We are extremely thrilled Damian has received BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Award for Excellence in TV last night. While we have all the news, pictures, and videos from the ceremony on damian-lewis.com, we have a FUN walk down the memory lane here on Fan Fun, celebrating Damian’s brilliant TV career, all the way from his early TV roles in popular British series to the iconic Dick Winters, Nicholas Brody and Bobby Axelrod.
The Britannia Award for Excellence in Television “recognizes inspiring individuals whose extraordinary talent and global appeal have been instrumental in the elevation of the medium of television” and here is what the BAFTA Los Angeles Chairman Kieran Breen says about Damian’s contribution to the medium.
“Damian’s ability to completely transform himself into iconic characters on screen ranging from King Henry VIII to Bobby Axelrod is a testament to his genius. With his unforgettable performances he consistently draws audiences in and takes us on a gripping journey deep into the human psyche. We are delighted to celebrate his achievements and honor him with the Britannia Award for Excellence in Television at this year’s ceremony.”
But did you know how our favorite actor started his TV career?
While he mainly focused on stage work in his 20s, as a fresh graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Damian played a few episode-length roles in popular British series like Touch of Frost and Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
And you should really see him talk about his early TV roles at Times Talks London in May 2014 😀
Damian shares in a recent interview with Rake Magazine how, as he was performing the Royal Shakespeare Company, he started to get curious about this NEW world that he did not know much about: SCREEN.
I had no notion, ironically, of being in television, American television. The T.V. we watched at home growing up was CHiPs, The Dukes of Hazzard, and M*A*S*H. But it seemed like it was a foreign world and was nothing to do with my experience. I really wanted and loved theatre. My father really was the instigator: he took us to loads of theatre, and that was what I aspired to.
I think what then happened was quite interesting; there were friends around me, contemporaries, people just ahead of me, who were suddenly making movies or T.V. shows on rather a grand scale, and I suppose it piqued my curiosity. A friend called, [was] like, ‘I just made a movie in Jamaica!’, and I was like, ‘Well, what was it?’ ‘It was for a studio for Warner Brothers.’ I was steeped in theatre and the idea of theatre. It became sort of important to me that I too could have an experience of that, as it was so exciting and new and it was nothing I knew about.”
Damian’s first lead role in TV comes in the BBC miniseries Warriors, a drama about the UN Peacekeeping efforts during the Yugoslavian civil war, directed by someone we know quite well: Peter Kosminsky!
Damian tells in his New Yorker profile:
“I walked in there with my hair down to my shoulders, having been for several years, you know, shouting onstage doing Shakespeare. I initially felt intimidated by the camera and uncertain what to do in front of it. I remember saying to Peter, ‘You’ll look after me, won’t you? You’ll be strict with me?’ ”
He remembers a sense of relief that a serious director cast him in a serious BBC drama:
“I sent a huge bunch of flowers to my agent from the relief. Because I got the sense that maybe I was going to be just too sort of expansive, too big or too red to be on telly or be in the movies.”
And could it be more lovely that, according to BroadwayWorld.com, Damian has received his Britannia from his fellow BAFTA TV award winning actor and Warriors cast mate Matthew Macfadyen!
As Hearts & Bones, a BBC ensemble drama series in which Damian plays the school teacher Mark Rose whose marriage is falling apart, follows Warriors, Damian, in his own words, is still just another pale Englishman doing lots of auditions in a damp basement in Soho. So Band of Brothers is no exception.
Damian gets called back for the role of Dick Winters four or five times, and he finally gets a call from the producer. He shares in a fun diary he wrote for Daily Mail at the time:
“So Damian, how would you like to fly to LA on Thursday and meet Steven and Tom?’ says Tony To, who’s running the audition. My heart misses a beat. My pulse quickened. This is definitely a Hollywood moment. In Soho.
‘I’ll have to call my Granny to rearrange lunch.’
They all laugh. It doesn’t occur to them I might actually have to do this. Or, more probably, they don’t care, and the Hollywood machine whirrs into action around me. Flights, hotels and limos are booked, right there in the room. I sit down. I still have to get on my motorbike and I’m breathing way too fast to ride it in a straight line.”
