on how our favorite actor creates “character” could be a topic for a discussion on our blog and wouldn’t it be fun to have him comment on it?
    Thanks to all of you for all the comments today!

    1. Agnes, I read somewhere that grief is love with no place to go. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that thought, because love will find somewhere to go I believe. Perhaps a “transfer” of love comes into play. You surely are more the expert on that than I am. I’m a retired elementary school teacher. My husband and I were high school sweethearts; actually we knew each other from grade school, so the process of mourning for me has been very difficult. Fortunately, our daughters are all nearby and are so supportive that I know I am a very lucky person. Okay, sorry folks, have gotten off the Damian subject I know. Perhaps someday I will be able to tell him that he has been the means for so many of us to “meet” friendly, understanding people who share the same interest.

      1. My sense is that he would very much like to know all the good he has brought to you,to us. He said quite frankly ” I want to be adored. “

          1. So many of us are Brody girls. I don’t know If the other roles would have caught my attention in the same way. I’d seen and enjoyed Bof B, but that seems long ago. Definitely Henry VIII. Bobby, Charlie I’m not sure.
            Just saw MAAN today, very cute. He’s so young. I thinks he appears younger in Homelandthan Billions but it may be the hair.

          2. Very good point about Brody. I love all characters Damian brings to life but I have never loved any fictional character like Brody. And I don’t think I will ever love a character like I have loved him. He made me a Damian Lewis fan for life and a blogger, too. Go, figure! I don’t think I would have felt the urge to share my love for Brody as well as other characters Damian brings to life and my admiration for Damian in a blog should there have been no Brody. Oh he is younger in Homeland for sure, and I understand about the hair, and I think the point is well-taken there; however, Damian was 39-42 in Homeland and 44-45 in Billions. Those few years make a difference, I think. Having said that, he is really like a good wine that gets even better with age! So easy on the eyes!

        1. I watched Keane yesterday…… how wonderful. What a piece of work is Damian, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty. In form and movement how express and admirable. (Like that? I just made it up )
          I look forward to the day Billions is over and I may get a chance to see him do this kind of work again.
          Thanks Dista and Connie for the nudge.

          1. Keane is wonderful and unfortunately a very underrated movie. No wonder it is Keane that got Damian the Brody part in Homeland!
            I really hope Damian makes more movies like Keane — a movie that would bring out his incredible range as an actor all out — in the near future!

          2. If Keane had been released now instead of when it was I reckon it would have a far bigger audience. Very underrated and to anyone else who has not yet seen it…you really should!

          3. Yes! If the movie had been made now and not in 2005, it would have had a much bigger audience. Funny that I found my 2005 New York Film Festival movie schedule (yeah I collect all that kind of paper from whatever even I attend) and I checked the movies I wanted to see and skipped Keane — possible reasons: I didn’t know the director, I didn’t know the actor, and it was a difficult subject matter. Maybe we should push the movie a bit more on the blog. Once the Billions extravaganza is over, let us talk about Keane!

          4. This, I think, is not a movie with broad appeal. I believe Damian cited problems with the release in the AFTRA interview (?). Still, movies featuring,for the most part, one character and a “crazy” one at that are going to be a difficult sell to a broad audience. “Locke” managed it – without the crazy.
            Not to me. Am deeply moved and much impressed. Well,you know!
            Did I not say he is king of the tight close up?

          5. I knew we had more in common, I liked “Locke” a lot, too. One man movies are hard, I agree with you, and yes he is the king of the tight close up and it seems it was one of the things Alex Gansa (Homeland EP) was impressed when he saw the movie as he was thinking about Damian for the role.

      1. Keane is the only DVD I’ve ever bought two of. (Please ignore my ending the sentence with a preposition!)

          1. One of my daughters wanted to borrow it, but also because I was afraid it wouldn’t continue to be available if something happened to my first one. Believe me, it is special!

    1. I definitely think it’s the hair style that makes him appear older in Billions. Of course he is older than when the first season of Homeland was filmed, but that pompadour is not very becoming. If anyone wants to see the great red locks of earlier years, check out Warriors!

  8. Wow! One of the most beautiful pieces that I have ever read on the impact of art on one’s life! And what a beautiful conversation among Agnes, Connie and Notlinda!

