'Homeland': Damian Lewis Talks Brody's Return, Rock Bottom and TV Fatherhood

The actor tells THR about his alter ego's increasingly rough road: "For the amount of crying we've been doing for three years…the amount of times I've been pissed on and beaten up naked in showers, I actually should look quite a lot older."
Damian Lewis

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for season three of Homeland]

With the exception of a few moments with a still-unhinged Carrie (Claire Danes), Sunday’s Homeland, "Tower of David," focused squarely on the state of Brody (Damian Lewis), who’s been on the lam and missing in action since the third season premiered in September.

And while viewers probably suspected dire straits awaiting the most-wanted man in the world, they might not have been prepared for how dark things have become for the recently absentee lead.

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Nearly written out twice already, Brody is now a fugitive turned prisoner, stuck in a Venezuelan highrise slum and shooting heroin to try to forget about how supremely crappy his lot in life has become. Lewis -- who, like producers, wrapped the second season of the Showtime series with no idea of how he’d be included in its return -- chatted with The Hollywood Reporter about learning to love the show without him, horror over his TV daughter’s sexy storyline, and the seemingly endless amount of physical and emotional abuse his character continues to endure.

How did you feel watching the first two episodes of the season without Brody?

You may never hear me say this again, but I didn’t miss me. And I was kind of surprised. I think what was in [Brody’s] place is so compelling and brilliant. I love the fact that they’ve taken time to appraise what happened at the CIA and these hearings take place. People must take responsibility for and deal with the consequences of what happened. I think that is a sophisticated and nuanced way to start the season. I really didn’t miss Brody at all, and hope saying that does not get myself out of a job. I know people are curious as to where Brody is, but I hope after episode three it’s going to be a new kind of dynamic -- more than people just sitting there going, “Jesus, Brody, it really didn’t turn out too good for him.” They are going to go into this other world where Brody is. It feels a little bit like a waking nightmare, like another reality. It’s a bit like a standalone. Maybe that will be disorientating to some people, but I think people are going to love it. I hope they do.

Other than a few Carrie scenes, the entire episode was fixed on Brody. Was there any interest in just keeping the story on him?
They’ve done a lot of brave things over the three seasons  I think not seeing Carrie for a whole hour would be too brave. That would be strange.

Producers have been open about how they weren’t originally sure what to do with you this season. What do you think of what they’re doing with Brody?

I was really pleased, actually. They kept using this analogy Kurtz in Heart of Darkness: There’s this sense that Brody has gone so far down the river, so deep into the jungle now, that he runs the risk of being left there and just rotting and transforming into this other being who is now living a life of darkness in this other place and with a different reality. I liked the pitch. It was a big workload, but it was fun to do -- though it looks like it wasn't.

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The real Tower of David is in Caracas. Where did you film the episode?

We were in Puerto Rico in an abandoned building that hadn’t been completed. It was a bit shorter than the real Tower of David, but we added a bit with CGI. They dressed it up beautifully. On location you get the smells and sound of the street. So it makes it look different.

Brody is shooting heroin by the end of the episode. It doesn’t seem like there’s much of a way out for him now.

I think Brody is tired of running. He has been running for years -- running from home, running from terrorists, running from himself. It must be exhausting being Brody. He doesn’t really know who he is. He tried to ground himself in his Islamic faith, but I think he’s tumbleweed. He’s blown from pillar to post. He’s a pawn for both sides -- at least he was for all of season two. And here he is now just on the run, being shot in the gut. He spent the whole episode just peering through a fog of painkillers and pain. He’s a prisoner again. That moment when he just picks up the needle at the end, he just thinks, “God, just give me something to take away the pain and take away my memory of the last two years and the mess I’m in.”

Is this a worse prison for him than when he was a prisoner of war?

I don’t think it’s as bad this time. The terror of being caught by a terrorist organization as an American soldier, being held captive as a young marine, systematically tortured, held in solitary confinement and never knowing if he’s just going to be hauled out and shot in the head...that must be the must horrific and unimaginable experience.

But he seems to have broken very easily this time.

Brody in some ways is a little battle-weary now, but there are also these trigger points for him. He’s put in a small, concrete, windowless room again, and the post-traumatic stress disorder and the panic rise in him very quickly. The memories come flooding back. He knows he won’t be able to withstand it. He’s not strong like he used to be. I think when he picks the needle up his spirit is broken at the end. I think that betrayal by the Muslim imam feels the worst for him -- but, of course, I think it’s a stroke of genius that the imam actually is, to a western audience, a sympathetic character. He takes a moral stand about what Brody did. It doesn’t matter that you’re a Muslim, you blew up 280 Americans. The imam is kind of a wonderful strong moral center about that. It’s a real surprise, because I think within the context of the show, he’s going to be taken by some shady Islamic cleric. Brody is just distraught; he can’t believe it.

They’ve now added bullet holes and heroin treadmarks to Brody’s whip scars and knife wounds. How much time do you spend in makeup these days if you’re going to take off your shirt?

There are a lot of discussions like, “Is Brody going to do this scene with his shirt off or his shirt on?” Then you hear we’ll be in the makeup room for two hours, and they’re like, “Let’s leave the shirt on this time.” Thankfully I’ve got John Bayless, our Emmy-winning makeup artist, and his department. He spends his weekends making up all these prosthetics in his garage, and he comes back with pre-painted molds and they slap them on me. It still takes like an hour and a half or two hours, so abuse comes at a cost, it appears.

How do you feel about your TV daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) taking on a more mature role this season?

I’m horrified. I avert my gaze and turn away. It’s very strange working with 15- and 16-year-olds because of the differences in such a short period of time. Three years at my age, you don’t really notice. For the amount of crying we’ve been doing for three years…the amount of times I’ve been pissed on and beaten up naked in showers, I actually should look quite a lot older. I don’t speak for Claire, of course, I speak for myself. But the difference between 15 and 18 is unbelievable. Morgan has become this young woman in front of us. The truth of the situation is that she’s old enough to be playing those scenes. But I still don’t like it. It’s given me a little insight into how I’m going to be with my own daughter when she gets to that age. I’ll lock her up at the top of the tower.

E-mail: Michael.OConnell@THR.com