'Homeland' Star Damian Lewis Says No Finale Could Have Pleased All Fans

"For some, he was one of the main reasons to tune in to the show," the actor tells THR. "But for other people, he was the reason the show couldn't grow."
Damian Lewis

[Warning: Spoilers ahead from Sunday's season three finale, "The Star"]

Three days after the Homeland finale, the requisite "spoiler alert" seems like little more than a formality. Damian Lewis, who capped off his three seasons playing Nicholas Brody swinging from a noose, is now a free agent.

As showrunner Alex Gansa told The Hollywood Reporter in the immediate aftermath of the episode, the Emmy-winning actor has had nearly a year to deal with his divisive alter ego's demise. And now that the secret has become public knowledge, Lewis chatted with THR about saying goodbye to one of the most significant roles of his career.

STORY: 'Homeland' Showrunner Alex Gansa on the Brody Decision, Season 4 and Clean Slates

In addition to reflecting on Brody's strange state of mind during his finale days, the actor also offers his opinion on the double-edged sword of eighty-sixing a lead character -- and reveals the one thing he won't miss about the Showtime drama.

You've kept this secret for a long time. What was it like on set when it was finally out in the open?
It wasn't talked about, ever. If anyone else knew, they were very discreet. I don't think people really know how to talk about these things. People aren't sure how the actor or actress feel about it, whether they want people to know or not, if it irritates them...one way or the other, it just never gets talked about. Around the penultimate episode, I started joking about it with the crew. And when I left North Carolina for the last episodes [in Morocco], the crew presented me with a signed photo. Everyone knew it was over, but no one really talked about it.

I'm assuming things became more transparent in the last episode.
With Claire [Danes], we both just said we'd miss working with each other. It was just an extraordinary and happy job to work on. And when we filmed our last night of season three, it was the execution scene. It's unusual when things fall that way. We filmed all the way though the night until 7 in the morning. Everyone was pretty raw and exhausted, so we all just said goodbye with a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye. And that was it.

There was no way the final scene between Brody and Dana (Morgan Saylor) was going to end well. Did you want to give that relationship closure like that?
I think it was essential, and it justified having as much as Dana as there was in the first half of the season when viewers really invested time with her. I was very happy when I read it to see him rejected like that by her, but that's the last time he sees her. This act of redemption that he goes on, somewhere in the back of his mind I think he hopes he'll one day make it public and tell his family what he does -- which, of course, he never would have been able to. His need to prove himself to his family was as strong as his need to prove himself to himself or Carrie or to do something for America.

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Do you think Brody was thinking of turning on the CIA when he broke that syringe meant for Akbari in the penultimate episode?
I didn't think he wanted to be caught. He failed, he might not get another moment, and he couldn't afford to have that needle on him any longer. But secondly, I think there's a moment where he thinks, "Maybe I'm just going to stay here." Brody vacillates from moment to moment, and I think he thinks, "I'm just going to stay here. I don't know how I'm going to get this done." He still wants to do it, but he also wants to be in this place where he is adored and liked and can have a bit of a public life. But wherever he's going to be, he's a hunted man.

Always knowing you had a shelf life on the show, did you spend much time thinking about when it might come?
It was always intonated to me very strongly that my life expectancy was short. I came in knowing that I would be there for two seasons and not knowing anything beyond that. TV writing turns out to be quite a spontaneous discipline. These guys had to really be on their toes and change things up a little. I don't think they knew quite how Brody was played. He was a hard character to write, and I don't think they always knew how he would come off in the story. It just turned out that the Brody-Carrie story went gangbusters and people fell in love with it. It was a surprise, and we enjoyed it, but there was always this sense that Brody was a very unbalancing character. He's a divisive character.

Which is why we're seeing very different reactions to his death.
For some, he was one of the main reasons to tune in to the show, but for other people, he was the reason the show couldn't grow. He was in some way limiting to the show. In the end, Alex stuck to his guns. They gave Brody an extra season because the audience loved him, but they weren't going to go so far to find a way to write Brody into the show that will compromise the show just so we can write for this character. I feel happy with the way it played out, to have three seasons with a show I didn't expect to be on for this long.

Physically, Homeland put you through the wringer through the end. Is that something you're going to consider in future projects?
I really need someone to ask me to sip champagne in the corner of a drawing room. That's what I need next -- where the only exercise is the raise of an eyebrow.

Are there any other TV series on now that interest you?
I love Mad Men and Game of Thrones, but I'd really like to guest on Modern Family or Veep -- something like 30 Rock.  

You're heading back to Morocco to film Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert -- will this be a less stressful shoot?
It's going to be a little bit lighter this time, I hope -- a little more Edwardian. It's 100 years ago, and I know I'm not chasing Zulus over the ridge or anything like that. It's going to be calm.

Email: Michael.OConnell@THR.com