Damian Lewis as an Onscreen Dad

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.

Damianista

“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.

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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.

source: Showtime

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.”

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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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.

source: ITV studios
source: ITV studios

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.

Jania Jania

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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.

source: BBC

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.

source: BBC

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.

12 thoughts on “Damian Lewis as an Onscreen Dad”

  1. Great entry Damianista! It got me to thinking how often Damian has played a dad, even if that aspect of a character seemed less important. Of course he was one in Romeo and Juliet. There was a reference to his kids in Dreamcatcher, just at the beginning. In Chromophobia, there was very little interaction with the son, likewise with the daughter in Stolen, although as his character in that piece having a child may well have influenced his concern for children. His son was very present in Hearts and Bones, and in contrast, the child in Warriors seemed more important before it was born. While his role in Will was much too short to suit me, it was obviously integral to the plot. Then there was Friends and Crocodiles. Egads! Did anyone ever figure out who the mothers of all those children were? What am I missing? Guess I’ll just have to go back and review my Damian library just to be sure. It sounds like a good excuse to do so to me!!!

    1. Thank you, Connie! You give a very comprehensive list here. And you also remind me how much work there is out there that we still need to talk about here on the blog. Over the “almost” 2.5 years we have been around, we have looked at some of Damian’s previous work — it seems we REALLY focused on stage work more than screen work but we really need to cover most of the work you talk about here — Dreamcatcher, Chromophobia, and one of my favorites, Warriors!

      1. Well you certainly also focused on Damian’s TV work. I am wondering how many members here have seen him on stag?. I would wager very few among the Americans, unless someone was fortunate enough to have seen him the once on Broadway years ago. Several ladies I know did make the trip to London to see Five Gold Rings and others for his more recent stage work. Unhappily, the films he had released seldom were shown near me; I saw only Dreamcatcher and An Unfinished Life on the big screen. So, all I can say is, “Thank goodness for DVDs!” To my knowledge, Warriors was aired on TV here in the States only once. It was billed as Peacekeepers I think and that was September 2001. I didn’t see it then, but had access to it from a friend later. I don’t believe the DVD was ever made to play in the US, different format than in the UK.

        1. I have no idea how many of our readers have seen Damian on stage but, in general, only the lucky few can see any actor on stage. It is about budget, it is about geography, it is about time. That is why, as much as live theater is my favorite art form, I find it a bit less democratic than TV and film since everyone does not have easy access to it. But even with film, as you say, the kind of movies Damian makes — small budget, independent movies are mainly shown in independent movie theaters and mostly in big cities where there is slightly more demand for them. So you are absolutely right saying thank goodness for DVDs!

          I have the Warriors DVD from Netherlands, I think. We have an all-region DVD player at home so it works! 🙂 It is available on Amazon.

          1. I never bothered to buy an all region DVD player since there didn’t seem to be many items that I wanted that wouldn’t work with our format. I have often wondered why Warriors was not shown again here, perhaps it was thought the theme would not set well so soon after 9/11. Then there was The Situation, which was very relevant to its time and that was also not aired that I know of.

          2. I think The Situation was a movie that directly went to DVD — not that I knew about it when it was done. And it is yet another one we need to re-visit. Summer could be a good time to re-visit some of the older work!

  2. I enjoyed this post very much. I myself never had a father; it really is a disadvantage. I appreciate that you stood up for Dana. I like her and Morgan Saylor was excellent in the part. It’s no news flash that teens can be difficult but to be thrown into chaos of that magnitude….. Some folks are hard on her (and Jess as well) but they have my compassion.
    I just picked the Forsyte Saga from the library this morning so we’ll see about this Soames guy. Will I be a dark horse??

    1. Thank you so much, Lina!

      I had a father only until I was eight years old and I was completely a daddy’s girl to an extent that I do not remember my mom from the first eight years of my life. That is probably why I am a sucker for loving dad and daughter relationships. Viewers did not like Dana but as you say she was portrayed quite realistically as a rebellious teenager. Besides, she loved her dad and probably was the only one in the family that sort of understood him.

      You will LOVE Forsyte Saga! We are looking forward to hearing your thoughts!!! <3

  3. i really enjoyed this post as well. I do have my father, age 93, but our relationship as I grew up and beyond has been very poor. I have problems understanding father-daughter relationships that are unconditional such as Brody and Dana in Homeland. I become angry at Dana for being so harsh as Brody leaves for his last mission. To me, she has no right to treat anyone so badly.
    Fathers Day is here and I will make the required call because I feel like I have to.

    1. My Dad passed many years ago, 44 years to be exact, and he would be well over 100 were he alive today. There are so many things I wish he had lived to see, mostly my children growing up and then making him a great-grandfather but it was not to be. However, these days, Father’s Day affects me the most because my husband, father of my 3 great daughters, has been gone over 3 years and the pain is the same as the day he died. When looking at photos of Damian and his family, I am hoping his kids’ grandparents, from his side and Helen’s, have opportunity to be active in the children’s lives. It is a wonderful part of life.

      1. I cannot agree more about how special grandparents are in a child’s life. I had a mom with a full day job and so I stayed with my paternal grandparents during the day when I was a little kid. Those years gave me some of my most precious memories that I remember vividly and lovingly. I hope, too, that Damian and Helen’s kids spend some good times with their grandparents.

    2. Thank you! I lost my dad when I was eight and I am missing him now much more than I missed him growing up. Hearing all the good stuff about him from my mom and relatives makes me, as an adult, feel sad I never really had the chance to know him.

      I think Dana is a typical teenager but still ahead of her years. She is the only one that genuinely tries to understand her father. I think she is right being so harsh at Brody because she now believes that (and how can she not knowing that her dad once wore the suicide vest?) he bombed the CIA.

      Hope you had a good conversation with your father. <3

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