Damian Lewis is a fantastic actor. A generous philanthropist. He is a skilled player on the football field. And we have seen again in the recent Soccer Aid video that he can definitely sing. But, among all different hats he wears, that of fatherhood stands out as the most precious one. And how beautiful the stories we hear and the images we get of Damian as a father. So we’d love to share some of our recollections of him being a dad on this Father’s Day.
When asked if he always wanted to be a father, Damian said:
Ah, very much. I come from a big family. A big, garrulous, happy family of six. Four children. I think I imagined … If I’m honest, I imagined a family re-enacting my childhood.
Well, it seems he did not shy away from re-enacting his childhood when he took the kids to the park when they were little 🙂
Damian has been engaged in his kids’ day-to-day lives beyond the fun in the park. He has flown back home as often as possible when he filmed in the US. Helen once shared with Daily Mail that although these trips were tough on Damian, it made a huge difference in the kids’ lives. Damian talked about the times he cannot be with the kids:
As for the times I can’t be with them — Skype is a godsend, although if my children are in the middle of watching something on TV, forget it! We’re a family of gipsies, really, and we find ways to deal with it. Getting it right, getting it wrong, the usual.
He told Lauren Collins in his New Yorker profile that, when he was shooting Homeland in Charlotte, he once dressed up in a scary clown costume for Halloween and got on Skype with his kids!
But it is tough when he feels he is missing out on his kids’ lives. He told Vogue several years ago (during Homeland years to be precise when the kids were very young) about a conversation with his son:
I was talking to Gully about something completely different and suddenly, without even looking at me, he said, ‘D’you know, Dad? When you’re away, sometimes I look out of my bedroom window at night and I call your name, and I cry.’
I wrestle with this. I wrestle with it… Children like you being around, you see. They really just like you being around. I don’t think there is any substitute for doing it well and just doing it right. And doing it right is just being there.
And Sunday Times reported his daughter Manon gave Damian another good one to wrestle with:
His daughter asks them to do things together, as a family, and “she loves it when we do, she scrunches up her face and says, ‘I’m so happy.’ And then you take another job and your heart melts and the guilt and shame wash over you.”
Damian is certainly a modern dad when at home. He is involved with school run and homework:
I like not just being the figurehead of the family—it means that I want to take the kids to school, I want to pick them up, and I want to take them on their play dates and come home and do their homework with them and understand actually in detail what their homework is rather than having it relayed to me by my wife.
He prepares the kids for life…
“I say to my children that sometimes in life there are tough moments: you may find yourself on one side of the room and everyone else is on the other. It might be easy to head across to where they are: but if you believe that what you’re saying is right, be courageous, because that’s the right thing to do.”
…and he tries to make them understand that one has to work to make a good life for their family. Damian told Mindful back in 2016 about how he teaches his kids about money:
“If they clean the chimney well, (laughs) then they will get 50p. Yes. They are eight and nine so they don’t have an allowance, there is a bit of a negotiation over pocket money occasionally and in order to get them to help a bit more around the house, I did try to give them incentive with 10p tips for making their bed and they got 10p for taking their plate from the table and putting it on the side after meals. 10p for managing to remember their own school bag in the morning when they walk out the door, so one or two incentives. And then they became a bit cynical about hard fought negotiations and they said, ‘We don’t want your 10p anymore.” (laughs)
So then we just went back to shouting at them, which seemed to work just as well. (laughs) But yeah we teach our children, I think they need to know that you have to earn money in order to live. Certainly that is a helpful explanation when I am walking out the door full of shame and guilt because I am not going to see them for three weeks as I go to film in New York or Charlotte or wherever you go as an actor.
So I haven’t introduced them to the concept of money and just trying to make the equation a bit simpler for them that daddy going to work equals nice holiday and Christmas presents. (laughter) So just to help them understand a bit why I am going off to work.”
Damian shared in an interview with Telegraph that, as they were planning in 2016 to move to New York for six months as a family, Helen received a job offer to lead the new ITV show Fearless. Damian insisted she take the job and took the kids with him to New York. And he is honest about the experience:
“I’m not going to pretend that I swanned through it – I felt pretty frazzled by the end of it.
Here is a lovely family moment from the holidays when they all went to see The Rockettes at Radio City Hall <3
Damian was also spotted with the kids in New York that fall at Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Z100’s Jingle Bell Party as well as at a NY Jets game at METLife Stadium.
And when JaniaJania and I visited him backstage after his performance in The Goat, we chatted a bit about New York, and found out about his favorite bookstore: Books of Wonder!
“For my Kids.”
We also found out that being a modern dad might require going beyond all of this! Damian tells the sweetest story on Desert Island Discs:
…to combat the onslaught of Taylor Swift in the car when I am with the kids… is, you know, what every self-respecting dad should do which is to force the music of his youth onto his own children. It turns out they absolutely love this (Madness by Baggy Trousers). And, when I am on my desert island, I will hear their laughter and I will hear the mad singing of the family in the car.
In a Zoom interview during the lockdown, Damian talked about the quality time they spent together as a family and how they did things together:
“Playing Monopoly, playing Risk, planting a hedge, doing some cooking together. The day goes by in a flash when you’re in one place.”
And as the kids are getting older, it is so much fun to see that they accompany dad at sports events, art performances and exhibitions, movie premieres and world class restaurants. Here’s a little walk in the memory lane with Damian and his kids…
Damian pointed out in a Zoom interview during the lockdown that the kids’ Tik-Tok skills were coming on no end. Well, we expect Damian to talk about his own Tik-Tok skills at some point! Here’s a popular video from Manon’s Tik-Tok: She and dad have the moves!
Oh, and in a recent podcast, Damian revealed that his kids (both teenagers now) mock him when he switches to American accent as he talks to Americans.
“You don’t need to do that, dad, by the way.”
I am still laughing.
But I guess the most beautiful of all is the fatherhood advice he gave, as an experienced father, to Tom Chamberlin, a new dad, who interviewed him for Rake Magazine.
“Saying ‘I love you’ to your child at night, and having them say ‘I love you, Dadda’ back is enough to make you choke a bit. Just always say it, make it part of the conversation, because it’s just the loveliest thing to be able to say that with your child: ‘I love you, I love you.’ It’s just so nice, it’s so glorious. Of course, actions speak louder than words. The old cliché, ‘It gets better and better’ – it really does. More and more you get to know them, the love’s unconditional – you accept that – but getting to know them is great fun, and realizing you love this person as much as you ever did as you’re getting to know more and more about them, it just deepens and deepens.”
I did not intend to write a sentimental post and I hope I did not but we all know this past year has been tough. Happy Father’s Day, Damian. We love you and celebrate you as a dad.