Dad is a word which can evoke a minefield of emotions simply because the word is personal to each of us and our personal circumstances will affect whether the word evokes positive or negative emotions.
Being a Dad (in real life) can be all kinds of difficult and rewarding. With Father’s Day approaching we take a look at Damian Lewis as an onscreen Dad.
“Love is the strongest power there is.” – J.K. Rowling
Probably because I lost my dad at a very young age, I am a true sucker for loving father-daughter relationships in fiction. So here goes a few of my favorite moments with Damian Lewis as an onscreen dad. Even though the characters in each relationship are quite different, there is an overarching theme: A lost soul who finds meaning in life through his love for his daughter.
Brody and Jess love story is over way before Brody returns home. Jess is in love with Mike even though she tries her best to start all over again with Brody. Chris, as much as happy to have dad back, is used to Brody’s absence since he was a baby when his dad left for war. Brody does not know his son, and seeing how close he is to Mike, does not seem to try his best to get to know him, either. So it is mostly Dana, his daughter, that connects Brody to family. I know Dana has never been popular with Homeland viewers but I love this independent, open-minded, headstrong young woman who LOVES and NEEDS her dad. She genuinely tries to understand the lost soul that Brody is.
Dana is the one who does not want to believe, but in fact believes, Carrie when she comes to tell Brody is about to do something really bad. And it is Dana’s LOVE for his dad and Brody’s LOVE for her that stops the suicide mission:
“I’m coming home, Dana.”
Dana is not biased about the “other.” She is perceptive. Curious. Unlike her mother, she is ready to accept Brody’s new faith because it may help heal his deep wounds. Dana helping Brody burying the Quran desecrated when thrown on the floor by Jess is a poetic storytelling attesting to the unbreakable bond between the two of them. And, much later, after her dad “bombed the CIA” Dana trying Brody’s prayer rug to see if it has any magical powers to heal her wounds is one of the most heart-breaking scenes in the entire series.
Soames Forsyte is another lost soul after his beloved Irene leaves him. He marries again though not because he is madly in love with Annette but because he wants a male heir. And he is not exactly over the moon when the doctor tells him His wife has just given birth to a baby girl… well, until he meets his daughter… Little Fleur makes her magic and lets her dad FALL IN LOVE with her the moment he meets her. I just can’t help shed a few tears each time I see the emotion and love Damian pours into the scene where Soames takes baby Fleur into his arms for the first time.
His daughter makes Soames a better man. He is not obsessed with her. He is protective but not possessive. There is nothing he cannot do for Fleur — including swallowing his pride to go talk with Irene and Jolyon about their kids falling in love. Soames, the man of duty, even tells Fleur, on her wedding day, that it is still not too late should she not want to marry. And he shares his ultimate secret only with her. As much as Fleur comes across as a spoiled brat; well, she is ONE, she is still her father’s best friend and number one reason to live for.
William Keane is a lost soul, too, but in a completely different way from the other two: We don’t even know if he has ever been a father. Keane has serious mental problems and seems to be living on disability benefits. It remains a mystery to us if a real tragedy like the abduction of his child brought him to the edge or if existing mental issues brought him the delusion of an abducted daughter.
A seemingly ordinary scene turning into an extraordinary one in the hands of two incredible actors makes me believe the former. Keane helps Kira (a brilliant Abigail Breslin), a girl who stays, with her mom, in the same cheap hotel Keane stays, with her math homework. The affection and patience Keane has with Kira is beyond heartwarming. It is the kind of love and patience combination I observe in people once they become parents (I know I do not have that combination!) and it makes me believe Keane had a daughter whom he loved and lost. But regardless of the truth, Kira’s presence makes this desperate man connect to life through love.
Parenthood. A topic that many a show has tackled from the dawn of TV. In fact, a lot of the first TV shows were about family life, right? Windows into our living rooms, showing us ourselves. Fatherhood is a topic that’s been dealt with in its own myriad ways. There are awful fathers and loving ones, absent ones and clueless ones. Damian says he doesn’t use The Method in his work, ie he doesn’t play a part by recalling his own real life experiences the way Method actors do in order to play it truthfully. Instead, his process is to inform himself as fully as possible of all the details, then allow himself to be fully present in whatever is written on the page for him to play. Something tells me that Damian has the skill set to play a father effectively regardless of whether he’d ever become one in real life. (Look at Brie Larson in Room and you can see what a full picture of the fierceness of motherhood can be conveyed by a capable actor, regardless of never having had the experience herself) And, so, Damian is lucky to have played roles where he gets to be a father on screen. Here’s my list of top Damian-playing-Dad moments.
