Another “Dark Horse” That Would
Perplex Damian Lewis: Mel’s Story

Hello everyone! Damianista welcomes you to a NEW Fan Story Tuesday!

Today’s story comes from Mel, a relatively recent fan of Damian, and a proud member of our very exclusive “Dark Horse” Club! In case you don’t know what I am talking about, here is Damian providing an explanation at Times Talks London back in 2014 😀

Well, even knowing Damian would not go out with us cannot stop us from loving Soames, would it, Mel? 😀

Big thanks go to Mel for taking the time from her extremely busy schedule (about which you will find out a bit in her story) to write her wonderful fan story for us and for her very kind words about Fan Fun. And we cannot wait to publish her “dark horse” fan fiction soon on the blog. Cheers!

Hello all!

I love Soames.

Yes, I am that “Dark Horse” that perplexes Damian Lewis. But to steal a bit from ye testament of old: “My name is Legion, for we are many.” I promise that’s as biblical as this fan story will get.

source: ITV studios

I can’t tell you when I first watched The Forsyte Saga. Probably a few years after it originally aired because I had never heard of it. It was one of those Netflix nudges, “We think you might like,” blah blah blah, based upon the gazillion BBC Period Dramas I had devoured in the last decade. I’d only just inhaled Daniel Deronda and was yearning for something comparatively gorgeous and salacious. And so, I perused the link, deeming it angst-ridden enough to tempt, and clicked.

All the various nuances of Damian Lewis’ performance have been beautifully discussed (rhapsodized over) here in great detail, so I won’t even try to say something original. Truth be told (sotto voce) I really clicked for Rupert Graves, whom I loved in Maurice and A Room With A View. Pah! Fifteen minutes in and it was RUPERT WHO???

source: ITV studios

I think the most delicious aspect of The Forsyte Saga is any discerning person watching with an open mind, not allowing themselves to be overwhelmed by triggering themes, will end on a moral rollercoaster that is not just scripted or dictated by the framing of the lens. Damian Lewis upsets the balance in that series, certainly if ol’ Galsworthy were to have viewed (whilst whirling in his grave like a dervish.) I believe the author wrote the novels to glorify (exonerate?) Irene, based on the woman Galsworthy married once she’d left her husband. Understandably a goal of the series was to keep Irene from seeming too cold and unapproachable to viewers. Bit of a fail, there, but I don’t think Gina McKee can be faulted. She had some beautiful moments as an actress but no amount of romantic scoring as Irene looks longingly at Bosinney can trump the natural draw to Soames.

source: NYT

There is so much boiling from Soames’ core, exuding in every twitch or narrowed brow or catch in the throat. And of course, the glorious eyes. One can’t help but be captivated. By the time Fleur was born and Soames approached the cradle with an underlying dread of being rejected once more by something he so desperately wanted, I found myself gaping, tears streaming (indeed, as his tears streamed without abandon,) wondering what gods created this man whose earthly embodiment is Damian Lewis? I still hold his Soames as one of the best performances in BBC history. Yes, it even surpasses Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy…but only by a freckled nose.

source: ITV studios

I’ve now watched The Saga many times but must admit I have not explored much else of the Lewis canon. I was never drawn to modern adventure, political intrigue or war fodder. Much more a period film, relationship drama and at times Rom-Com kinda gal. But reading all your reviews I am ready to delve. So…forgive this newbie for her present ignorance but also envy me, because I get to experience Damian for the first time in so many offerings. First up will be Wolf Hall because…well, period film and all that.

source: BBC

As for me, I’m in my 50’s and work in a university theatre department. I get to be around young creative types all day! You can call me Mel or Melissa, just please don’t call me late to rehearsal. Ba-doom-pah! Tish! I used to act a bit but prefer directing. In 2018, I’ll be directing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. I’m terrified! Lol! I live in the southern United States so these aren’t big time venues, but they are important to me and I love the experience. I found this site through Damianista. Like a faltering junkie I had to get another Soames fix last weekend and was prompted to follow the man on Twitter. My fangirl gush was “liked” by this page and wonder of wonders, followed as well. Trust me, I am the worst tweeter in the world so for someone to be so kind as to FOLLOW me was such a compliment. I hopped on the site for a looksie and found intelligent commentary and positive interaction. What a great escape, I thought, and here I am!