And the rest is history! Damian gets to meet Spielberg and Hanks, they give him the role, and kisses everybody in the room! 😀 But you should really read his longer and very hilarious version of how he becomes Dick Winters here, a role that he sees not only as a “life-changing” experience but also one that he feels enormous responsibility about. Damian shares in an interview with L.A. Times:
“Some jobs are just gigs, but some jobs have the ability to be life-changing,” he notes. “They just alter you in some small way. ‘Band of Brothers’ was definitely one of those.”
“I felt tremendous responsibility. Tom Hanks said, when we were all training in boot camp for the two weeks beforehand, ‘Think of this not really as a piece of drama but as a social document.’ We tried to re-create a truth with such precision that we really felt like we were making a documentary. I’d met Winters and I knew he was this great hero. He was a very still man who let his actions speak louder than his words. I remember saying to Tom and Steven [Spielberg], ‘I think we want to create some kind of arc. He can’t just be absolutely certain of everything he does, unflinching and perfect from the get go.’ I wanted to try and paint a little uncertainty and trepidation in this guy. And then he grew and became the great leader we know. He was a remarkable man.”
Can you imagine the thrill a 28 year old young actor feels when he lives his BIG Hollywood moment? I cannot help wonder who he called first to give the big news!
There is no question playing Dick Winters in Band of Brothers gives Damian an international status as an actor and gives a head start to “American” Damian Lewis as we know it 🙂 And as he moves quickly from hero to anti-hero, and from the constipated Soames Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga to the quirky Charlie Crews in Life to the ruthless Bobby Axelrod in Billions, Damian delights, entices and intrigues the audiences with highly complex and massively flawed characters that cannot be more different from each other. Damian tells Rake Magazine:
“Sometimes I think it’s a bit of an accident that I’ve fallen into that type of role but I really enjoy watching people who are compromised in life, through desperation or a fault of their own.”
So, what does Damian think about these compromised characters he has brought to life on TV for more than a decade and a half?
Soames Forsyte, 2002:
“He’s fastidious, smug, and conceited. But he’s also a person capable of love, though unfortunately unable to express it in a satisfactory way, especially to a young woman. He understands life in terms of contracts, property, and duty. And if any of those things is threatened, he falls apart. He can be cruel and small-minded, but that’s often generated by this repressed passion that he’s unable to express fully, or successfully, or healthily…
…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.”
Nicholas McGrade, 2005
“I don’t consider him a bad or evil person. He just behaves appallingly in order to get the prize. He’s a working class boy with a huge chip on his shoulder. The dynamics are similar to Soames Forsyte, who also behaves terribly. And yet there were a lot of women who fell in love with Soames and thought he was hard done by. How do you explain that? That British women are a little bit kinky? I don’t know.”
Charlie Crews, 2007-2009
“I play a cop who is exonerated after spending 12 years in prison for a triple murder. He has discovered the way of Zen in prison and much of the comedy comes from the fact that he’s not very good at it; he likes his fast car and he’s not averse to the odd bubblegum blonde.”
Nicholas Brody, 2011 – 2013
“It gave me an attention that was more aggressive than I’d ever had before. But I don’t know if it changed my career. It was fun and at times daunting to be in an immediate and surprising hit. But was everything offered to me afterwards? Not necessarily, because people felt very uneasy with Brody. The way in which to cast me after that didn’t immediately reveal itself to people. But I thought they did a great job with [his] ending. They had wanted to kill me at the end of season two. And then the show became such a hit and Claire [Danes] and I enjoyed working together so much, and people seemed to enjoy Brody and Carrie together, so they wanted a little bit more of us. I think people were happy with the end of season three. It was, I thought, incredibly moving and memorable.”
Now, I do not know whether Damian has his favorite character or he loves them all the same like they are his children. But I am a fan who has the luxury to have her own pick! So… I need to say a few words about Brody!
I said it before and will say it again that I was a regular woman attending to her own thing UNTIL that red-headed US Marine/POW came along unexpectedly and turned everything upside down! I loved his “otherness”, his isolation, his confusion, his vulnerability, his pain, his faith, his survival, his love for his daughter, and the chemistry between him and Carrie. I just wanted to cuddle him and tell him everything was going to be alright. There would have been no Fan Fun with Damian Lewis should have been no Brody.
