Damian Lewis, Homeland's Dark Heart
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Credit: Photograph by Mark Seliger
One thing does come through with Lewis that may make the death of Nick Brody more acceptable: He misses his wife and kids desperately. They usually come over for a month or two and enjoy the run of the apartment where Lewis stays while filming. He's cut back on golfing and now seeks out more family pursuits like hiking in the Smoky Mountains. "My kids think America is swimming pools on the roof, screening rooms, and hot dogs," says Lewis. "They love it here."

But his kids are going into school now, making Charlotte time more tenuous. He says he's going to break family tradition and keep his two children at home. While Lewis extols his boarding school experiences – the plays, the cricket, the camaraderie – he knows its dark side.

"Do I think an eight-year-old should be put through that sort of sphincter exercise that I was? Where you're just having to hold on because if you don't, you could just weep? I know the answer is no."

For the first time, I see the vulnerability of Brody in Lewis' face.

Sure, he spent his youth at Pooh Corner and cavorting with future prime ministers, but to leave home at eight is a gilded 'Lord of the Flies' childhood with bouts of loneliness. He doesn't want to inflict that on his kids – he talks dreamily of a ramshackle house with a dog and Sunday dinners – but in reality, he is half a world away, still scratching around in Brody's hole, the role of a lifetime maybe coming at the wrong time.

It reminded me of our first conversation back in Hollywood. A couple of fans came over to shake his hand, but Lewis was preoccupied with talking about his kids.

"You live with the burden of being gone, that guilt, for the rest of your life," says Lewis, his hail-fellow-well-met face going a little flat. "And you will rationalize it in all kinds of ways, and I'm really proud that my son and daughter can see that Dad's working hard, making success at what he does. You actually have concrete things you can show them."

Back in Charlotte, we say goodbye on a busy street, but not before he gives my cabbie extensive instructions on the best route back to the Homeland set. Lewis has some calls to make about a film he's hoping to direct, but more important, he wants to Skype with his kids before they go to sleep. Tomorrow a nonstop wings him back home and he starts a family vacation on Ibiza. In the end, Brody and Lewis have one specific thing in common: When they're not killing vice presidents or meeting real presidents, they both have two kids and they both want to make sure they're OK.

The clock is ticking.

Stephen Rodrick wrote the cover story on Keith Richards in the July 2013 issue.