Damian Lewis Shares Key Skill That Launched His Acting Success

Exploring Damian Lewis's enduring approach to his craft

by Zain ul Abedin
Damian Lewis Shares Key Skill That Launched His Acting Success
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Not long after graduating from drama school, Damian Lewis, so often the recipient of praise for his role in "Homeland," revealed that one special skill had brought him to the world of acting. This secret was disclosed during an interview where he talked about how he first got into theatre - at London's Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.

The "Homeland" star remembers that his breakthrough came when he was in an interview for Hamlet, in which he felt pretty peculiar, but he didn’t have any qualms about following the directive to speechify. A youngster of 24 with a voice so full that it not only filled the theatre but landed him his leading role.

This summer, Lewis takes up Allie Esiri’s anthology-inspired "Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year - Live!"

Damian Lewis: Career Insights

In a recent interview with The Times, he looked back on his revived Hamlet and divulged a gem of advice from Pigott-Smith which has sustained him through what will soon be a three-decade career: self-assessment more than read-throughs or, much less.

Pigott-Smith said to him, "Know yourself where the strengths in your performance lie and take responsibility for it. Know where it works better than in other places, and back yourself." Lewis took such advice to heart, no checking reviews since his early twenties, looking instead at performances.

Damian Lewis has played a number of different roles, from entertaining people in music festivals to experiencing the bleakness of World War II dramas. But nothing, he admits, is as stomach-turning as a first night in the West End of London or at the National Theatre.

The dangers of losing composer duties for stylistic reasons have made him more vulnerable now. Speaking candidly of art's perils and pleasures, Lewis told The Independent: "If you want to offer it to the world, you have to stick your head above the parapet and say, you can like it or you can take a shot. And in that moment you’d better be clear about why you’re doing it."