Since I have the capacity go on and on and on about Brody, I will now shut up and leave it to Homeland writers and creators to articulate what has fascinated me about the character and ultimately inspired me to launch this blog almost four years ago to celebrate Damian Lewis and his brilliant work every day!
“Brody easily shifts from one life to the next — he’s a chameleon. Damian will choose moments to show this other side of Brody.” (Matt Hurwitz. 2014. Homeland Revealed. Chronicle Books. Page 19)
Well, Chip, no wonder the first theatre company Damian formed with friends at Eton was called The Chameleons! 😀
“In one scene, you can see him play the victim, and the terrorist, one after the other. That’s Damian’s gift, doing that without words. You can see the switch turn.” (Matt Hurwitz. 2014. Homeland Revealed. Chronicle Books. Page 19)
Howard Gordon in an interview with The Guardian:
“Because Brody is such a cipher people didn’t know quite who he was and had lots of different ideas about what he might look like and how he might act. [Damian] just did it brilliantly.”
Oh, and I am back with a question: Who are these people that were happy with end of Season 3?!?! And, no, Damian, no, I will never watch THAT scene! 😀
Henry VIII, 2015
“There’s no living record of Henry VIII, so it was just about being as true to [author] Hilary Mantel’s version of him as possible. He was a brilliant yet insecure, boyish man with a short attention span. He was very impressionable and didn’t really enjoy the minutiae of governing. He’s a fascinating character. I was helped enormously by the brilliant costumes, and we borrowed heavily from the Holbein paintings. I used those as my starting point. We had a very specific, particular take on him.”
Bobby Axelrod, 2016 – Present
“What attracted me to Bobby Axelrod was to get to play a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants and see where that takes him personally. To find out, during the course of the show, how corrupting that is on a man who is prepared to cross one line after another. What does it do to one’s soul? I saw that as potentially where it was going. And it’s enormous fun. He’s a form of gangster and it’s fun playing that kind of guy.”
Kenneth Rea, a senior acting teacher at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for almost 40 years, has published a book “The Outstanding Actor” with a foreword by one of his star students, Damian Lewis, in which he tells about why some actors just stand out. In an interview with the New Zealand Herald, Mr. Rea talks about Damian’s Hollywood experience:
“When Damian [Lewis] was working with Tom Hanks on Band of Brothers, he asked him about the roles he takes. Tom said he had a brand to maintain, the little American who struggles against adversity and comes out on top in the end. If he departs from that, his fans won’t follow him. Damian thought that was quite sad, a great star having to protect a brand. That’s one of the downsides of success; it can brand you. On the other hand, if you take risks, if you’re unpredictable, you can do pretty much anything.”
I have so much respect for Tom Hanks, and I applaud him for speaking very openly to a young actor about how the business works. But I find it quite sad, too. You know what this kind of “branding” does to an actor, right? The movie title changes, the character’s name changes, but the actor is always playing almost the same role. And the studios are like… “Oh, we need a president… Call X”. “We need a guy who will take revenge from the guys who killed his wife… Call Y.” “We need a corrupt cop… Call Z.”
In a world dominated by “brands” it is so refreshing to see an actor like Damian, someone who keeps away from this almost inevitable trap, and chooses to play such a wide range of characters with an incredible range of emotions! I would call THIS a true brand. And Damian’s words at the SAG-AFTRA interview in 2016 make me fall for his “small head” all over again 😀
“There seems to be a distinction between actors and film stars here [US]. A film star can be a brilliant actor. There are some film stars who are brilliant actors, and they are lucky they get to be both. And then there are some film stars whose bandwidth is less broad and what they have perfected is a persona. And it’s that persona, that film persona, is what they project so successfully. And, in fact, I have had producers say to me “before you choose your persona, what is your film persona? And what would you then project in order to be that film star?” And that is way too complicated for my small head to grapple with.”
Heartfelt congratulations, Damian, for the well-deserved Britannia! And THANK YOU for making us the fans we are, sometimes “frolicking” sometimes “fanning” and sometimes “forensic.” THANK YOU for the inspiration you provide that keeps us going and going. We are honored to hear you saying “I read you” — believe me, you could not make us happier if you said “I love you.” And I know you will not, but please do not let that small head of yours get bigger. THANK YOU for being YOU.
You can see Damian’s gracious and hilarious speech in its entirety here.
