‘Homeland’ star Damian Lewis on Brody’s return

Damian Lewis made his first appearance of “Homeland” season 3 in tonight’s episode, “Tower of David,” which I reviewed here. On Friday, I spoke briefly with the show’s Emmy-winning leading man about where exactly he and Brody find themselves at this stage, and how much life he thinks the character has left in him.

As you were coming to the end of season 2 and Brody was about to become the world’s most wanted fugitive, what sorts of conversations did you have with the producers about what your role on the show would be going forward?

Damian Lewis: These guys never know that far in advance what’s going on. So we had very few conversations like that, actually. I think we were all so caught up in trying to resolve season 2 in the best possible way, whilst we were getting some flack, so we were just trying to tie that up. But I think Brody going away, I think you’ve seen in the first two episodes what their answer is to that. The alternative was a more high-octane worldwide manhunt, just cracking into that in the first moments of episode 1. I think “Homeland” tries to be a more grown-up, sophisticated show than that. So I think just stopping to reflect on the damage done, and examine the consequences of it and spend time with the people who are responsible for it was a good decision. I know some poeople have said, “Where the hell is Brody?” And they want to see what Brody is up to. And episode 3, there’s your answer. That’s what’s happened. I think they’re vindicated in terms of spending a couple of hours before they got to Brody. And when everyone gets to Brody, I think they’ll be suitably shocked and appalled by the mess he’s got himself into – which increasingly is Brody’s theme: Here’s another fine mess I got myself into.

I got to the end of that episode and wondered, given how terrible this is for Brody, how in the world does he get out of this?

Damian Lewis: I think Brody, in my view, has always been a victim. The moment he decided to go to war, he was a victim of his country’s decision to go to war, to put a broader political slant on it. He has been a pawn ever since, from the moment he was brutalized and tortured by Nazir, to the moment he was turned by the CIA in season 2, now he’s on the run, and now he seems to be a pawn in someone else’s world, which is this gangland world in South America, and seems to be beholden to the needle when we leave him. I think he will need rescuing again. It’s a question of when that happens.

Did you have any concerns about having to shave your head for Brody’s new fugitive look?

Damian Lewis: Only that I was worried that I would look like an hour-old mouse if I shaved it, and just look pale and pink and generally unattractive. And it turned out my head wasn’t such a silly shape after all. Apart from making small children cry, it’s been fine.

There’s been a lot of talk about how real Brody and Carrie’s love affair is, how genuine either of their feelings are for each other, whether now or earlier in the series. As one half of that pairing, what do you think?

Damian Lewis: Well, I think the delicious thing about season 1 is they were cat and mouse. We were both working each other and were, I think, surprised that they became attracted to one another and both realized that was the stupidest thing you could possibly do, for him because she represented a danger to him, and for her because it was totally unethical. I think when “Homeland” is at its best, with Carrie and Brody, is when they don’t even know whether they’re there to work one another over, to play each other, which ends up a romantic scene because they can’t help it, or vice versa. But that ambiguity started to diminish towards the second half of season 2 and it just became clear that they do love each other. I think that’s real. It’s quick – it’s still a new love – but what I think is so compelling and why they’re so drawn to each other is because there’s a connection. I think they’re two damaged souls who have had similar experiences, both suffer from mental conditions, bipolar depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and I think there’s a recklessness in both of them as well. That’s common in people with PTSD: once you’ve experienced such hardship and such extreme circumstances and been so close to death, I think a lot of these people who suffer from this give themselves carte blanche to behave how they want to behave. And I think there’s an element of that with Brody and Carrie, and they enjoy the recklessness of it as well. But I think it’s sincere. I really believe that.

You gave an interviewearlier in the fall to Men’s Journal and suggested that if it was up to the writers, Brody might have blown up at the end of season 1, and that might have been a more interesting way for the show to go, even if it cost you employment. Now that you’re into season 3, how are you feeling about Brody’s continued survival and continued presence in the narrative at this point.

Damian Lewis: I have to say I think that was a misquote. No one expected Brody to be blown up at the end of season 1. I think there’s always been a question of how long his story will be useful, and I think the fact that he’s still here in season 3 is an indication of how useful and how interesting it has been for the writers to write Brody. So I think, you know, he’ll be a major part of this season. He hasn’t been there in the first two episodes, but he will be central to the main plot of what’s coming up now.

And finally, though Carrie shows up about halfway through the episode, for the most part, this is a Nicholas Brody solo hour. What was it like for you to have to carry so much of the episode from beginning to end?

Damian Lewis: I like the responsibility that comes with that. You have to stand up and be counted. I enjoy it. When I take a job, I want to be busy. I don’t really work from a place of fear or doubt. Perhaps I should a bit more, but I tend to just relish what’s put in front of me, and then I roll my sleeves up and I get on with it. This episode always felt a bit like a standalone episode, but “Homeland” is good at doing that. It’s not afraid to write episodes and shoot them in a certain way that make them feel almost like standalone movies. And this feels a bit like an independent film, which I liked. I relished the opportunity to tell a whole story from start to finish without it being obviously tied back into what’s going on at Langley. It was fresh and slightly other from the rest of the season so far.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com