Damian Lewis was only the third choice to play Homeland’s Nicholas Brody

Showrunner Alex Gansa reveals the British actor wasn't top of the list of Showtime's potential leading men for the espionage thriller

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He may now be one of TV and film’s most famous redheads but did you know Damian Lewis very nearly missed out on his role as Homeland’s Nicholas Brody?

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When casting for the US show began, Lewis wasn’t Showtime’s (the network Homeland debuted on) first choice for the role. In fact, he wasn’t even the second, despite showrunner Alex Gansa’s determination to see him step into Brody’s shoes.

“When we first brought him up, everyone was very negative about the suggestion,” Gansa told The New Yorker. Their hesitation had a lot to do with the failure of Life, a cancelled NBC police procedural drama in which the British actor had played the lead character.

“That carries a pretty big stigma,” Gansa said. “The network really wanted Ryan Phillippe; Patrick Wilson passed. I kept talking about Damian until I got a call from the head of the studio saying, ‘Look, Alex, please do not bring up Damian’s name again.’ Hanging up the phone in my office – I think we were two weeks from the start of principal photography – I was like, Are we going to cast Ryan Phillippe in this role?”

That’s right. A non-Lewis Brody very nearly happened. We know, you guys. We know.

It was only when he managed to find a copy of a lesser known film called Keane – in which Lewis played a schizophrenic father who stalked a bus terminal, on the hunt for a daughter he believes he’s lost – that he managed to convince bosses to give Lewis the role.

“I looked on my computer and put on my headphones and opened my laptop and there was this little movie”, Gansa says.

“The first forty-five minutes of the film are essentially Damian on camera. I hit pause and picked up the phone and called the studio head and said, ‘This is just an incredible performance – a damaged person on camera holding the frame.’ ”

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The rest, as they say, was history, bringing Lewis to US TV screens for a performance that took him to new heights. Now, he’s ticked Henry VIII off the list in Wolf Hall so, anyone for a ginger Bond?