Damian Lewis, Homeland's Dark Heart
  View More Photos
Credit: Photograph by Mark Seliger
The next day, I met Lewis on Homeland's set, where he had to knock out some promos for season three. It was his first visit in a month, and the boards in the production office mapped out scenes for a midseason episode, including a mysterious one labeled "At the murder house." Lewis had been gone a month, was leaving the next day, and wasn't scheduled back in Charlotte for a few weeks, suggesting his screen time in season three will be truncated.

The staff was happy to see him, gleefully pulling up tabloid photos of a bald Lewis arriving in a blue Jaguar on the Scottish island of Mull, where he was filming 'The Silent Storm' – Lewis plays a married minister embroiled in a love triangle – on his Homeland break.

Someone asked him if he was bald in the movie.

"It was fine until they put a wig on me, like Pierce Brosnan in a hairpiece," says Lewis, shaking his head. "They tried to age me up, so I had silver flecks going through it. I sort of looked like Blake Carrington."

Lewis' constant taking the piss makes his transformation into the darker-than-dark Brody all the more impressive. For the uninitiated, here's a quick primer. Brody – as everyone, even his wife, calls him – is a Marine sniper captured along with a fellow sniper by the Iraqis, who sell them off to Al Qaeda. Brody spends the next eight years being tortured and is forced to beat his fellow sniper to death and then bury him. (Or at least he thinks he does! It's complicated.) He is then befriended by one of his captors, Abu Nazir, a Bin Laden–like figure who nurses him back to health and then has him teach English to his son, Issa. Brody falls in love with Issa, a replacement for his own two children back in America. He converts to Islam. But then Issa is killed by an off-the-books American drone strike. An enraged Brody is then set free by Abu Nazir. He is left where he will be found by American soldiers and is returned home as a hero but with secret revenge for Issa on his mind.

And that's just season one.

It's Lewis' Brody who keeps the crazy train moving down the tracks. While Danes' manic Carrie can teeter on 'Rain Man' parody, Brody seems real and vulnerable no matter how insane the plot veers. There's a key scene in season one where television crews surround Brody's house while his family is at work and school. All alone, Brody goes into his bedroom and slips into the fetal position in the corner, just like he used to do in his prison cell. Many actors would be tempted to throw in twitches and flashes of the crazy eyes, but Lewis manages to convey pure terror and sadness without the fireworks.

Lewis shows me around the Brody house – "The real house where we shoot the exteriors smells of cat urine" – and we walk into the bedroom. At first Lewis tries to slough off the scene.

"I always enjoy saying I give it up and it's gone," says Lewis. "I find it difficult to remember what I did the next day. I'm naturally lazy."

I tell him this sounds like the Eton equivalent of Harvard grads claiming they wrote their thesis while drunk and in drag backstage at the Hasty Pudding production. Lewis' face reddens.

"You spend a lot of time perfecting that image; there's no question you do," says Lewis. "It's vulgar in some way to appear like you're trying too hard. It's somehow inelegant. I suffered from that definitely, but I don't mind people watching me work hard now. That is something I've consciously changed."

He starts talking again about the Brody fetal-position scene. Before shooting, there is usually a tech rehearsal of a scene where lighting and sound are checked. Usually, this is done with stand-ins, but Lewis likes to participate.

"We're always encouraged to get out so everyone can work and the lighting can get done," Lewis explains, "but I sometimes like to stay in the space. The more I can do that, the more it sits in you, the more prepared you are."

Lewis spent much time researching the effect of prolonged captivity and PTSD on returning soldiers and hostages, particularly by reading Brian Keenan's book 'An Evil Cradling,' about his four years of captivity in Lebanon in the 1980s.

"With PTSD, there's a disconnect between – and this is actually the definition of any kind of trauma, whether you've been abused at home, raped, beaten, whatever it is – your experience and the ability of your mind to file it, recognize it, and analyze it," says Lewis. "You're frozen by it. And there's a sense of injustice that no one can really understand what you've been through, so you feel entitled to behave in any way you want, and if that means setting a car on fire out of anger, you feel justified. That's where Brody is."