'Homeland': Damian Lewis talks finale tragedy
Damian Lewis is breaking his silence on the season 3 finale of Showtime’s Homeland. Below, the Emmy-winning actor says goodbye to Nicholas Brody, his popular Homeland starring character who was executed in a public square in Tehran during the show’s last episode of the season Sunday night. Lewis reveals what it was like to shoot his agonizing last scene, what he thinks Brody was thinking in those final moments and his feelings about the show’s future without him.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you learn your character’s fate?
Damian Lewis: At the beginning of the season.
And what was your reaction?
I was not surprised because I knew from the outset taking this job that Brody’s life expectancy was not as long as the other characters. I knew they had decided to kill Brody unequivocally at the [season 3] premiere in D.C. We were in a basement bar at the Hay-Adams hotel. And I said [to showrunner Alex Gansa], “Alex I got a lot of stuff in storage in North Carolina, I just need to know if I should take it out or leave it there.” He looked at me and said: “You should take it out.” It was at that point I finally knew I was not going to survive.
Were you happy with how Brody’s story ended?
I think they did a really good job with it. I knew he had become a popular character so I wanted him served well. I wanted him to go out with a bang. I wanted him to have a grand finale. I didn’t expect a hero’s finale because Brody is not a hero, he’s become too much of a tragic figure over the course of three seasons; he’s a damaged man. I just wanted it to resonate, I wanted it to be moving, and be very affecting in the way he goes to his death with so much unsaid, so much undone. I wanted it to really register with the audience — the pain between himself and Carrie and she sees him go to his death. I just hoped we would honor all those things.
What was it like to shoot that scene?
It was pretty unsettling — when I got in the car and the extras started banging on the car and shouting my name. Walking toward the crane and having the noose around my neck and looking out. I was looking at this mob there to see a public hanging. It was pretty distressing.
When you’re seeming to just hang there, with at least some stress on your neck, how was that to film?
I still had a role to play. I was within Brody’s story. He told Carrie he didn’t want her to be there. But in those last moments he tries to find her and does. In the moment he’s being executed in a foreign land in front of strangers, it’s very clear at he would love a familiar face to look at, and even better that it’s Carrie’s — a woman that he loves. That’s really what I was concentrating on, trying to do that in a credible way while having the life choked out of me. I was concentrating on the minutia of acting.
So did all the extras see you up there? I wasn’t sure if producers did some trickery with the shot to prevent the ending from leaking out.
They were all there. One person had to be removed because she tried to take photos on her iPhone. She was wearing a full black burka with a bright shiny white iPhone. I spotted her when I was at 20-30 feet hanging off the ground. I started waving my arms toward her, at which point everybody starting rushing out from the monitors shouting, “Get him down! Get him down!” I had forgotten that waving my arms [was the signal] that I was choking! So everybody came out, “Oh my god! Damian are you okay!?” And I was pointing at this young woman who foolishly was trying to take a photo of the whole thing.
What was your last day on the set like?
It was a very serendipitous piece of scheduling, because usually the schedule is all over the place. This time [the hanging was the final scene shot]. We shot all through the night. We were exhausted. We said goodbye to everybody and good night. Very simply, very quickly, with a tear in the eye, and that was it.
Do you have a favorite episode or moment from working on the show?
Being up in the helicopter was the coolest thing in season 2; banking around that field was kind of fun.
What will you miss most?
The family. Everyone that became my family — a group of smart talented generous people. It was a great job and Brody was an incredibly fun role to play. As much as he was under duress, an extremist and almost a ruin for three seasons, it was fun to play because it was complex.
Are you open to future appearances that involve dream sequences or flashbacks?
Never say never.
What’s next for you?
I’m about to go work with Werner Herzog, [the film] Queen of the Desert, with Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Robert Pattinson and myself. We’re going to shoot that in Morocco in January. After that, we’ll see.
Would you do another TV show?
Yeah, absolutely. If the material is good. It’s less likely I’ll jump right back into a TV show this year.
Were you surprised by the fan reactions to Brody’s death?
Yeah, with people saying, “Hopefully you’ll come back to life in some way.” People sending emails saying they feel totally wiped out. Brody became quite a divisive figure. Some thought the show couldn’t move on until Brody was gone, some felt Brody was the show and it couldn’t survive without him. We’ll see. All I know it was just terrific fun and a huge privilege to play such a fabulously written character and to be working wiht the people I worked with.
Will you continue to watch the show as a fan?
Yeah. I was a fan for most of this season! I didn’t miss me at all. I think the show will get along just fine.