The Homeland actor talks about going to boarding school aged eight, why their own families notion 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 clas , not a lot of listening, slew of talking. My mum was a hearth mother, she loved to gather us all around her Sunday lunches were a big concept. She was very good at imagining on her hoofs parties used to say she should go into politics. My pa has always been very theatrical . He never made in the theatre hes ever made in assurance but in another life and another time, he could have done that. His love of the theatre intended I was always going to shows and plays as I was growing up; and then I started playing at school.

I went to boarding school from the age of eight first to prep school, then to Eton. One event that kind of education schools you is parish living: theres little retreat. Thats why it is come out of it and talk about lifelong relationships forged in the furnace. The cut and thrust of a successful academy can be very bonding. I was always encouraged to be on squads at play; I got a lot from that. Would I transmit my son to Eton? I might.

My mothers came to see me in a gambling at Eton when I was 16. And then, when I said I wanted to try for drama school, they knew there was enough feeling there for them to be courageous and back me. Both of them said: Travel for it. I recollect my mother saying: Id instead you went to drama school to do something you affection than going to see university and get a second-rate stage in something you havent loved doing.

My background was reasonably conservative and I think theres a strong notion of duty in a background like that, and I dont think thats ever helpful. As you live your life, what comes into sharp focus is the choice between role and what you need to do for you. So I wouldnt want to impose a sense of duty on their own children, but I imagine a sense of reward is always important. Its about behaving honourably when moving choices being careful over them, making a mulled choice.

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

My daddy used to say : No one expects you to be the best at everything. All we expect is that you try your best. Because if you dont try your best, you will be disappointed. That theme gives you a sense of competition with yourself, it drives you on. I think its quite a ingenious concept to tell someone. My mum used to say to us : All I care about is that youre manner 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 most children didnt get to experience my mother as a grandmother[ she died in a gondola crash in 2001 ]. She would have been amazing. She exactly received the beginning[ of my success] she came on the define of Band of Brothersand met Tom Hanks. She was aware I was being asked to do a instead amazing occupation and that I was pate in a certain attitude. She was incredibly proud of me.

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

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


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