I was also drawn to the fan fiction aspect. I love to write and hope you will indulge my Forsyte drabble when I am able to pen it. And I am going to read everything you write as well!

source: ITV studios

Thank you all for including me! I’m having a great time! A hearty MEOW from Soames’ Over Fed Kitten!

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!

7 thoughts on “Another “Dark Horse” That Would
Perplex Damian Lewis: Mel’s Story”

  1. Hello, Mel, it’s nice to meet you! Thanks for your engaging story. Very well done! Wolf Hall is magnificent! Enjoy!
    I met Damian in Homeland. When I was raving to my sister about him, she said “Oh that’s that man from The Forsyte Saga. He was the most interesting character; the other were so namby pamby. “
    Passion. That’s the word for Soames. Repressed, judgmental but vivid! Sweet little Irene marries him under cold hearted terms; impossible for him to keep. She really is never nice to him!
    That being said, I think he would’ve been an impossible husband. He has devotion and bondage all mixed up and his greatest gift, his passion, is a source of shame to him. Probably wild in bed, though (excuse my indiscretion).
    BTW isn’t terror I prerequisite for doing theater? Break a leg with Rosencrantz.
    Isn’t Fanfun a life saver? Nobody here thinks I’m crazy. I look forward to enjoying your input.
    P.S. I never could figure out Twitter maybe because 50 is in my rear view mirror.

  2. Hi!

    Oh, trust me I am not a huge fan of Twitter except to look at the pretty pictures of Damian and classic film stars. Half the time I think I am replying to someone I’m actually only answering myself, lol! I’m a dummyhead!

    My theatre schedule is indeed terrifying in the Spring/Summer. I picked up another job (Picasso at the Lapine Agile) that opens in January then two short plays as part of a collection we are producing at work. R&G doesn’t start rehearsing until May so maybe I will have time to wrap my head around it. It is not an easy show and my insecurities get the adrenalin going. I think (hope) I will survive.

    Since writing this I HAVE seen the first two episodes of Wolf Hall and I have the second disc at home. I am really enjoying it. I have also watched Keane (heartbreaking) and Assassin In Love (The Baker) which I completely fell in love with. It will take me awhile but I’m going to catch up with all ya’ll fans!

    Thank you for replying and I look forward to getting to know you and everyone! I love it here!

  3. What a fantastic fan story!! Color me eagerly looking forward to your fan fics.

    I think you hit on THE aspect of Damian and his abilities that defies the norm of any other acting. And forgive me if I go even further rhapsodic than I already have about Soames. 🙂

    Soames is written to be an impossible ogre, married to his money, capable of love but only as a necessary arm of duty and/or control and/or procreation. He’s positively hateful, especially in light of Irene and Bossiny’s free wheeling modernism. We’re supposed to love their devil may care dancing prancing hippie-ness. Soames is old world with new money, which happens to be the ugliest form of old world. Like a carpetbagger in post Civil War US. Who could possibly sympathize with such a character?

    Damian took the story given him and ran miles with it. It’s not as if he made Soames any more likeable than he is on the written page, but he did succeed in making him infinitely more recognizable as a real human being and therefore infinitely more sympathetic. THAT is the very skill Damian brings to pretty much every single character he’s played. He plays men who are scarred, damaged, ugly, and it’s like he shines a flashlight into their core and brings that core out to the front for all of us to see and be enraptured by. I don’t mean to imply that he ignores the script and irreverently does his own thing. It’s clear he respects the word on the page, yet he LIVES within those words in a way that defies their inherent limitations. Put in a mathematical formula: Damian is the delta between reading and living. (how’s that for rhapsody, haha)

    Love your words here: “will end on a moral rollercoaster that is not just scripted or dictated by the framing of the lens” Damian does it on purpose, I swear. He doesn’t let the script or the lens limit his reading and embodying of a character. He doesn’t veer away from the script, again, it’s not that he’s disrespectful of the writing or canonical reading, but he somehow re-imagines, re-inhabits it in a way that renders it truer than it was before he touched it.

    “what gods created this man whose earthly embodiment is Damian Lewis” Indeed! Quite generous gods it seems!!