25 thoughts on “Celebrating Britannia Awards: Damian Lewis MEANS Excellence in Television”
Lovely post to walk down memory lane. Definitely inspired me! After I discovered Damian’s work, the one true constant I noticed (and the rest of the world I’m sure) was how versatile that little ginger chameleon could be. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that boy can act his ass off!
Thank you for reading several drafts and the final version and for your kind words. Damian’s versatility is mind-blowing and inspiring enough to make us all sit down and write love letters to the actor and the characters he brings to life every day 😀
Well I’m all signed up!
Yes! Looking forward to it!
What an extraordinary treat at least 20 minutes of tributes to, scenes of, and a speech by the fabulous Damian Lewis! The Ginger Mandela 🙂 My heart stood still watching pieces of the many roles he’s played; roles that made me smile, made me scared and broke my heart. I was so proud hearing the tributes of his colleagues. He belongs to us and we to him. Bravo Damian! Excuse me; I’m going to watch again.
Oh it’s definitely worth watching many many many times. I loved the shout outs from colleagues and I had tears in my eyes when he thanked his beautiful mom. It made a difference that Matthew Macfadyen, a friend for 20 years, introduced him, and of course Damian did give the most hilarious and gracious speech. And his Michael Kaine was phenomenal! BRAVO indeed!
I love every bit of this man, especially enjoyed his speech and the anecdotes he told about his beginning. I think reveals a very down to earth Damian that does not miss to reckon the effort that took him to be where he is, but more importantly to thank all those with who he has shared and shares his professional path. A tear went down my cheeks while he mentioned his mother.
Cheers to Damian and for many more successes in his path!! 😉
(it’s kind of strange that my comment appears as anonymous feels like a hacker aka!!! Just kidding. It was my comment forgot to put my name )
ich geh absolut mit Euch allen einig. Die Dankesrede von Ihm ist nicht nur geistreich, liebenswürdig, lustig und sowas von sympathisch, sie macht einem auch wieder einmal auf deutlichste Weise klar, was man an diesem Menschen so toll findet. Er nimmt einen komplett mit. Seine gelebte Einfachheit in diesem anspruchsvollen Rahmen ist phänomenal. Er ist brillant. Ich freue mich für ihn und wünsche ihm noch viele solcher Erfolge und Bestätigungen für sein Können.
Es grüßt Euch ganz herzlich Lucky Fellow aus Deutschland!
I agree with you all. The thank-you speech from him is not only witty, amiable, funny and so on of sympathetic, it also makes clear once again in the clearest way, what is so great about this man. He takes one completely. His lived simplicity in this sophisticated setting is phenomenal. He is brilliant. I am happy for him and wish him many more such successes and confirmations for his skills.
Greetings from you Lucky Fellow from Germany!
Thanks so much for reading my dear Lucky Fellow, and for your constant support! It was a real wonderful evening for Damian and his fans, too, what a lovely way to have him back on our screens and walk down the memory lane with his most memorable roles, shout outs from colleagues, and of course his hilarious and gracious and moving speech. Sending love your way!
Many, many thanks to Damianista and the rest of the staff for capturing every moment of Damian at that awards ceremony. I didn’t bother to join Britbox (or whatever it was) since I knew you would access it and get it on here for the rest of us to enjoy. I’ve only watched his speech 3 times, so I guess I could tolerate another time or two….! What a lovely way to break up this absolutely horrible ginger drought; alas, so many months until season 4 of Billions.
MANY MANY thanks for your trust in us, Connie!!!! Oh yes it was a wonderful way to have Damian back on screen and his segment – from start to finish – was the best in the ceremony. I think it made a difference that Matthew Macfadyen, a fellow actor that Damian has been friends with for 20 years, introduced him, and Damian conquered the stage with a hilarious and gracious speech. I had tears in my eyes when he thanked his beautiful mom. On the Billions front, Koppelman tweeted today that they are almost done with Episode 4 but yeah we we still have a long wait – my guess would be late March or early April for Season 4. Again, thanks so much for reading and for your constant support. It means the world to us!
I forgot to ask this. Did anyone else find it odd that during Damian’s speech the camera cut several times to a woman in the audience who was apparently sitting with his group? Perhaps it was assumed that woman was Helen, If so, the cameraman could not have been a Brit, he would have known what Helen looks like.
