My Favorite Mistake: Damian Lewis
Lewis, Damian, Newsweek
Byline: Damian Lewis
The 'Homeland' star on having a split personality.
My story is about learning to give all of yourself to one thing and to not spread yourself too thin.
It was 1995, and I was on Broadway playing Laertes in the hit production of Hamlet. Ralph Fiennes, who was playing Hamlet, was at sort of the height of his fame. All of us young British actors lived two lives in New York. Our public face was hardworking British thespians performing Shakespeare on stage by day, and at night we availed ourselves of all the pleasures New York has to offer. It became our playground. Sometimes I wouldn't get to bed until 6 in the morning, and then wake up at 12 and stagger to midtown for a matinee.
Early on in Hamlet, Laertes is sent away to Paris by his father, Polonious, and sometimes I was so exhausted from running around all night with my pals that I would sleep for an hour in the middle of the show in a little bed, which I had erected underneath the costume rail. These thick tunics smelling of old theatrical wardrobes would brush my nose as I went into a deep slumber. Someone would nudge me five minutes before I had to go back, and then I would leap out of my cot, splash water on my face, and run on stage and yell to Ophelia, "The king, the king's to blame!" Looking back, I can't believe I did it. I was young and foolish.
As the production went on, I was enjoying myself in New York far too much. It was like a rite of passage for a 25-year-old Englishman. Halfway through the run of the play, it was clear that New York was winning over Hamlet, and I was getting more and more tired. In this play we had the famous duel between Hamlet and Laertes, and ours had been choreographed by the legendary Bill Hobbs, who had staged the great fights for The Three Musketeers and for The Duellists, among others. …