    “Yes, it even surpasses Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy…but only by a freckled nose.” Apples and oranges, I think. Colin Firth had smoke and steam coming off of his body as Mr. Darcy….he didn’t just play that role, he seethed it. Damian does his fair share of seething. But he does it often in the absence of text or lens to support the seething, catching you by surprise every single time.

  4. Always a pleasure to meet yet another “dark horse” — so happy to know you Mel, thanks so much for this lovely story and I am so looking forward to publishing your fan fiction here very soon.

    The way you talk about Soames absolutely resonates with me. Galsworthy has a foreword in the edition of the Forsyte Saga that I have, and he talks about the letters he received after the book was out, and he cannot believe the people that have sympathy for Soames. I think, even though he really wants to have his readers see the guy as an evil (and I agree the character should be based on the husband Galsworthy’s wife left for him!) many people did not see him as evil particularly in that time and age. I wonder, in fact, whether people in 1930s took the rape as rape since they were married and the times were different. Because it is rape and unacceptable. Having said that, looking at the big picture, I cannot help sympathize with the man even in this time and age since Irene married him and then never gave him a chance.

    That’s what Damian says about his choices about portraying Soames: “We didn’t want a simple villain in Soames. I think it’s more challenging for the audience if they’re presented with a character they hate but also feel sympathy for, who presents them with moral questions and has them thinking, God, I feel so sorry for Soames, but he just raped his wife! That’s far more interesting.”

    I cannot agree with him more.

  5. Hi JaniaJania!

    I am wriggling in my seat in anticipation to see what everyone thinks of my first chapter. It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote it so I need to look it over again. The Turn of the Century is my favorite timeframe to write.

    A few chapters into the book and maybe I’m just not able to separate the series because I STILL love Soames! James Forsyte, too, truth be told. I can detect a tongue-in-cheek “bless their hearts” tone in Galsworthy, but there is such a gentleness to his satire I can’t help empathizing. I am not yet to the point where Soames just point-blank asks, “What is wrong with me?” I am interested in how Galsworthy pulls that off because in the 1967 series Soames’ line of questioning is much more in depth. The actor Eric Porter, intense in his own right, rolls off a series of pleading inquiries where the 2002 Soames encapsulates into one line, and Damian telegraphs the rest with his eyes. Gotta say I love both! I can’t believe, with my love for Victorian literature, I had never read The Forstye Saga before now!

    And yes, it baffles me why I do NOT sympathize more with the artistic characters! I applaud Galsworthy for giving them a hefty share of faults. That’s why I feel so many viewers miss the genius at work. They want to put people in safe good character/bad character boxes. That is easily done by a mediocre actor or less than stellar writer. But when you have the likes of Damian Lewis and his supporting cast (Amanda Root, for example, and fantastic Ben Miles as her Dartie) you are not going to get the run of the mill. Like you say, Lewis unearths all the little contradictions and embodies them. He displays rampant contrast often without even raising his tone. When his characters ache, we ache and that’s about the best job an actor can do!

    Heheh, loved your last bit about Firth’s Darcy being openly seething, whereas Damian is more “Surprise! You’ve been seethed!” I do love both actors very much. Firth’s Darcy was all about those big brown eyes betraying a carefully guarded formality. Damian as Soames often just made me go “What thuh…?” because his choices constantly capitulated between the subtle and achingly forthright. He took a very modern style of acting and had the character, in this case Soames, subdue it. He always finds the right balance. Where I’ve sometimes been turned off by actors trying to present period pieces in hip ways, Lewis makes his characters accessible without dumbing down the experience. It’s amazing to watch!


    Yes! It continues to interest me the choices Galsworthy made vs how Soames was ultimately perceived! And Damian just drove that puppy on home! The rape is such a sensitive subject that viewers often fixate on the deed, conveniently forgetting the factors leading up to. Of course, there is never justification for rape, but in both series Irene outwardly rubs her infidelity in Soame’s face. She simply does not care. Even during the rape it is obvious she has so emasculated her husband that he says, “Pretend that it’s him,” or something to that effect. I mean, that is really pathetic. Soames was a Victorian man raised to expect a certain deference. Instead he was habitually rejected. That night he had been drinking. All elements collided to make one tragic event that even Irene later admits was partially instigated by her inability to love him or fulfill wifely duties. Does not excuse the act by any means but it certainly sparks debate and that is part of why I love this story, and Lewis’s Soames so much!

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