Bobby Axelrod is not the best dad, but we know for a fact he loves his kids deeply. He talks American history and Yankee stats with them, lets them have ice cream on school nights, and reads them Harry Potter at bed time. He won’t hesitate a second to march over in wet swim trunks to kick the ass of the louse who drove them home drunk in “The Punch.” There are so many unknowns about Bobby, especially about his history, but it does seem to ring true that he got married and built a family purposefully, with every intention of giving them all the best life has to offer. And a major part of the gift he wants to give them is freedom, to be who they want to be without compromise, and to have what they want without ever having to scratch and claw like he had to growing up. Sadly, this may mean spoiling them rotten. Bobby will do anything for his kids, and that may be one of his biggest problems.
It’s still so difficult to talk about Nicholas Brody without getting morose. What a perfectly tragic figure he was, not least of which in the role of father to two kids who never really got to know him at all. When he came home, he had nothing left to give to anyone, yet, despite himself, he was bound by an irreversible love for his kids. A love that he tried to replicate, when he was away, with Issa. That same fatherly love perverted and eventually used against him to win him over to the dark side when Issa died. Brody as father is shown by the way he sinks his face into Chris’s hair when they first embrace. Then, later, no one has the power to interrupt the course Brody is on, however briefly, except Dana. She’s the only one who can stop him from exploding the vest. He wanted to die, he needed it. But that little flicker still alive in him needed to live for his kids. What a powerful depiction of the sheer force of parental love.
Now for Soames Forsyte, another tortured soul. He could never quite get it right, could he? What he did get absolutely right was his love for his daughter. It took hold of him like nothing else he’d ever felt. Even as he was a bit angry that he hadn’t had a son and wary of meeting her, wary of being responsible now for a girl, the weaker sex, another one of the tribe who were such a perplexing mystery to him, who had such power over his heart, despite all that, Soames was won over at first glance. What a sweeping rush of emotion we feel as we see Soames’s tears when he first lays eyes on his Fleur. He’s in love and will be for the rest of his life.
The relationship between Brody and Dana was very important to the award winning season 1 of Homeland.
During season 3 when Morgan Saylor (playing onscreen daughter, Dana) was filming a love scene ‘Daddy’ was not happy. I like to think he growled at the poor lad playing Dana’s boyfriend. Damian’s need to be protective of Morgan is very cute and likely stems from the fact that he is a father.
When the decision was made to keep Brody alive at the end of season 1, there could only be one character who could talk him down. Dana remembered her Dad before his capture and imprisonment. She displayed an open mindedness that helped Brody and her bond again.
When Dana finally got to speak to her Dad on the phone in Marine 1, he had just failed to set the bomb off at the first attempt and was gearing up for attempt number two. Her emotional plea for him to come home would have been heart wrenching anyway but it coming after we (and he) know he should already be dead made it especially so. This is his little girl who has gone out of her way to help him assimilate back into ‘normal life’. She could be a little shit no doubt – what teenagers don’t manage that at some point? – but when it really mattered Dana Brody could be responsible, mature and she loved her Dad unconditionally.
Brody’s shaky assurance that he would be home was a voice crackling with many emotions among them shame of what he almost did to his daughter. Playing Brody must have been extremely exhausting given all the character went through and did, but it makes me wonder about how difficult it was to play Brody from the POV of being a Dad given the dire effect Brody’s actions had on his family in every way.
It is hard to be King, it is hard to be a Dad and in Wolf Hall we get the view of a man we know is a father rather than proactively showing him as one. The King is obsessed with a son, but more for the line of succession than to be a loving Dad. That obsession rules his every thought and action with little consideration for the children he has and the effect those decisions will have on them. KingDad has two daughters, one of which is ignored as much as possible (Mary) and the other (Elizabeth, future Queen) sees a little more interaction from Dad. If you were to see a still from the scene of Henry with Elizabeth you may be forgiven for thinking “loving father”. The reality is that scene shows a dangerous father. Kudos to Damian for managing to make the word ‘dumpling’ sound like an insult and a threat. Dad has a little affection for his little dumpling, but would have infinitely more for the son who is yet to grace the world with his presence.
In Billions, Bobby Axelrod is a far better father than Brody or Henry. Bobby Axelrod loves his sons.
They are clearly well looked after and loved (think ‘the Punch’), but they are already in the dangerous world of “spoilt little brats” and Dad has to take a fair chunk of the blame for that. His constant undermining of mom does neither of them any good at all. Mom is very right to be worried about their ability (or lack thereof) to stand on their own two feet. Not least because Dad’s worst habit is his inconsideration of how his actions will impact his sons in the future. Bobby Axelrod surely cannot be so arrogant as to assume he is the only person allowed ‘revenge’ nor so stupid as to believe he is the only one who would seek it. He spends two seasons gaining enemies and that is just the ones we see. It is true he cannot change what he did before he was a Dad, but he has been a Dad for a while now and he needs to think more carefully about the example he sets and what he teaches his sons. Pampering them far too much now will only make it worse for them later in life. Bobby is all about assessing risk, but this is his family and he should be taking no risks in that regard.
This post was originally published on 06/17/2016.