The Homeland actor talks about going to boarding school aged eight, why their own families thought of duty is not always helpful and how his mother told him not to marry an actor

I grew up in London, one of four children . We were a very loud category , not a lot of listening, batch of talking. My mum was a hearth mother, she loved to gather us all around her Sunday lunches were a big act. She was very good at remembering on her hoofs people used to say she should go into politics. My daddy has always been very theatrical . He never wreaked in the theater hes always labor in insurance but in another life and another time, he could have done that. His love of the theater meant I was always going to shows and plays as I was growing up; and then I started behaving at school.

I went to boarding school from the age of eight first to prep school, then to Eton. One happen that kind of education learns you is community living: theres little recede. Thats why people come out of it and talk about lifelong friendships forged in the furnace. The cut and thrust of a successful academy are very significantly bonding. I was always encouraged to be on crews at athletic; I got a lot from that. Would I mail my son to Eton? I might.

My parents came to see me in a participate at Eton when I was 16. And then, when I said I wanted to try for drama school, they knew there was enough joy there for them to be brave and back me. Both of them said: Start for it. I recollect my mother saying: Id preferably you went to drama school to do something you love than going to see university and get a second-rate position in something you havent adored doing.

My background was reasonably republican and I think theres a strong thought of duty in a background like that, and I dont is considered that ever helpful. As you live your life, what comes into sharp focus is the choice between obligation and what is required to do for you. So I wouldnt want to impose a sense of duty on their own children, but I thoughts a sense of accept is always important. Its about behaving honourably when constructing choices being careful over them, making a weighed choice.

I say to my children [ Manon, 10, and Gulliver, nine] that sometimes in life there are tough minutes: you may find yourself on one side of the area and everyone else is on the other. It might be easy to pate across to where they are: but if you believe that what youre saying is right, be heroic, because thats the right thing to do.

My daddy used to say : No one expects you to be best available at everything. All we expect is that you try your best. Because if you dont try your best, “youre going to be” disappointed. That theme gives you a sense of competitor with yourself, it drives you on. I think its quite a cunning situation to tell someone. My mum used to tell us : All I care about is that youre genu and musing. But my dad was more transactional, he used to say: You cooperate with us, and we will cooperate with you. I say that to my own children.

A big sadness for me is that my children didnt get to experience my mother as a grandmother[ she died in a automobile disintegrate in 2001 ]. She would have been amazing. She precisely construed the beginning[ of my success] she came on the change of Band of Brothersand met Tom Hanks. She was aware I was being asked to do a instead amazing enterprise and that I was honcho in a certain guidance. She was incredibly proud of me.

My baby used to say two things to me : Attain sure you get married before youre 35, and: Dont marry an actor. But she would have been over the moon with Helen[ McCrory, an actor] whom I converged when I was 36. Theres a sadness for me that these two strong dames never assembled there would have been a real sound between them.

Damian Lewis is supporting the Sohana Research Fund, sohanaresearchfund.org . He is appearing in The Goat, or Who is Sylvia ? at the Haymarket theatre, London until 3 June

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