Road to the Emmys 2012: The Actor

When presented with the decision of whether to play Nicholas Brody in Showtime’s hit thriller “Homeland,” Damian Lewis came to a rather definite conclusion: “I’d have been a bloody idiot if I said no.”

It wasn’t the sizzling pilot script with the riveting premise, or the crack staff of writers and producers, or the superlative cast that created the tiniest bit of pause. The only hesitation he had involved the schedule.

“I had a terrific experience working on (the NBC crime drama) ‘Life,’ but that was a network TV schedule,” he says. “I think my wife and I said we never say never, but with two small children that wasn’t the kind of work schedule I wanted. But if some very good cable TV show should come my way I’d be extremely interested.”

“Homeland” stars Lewis as a Marine sergeant who returns home to the States from Iraq after spending the past eight years in prison. But CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) suspects he may be a terrorist plant.

“That is a great setup,” Lewis says, “and I thought, ‘What a terrific opportunity to play ambiguity for as long as the writers decided to keep them ambiguous.’ I also thought there was the opportunity to play parallel roles in Brody. The mistake would have been to blend everything into one nebulous pudding. Actually there are different aspects of his life that are equally true.”

In real life, Lewis keeps his own secret: He’s British, but fans might be fooled by his flawless American accent, which also served him well in “Life” and the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.”

“I like nothing more than being called a good faker,” laughs Lewis, who grew up on Abbey Road and naturally is a huge Beatles fan. “It has become a source of pride, definitely. I got to tell you, it’s a total fluke. I don’t know why I can do an American accent. It’s just lucky, but it gets me this extra work.”

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