  9. Connie je pense comme toi, le style de ses cheveux le vieillit dans milliards,je n’aime pas ce style de coiffure,J’aime son style dans Homeland ,Life,il est magnifique!Merci Agnès,pour votre trés beau post,moi aussi je suis dans votre tranche d’age,!J’ai perdu ma maman a 8 ans,et heureusement j’ai un mari adorable,qui est un ancien footballeur professionnel!Mes 2 fils sont merveilleux,et ils comprennent mon amour pour Damian!!
    En ce moment je regarde ,a nouveau “Life” et c’est toujours un grand plaisir!Agnès vos phrases décrivent tellement bien le talent de Damian!!Grand,trés grand acteur!
    Merci a vous toutes,a ce blog,qui nous réuni,merci,ce n’est que du bonheur!

    1. Thank you so much, Monique, for your kind words! And, seriously, words cannot describe how much I love our community! Damian Lewis fandom rocks! <3

  10. Wow, Damianista told me to come and read this right away and I have to apologize for not coming sooner. Agnes, yours is truly a remarkable fan story and I’m SO grateful that you shared it with us!

    I have nothing so personal to connect me to Brody, but he was the first of Damian’s incarnations which provided what you so PERFECTLY describe:

    ““Le coup de foudre”, the bolt of lightening, the crack of the whip,the sudden feeling of familiarity, connectedness or even love.”

    Brody’s brokenness was just so palpable from the very beginning. Damian never let us take our eyes off of him. It was the understated way he drew the picture for us, never going overboard with showing the trauma…it was just so perfectly tuned that we couldn’t help but feel it.

    I know you’ve commented before that we should do a post on the role PTSD played in Brody’s life. And I want to do that one day, but I want to be fully prepared, with research on the condition, etc. A project that requires some time and attention. I read a book Damian read to prepare for the role, and some other first person accounts by POWs. Still I don’t feel prepared yet to write it. Maybe a marathon rewatch of Homeland will do the trick.

    He played a psychiatric condition with Keane as well, which was also remarkable in the “truth” it told. That very first Keane GIF you use in the post, i made that one to show how he was tormented…one moment showing hope when he thought he spotted the guy who had taken his daughter, the next moment realizing it was all a delusion, and that he was powerless to know the difference between the two. Just HOW he did that with his face, I’ll never know. And perhaps, Damian himself won’t be able to articulate, but he speaks VOLUMES with his face. And, he uses his body perfectly too. If you ever get to see him on stage, you’ll see this skill in living detail. No motion is wasted, No motion doesn’t communicate something. Very much like a dancer.

    Having watched most of his later work very closely for the past year or however long I’ve been here, I see that he does have a certain collection of expressions that he uses from part to part. The expressions may be the same but it’s like they’re instilled some magical other element that make them read differently with each role. For example, Bobby’s teary eyes are not AT ALL communicating the same things that Brody’s teary eyes did, eventhough they are the SAME teary eyes. Nor did Keane’s little mouth curls and twitches convey any of what Brody’s did. It’s remarkable, really. I could talk about it for days (and have on this blog… and will continue to do so!!).

    I LOVE the questions you ask. He’s said he’s not method…he doesn’t tap into personal experience to inform his craft. So there is very little of Damian himself, the man, the husband, the dad, in his roles. So what does he do? Conjure them up for scratch? Like you say so perfectly:

    “It feels both learned and spontaneous, practiced or just invented, playful or at times serious. He is blessed with a great talent that has been honed by serious study over many years.”

    You ask some really briliant questions, which I would also love to get answers to. Maybe we will some day!!

    1. I watched “An Unfinished Life” last night- for all 5 of Damian’s scenes! Perfect illustration of his physicality. He was loathesome from a distance! His face opens the movie, chastened, sad , begging forgiveness but instantly furiously surly. Danger and impotence in one nasty package. No sign of any of the men we love.

      1. That character is a true asshole. And your note reminds me we need to do a post on “An Unfinished Life” as well!

      2. Yes, that’s one I haven’t seen.

        And you nailed it: He’s done that same hot to cold switch in several roles: Poirot when his character is talking to the ex-girlfriend, Soames, Brody, and Bobby too, to some extent. Yet, no matter how often he’s pulled that switch, it’s always been just different enough to make the role unique. And that skill he has of reinvention has only gotten more honed with every role, as he grows as an actor. 🙂

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