Nicholas Brody, the Marine and prisoner of war turned sleeper agent turned congressman played by Damian Lewis on “Homeland,” was all but a ghost in the most recent season of this Showtime thriller. Having gone on the run at the end of Season 2, Brody was largely absent from Season 3, and then in the year’s final arc, he proceeded to make up for lost time.
Retrieved from Venezuela by spymaster Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), Brody was sent by the CIA into Iran and ordered to assassinate the leader of its revolutionary guard. He accomplished this mission and was sped away to a safe house by Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), the CIA officer and his sometime lover, and the two began to contemplate their future.
Instead, on Sunday’s season finale, Brody was snatched by Iranian authorities and hanged in public while Carrie watched in horror.
Lewis, an Emmy and Golden Globe winner for his portrayal of Brody, said in an interview Monday that he had known about his character’s fate since the spring, although he was a bit ambiguous about what that fate was.
“It’s been a difficult secret to keep,” Lewis said in a phone interview from London. “Only my wife knew. I couldn’t afford to tell anybody.”
Lewis, a British actor who also starred in HBO’s World War II mini-series “Band of Brothers” and the NBC drama “Life,” came to greater prominence on “Homeland,” which made its debut on Showtime in 2011.
Adapted from “Prisoners of War,” an Israeli television series, “Homeland” cast Lewis as Brody, a soldier rescued after being held hostage by a Middle Eastern terrorist. While he remains under surveillance as a possible double agent, he has an affair with Danes’ character, the CIA analyst who is most suspicious of his motives.
Looking back at his time on the series, Lewis described Brody as “a tragic hero for our time.”
“He himself embodies a cautionary tale, going right back to the beginning, about sending young men to war and the damage it can do,” Lewis said. “He had brief moments of happiness and glory, but was essentially a very unhappy figure for three years.”
Lewis said that based on the earliest conversations he had with Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, the show’s creators, he did not expect Brody to survive for as long as he did.
In bringing to life a character “who was capable of so much damage” and “able to affect story on such a grand scale,” Lewis said that Gordon and Gansa had “created a monster that they couldn’t quite control.”
“The thought of having to continue to write him was too hard, perhaps,” Lewis said. “It was going to create too much of a challenge. I sympathize with them. Brody’s a very unbalancing force.”
Gansa said in a telephone interview on Monday that Brody’s death had been planned from the start of this season.
“Wherever he stepped onto the stage, we wanted it to be something alive and electric,” Gansa said. “As you realize that those moments are fewer and farther between, the time just comes for that character to leave the stage.”
In a way, Gansa said, the season finale could almost be a series finale. “We are saying goodbye to the central relationship of the first three seasons - which is not to say that there isn’t a compelling story to be told with the characters we have left.”
And yet, despite what seemed to be Brody’s certain demise (filmed in front of some 200 screaming extras in Rabat, Morocco), Lewis could not say for certain that the character would never be seen again.
“People liked to have a go at ‘Homeland’ occasionally, on the grounds of plausibility,” he said with a laugh.
“If Brody was resurrected somehow, that might just be pushing it too far,” Lewis added.
Gansa said he believed the character of Brody was dead, though he lived on through a child that he conceived with Carrie. “But that’s a spiritual presence,” Gansa said, “not a physical one.”
Lewis, who recently filmed a lead role in the motion picture “The Silent Storm” and is scheduled to appear with Nicole Kidman in Werner Herzog’s “Queen of the Desert,” said that more roles in American television were possible. “You finish a great job, and you take the best job that’s put in front of you,” he said. “The whole point is to keep working on good material, with people who are brilliantly talented. That’s what was so fun about ‘Homeland.’”