In case you missed the memo, “Homeland” is the best television drama you need to be watching. What started as a cult following on the Showtime network, has quickly become the hottest property due to its epic sweep at last month’s Emmy Awards, including wins for Outstanding Lead Actress (Claire Danes), Lead Actor (Damian Lewis) and Outstanding Television series. Oh, and did we mention “Homeland” is President Obama’s favorite TV show?
In the midst of this media whirlwind, actor David Harewood is using the momentum from the show’s success to make his mark in Hollywood. The recent London transplant plays David Estes, Director of The Counterterrorism Department of the CIA. Estes is boss to Carrie Mathison (Danes), a brilliant intelligence analyst who suffers from bipolar disorder. Carrie rightly suspects that former prisoner of war Nicholas Brody (Lewis) has been brainwashed to betray his own country, but Estes isn’t about to let Carrie’s suspicions get in the way of his own career ambitions. Estes is ruthless, calculating and isn’t above betraying the trust of his employees -or ordering a bomb strike on a building full of school children in the Middle East- to get that coveted corner office.
The Urban Daily caught up with Harewood and found out five things you need to know about Hollywood’s new kid on the block:
5. He’s been to “The Mountaintop”
While Samuel L. Jackson got rave reviews playing iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 2011’s Broadway hit “The Mountaintop,” Harewood actually originated the role when the play was being workshopped in London three years ago. On getting the role Harewood says , “The director James Dacre, sent me the script and it was so good that I read the whole thing on my phone. The second I got off the train, I called him and said ‘I have to do this play.’ It was a fantastic script, very funny and just blew people away. It ended up being the hit of the summer. Soon there was talk of taking it to Broadway but I knew they wouldn’t allow a British actor to play such an iconic American figure.”
WATCH: David Harewood and playwright Katori Hall discuss the “The Mountaintop” (2009)
4. There’s No School Like The Old School
Harewood is a huge fan of vintage Hollywood films. “Growing up, I really looked up to the classic Hollywood actors like Spencer Tracy, Robert Mitchum and Peter Falk. I love character actors—I’ve never wanted to be the leading guy. 12 Angry Men (1957) was just full of fantastic characters and I’ve watched it like a thousand times because it’s full of great performances.”
3. He Walks The Walk And Talks The Talk
In 2007, Harewood lent his celebrity to a worthy cause, The African Caribbean Leukemia Trust. “There are actually very few black or mixed race donors on the register. If you’re black and have leukemia, the chances of finding a donor are drastically reduced. I added my name to the register and lo and behold six months later I was asked to donate. I had a week of “conditioning” where I had to take these pills and injections to create new stem cells in my body. Then I was hooked up to a dialysis machine to harvest the cells. It only took about 2 hours and it was an incredible experience.”
2. On Perfecting That American Accent
It isn’t easy dropping a posh British accent to blend in with his mostly American co-stars on “Homeland” but Harewood seems to blend in effortlessly. His secret? “It takes lots of practice. It helps that I have a dialect coach. When I get the script, I sit down and work with it. This accent I have now is very particular to Estes. It’s a white collar, Ivy League black dialect. I looked at The Wire and some other shows that have what you’d call a ‘street” accent’, but it just didn’t work for me. So I had to be more clipped, more polished. It took me a long time to find that voice, but I wouldn’t use it for any other character.
1. On playing such a morally ambiguous character like Estes
“Estes is such an ambitious and political animal. He wants to be the top man and he’s prepared to do anything to get there. He doesn’t like to give anything away, so I play him with a poker face. So whether I’m being nice or nasty, I try to to keep a certain amount of neutrality and stillness in my performance.”
“Homeland” airs Sundays 10PM EST on Showtime
You can follow David Harewood on Twitter: @TheHarewood
Season 2 Trailer:
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