Yes, I noticed that. I think Damian arrived with her because she was also on the red carpet with him and appeared in the background during Damian’s red carpet interviews, too. Since his US agent was at the table with Damian (I know him since Damian introduced me to him after Times Talks in NY) so I thought she could be one of his UK agents but I am not positive.
I certainly noticed the mystery woman. I looked closely to be sure it was not Helen as she sometimes wears her specs. My assumption was the crew mistook her for his wife. However unlikely it seems it’s the most likely answer to me.
Weren’t Danesy’s clips lovely? Homeland without Damian was a real loss. When she won the SAG Award in 2013 the love between her and Damian was very apparent. I don’t mean romantic but love nonetheless. I completely understand.
I agree that the cameraman had no idea so focused on the one woman at the table 🙂 Good for her, she had her 15 minutes of fame if she is not famous already (I don’t know her) 😀
Famous for not being famous?
Ok I watched Damian’s speech again and then did a bit of research. She is Annett Wolf. His senior publicist.
Ok I watched Damian’s speech again and then did a bit of research. She is Annett Wolf. His senior publicist. Mystery solved 🙂
Our own Miss Marple! You really take care of us
You don’t know or maybe you know how much I love going forensic to find things about Damian! And, you know, I’m a HUGE Miss Marple fan – what a wonderful compliment! Thank you!
I’m sorry I’m late as always but I have to shout it out (again 😀 ) What a man! Smart and witty to start his speech, quipping those pompous cliches that the awarding ceremonies like this are using all the time, but gracious, and humble, and wise enough to be thankful, excited, and a bit embarrassed by all that excellence* situation. I swear, I felt liberated when he unbuttoned his tuxedo 😀
I mean… he is too young for that sort of “lifetime achievement” awards, but his presence in TV is truly compelling, and he is MORE than an excellent actor… I think I’ll choose Gingersnaps’ “The boy can act his ass off!” You nailed it, girl!
I was so glad to see they showed some Keanes’ snippets along the TV ones. This means that the wise men who decide to whom the award should be given, know what it is all about. It could be because of that Ginger sh**** eyes too, of course, 😀 but I’m sure there will be more and more recognition!
The Beautiful Mom’ part was heart wrenching for me.
When I watched SAG-AFTRA for the first time, his Incisive “small head” remark made me fall for him thousand times more than I fell before (after the beard,of course 😀 ).
Thank you so much for this post! A lovely walk down the memory lane indeed!
Signed all the comments too! <3
Oh, and I want to ask too: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE THAT WERE HAPPY WITH THE END OF SEASON 3!?!?!? 😀
Pls excuse my grammar!
O, and I just remembered to ask: Is it just me, or.. he almost “broke down” ( I’m not sure that these are the right words) let say – he became unusually emotional when he was talking about season-3 final at Times Talk London 2014? It starts around 58:30 saying “…but still giving that sort of ‘grand finale’, if you like, detecting people what would be wanted… Amm…” Then he turned his head to the other side, slightly down, took a deep breath, sharply sniffed and his hand instinctively touched his forehead to conceal the outburst of emotion and began to rub it somehow helping him to divert his thoughts.
Here’s the interview: https://livestream.com/nytimes/events/2992323/videos/51598072
WOW! I watched the whole thing LIVE back in May 2014 (Times Talks London streamed it LIVE!) and re-visited it in the years to come but never paid attention to this. You are right! He gets quite emotional as he talks about the “grand finale” and beyond… And I will again ask: Who are these people who wanted that “grand finale”? 😀
Thank you so much for reading and for all your support here and on Twitter! THANK YOU for being a friend <3 As Matthew Macfadyen rightly pointed out, he takes his job very seriously, and himself not so much 😀 Yes it was a wonderfully smart and witty and gracious and moving speech that I think stole the show! I also thought he is a bit too young for a "lifetime achievement" award but again when you think about the iconic characters he brought to life on TV, from Dick Winters to Soames Forsyte to Charlie Crews to NICHOLAS BRODY (caps intended!!!!) to Henry VIII and Bobby Axelrod he did more than a TV actor would do in a lifetime 😀 And I am so glad I made the decision at some point to see Homeland and saw SOMETHING in that gingers***'s eyes! 🙂