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Republished with permission from emmy®. Copyright ©2009 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
By Libby Slate Photographs by Brian Winckler
As published in emmy® issue No. 2, 2009
Styling: Cliff Hoppus Grooming: Joanna Pensinger Hair: Rod Ortega Makeup: Agostina
Shahi: Black knit jersey dress by A Pea in the Pod; necklace by Rebecca. Lewis: Distressed leather jacket by Brema; light blue sweater by Emporio Armani; jeans, Lewis's own; shoes by Gordon Rush.
All Photos: Brian Winckler/www.brianwinckler.com.
Damian Lewis, star of Life - NBC's second-season procedural-with-a-twist - calls in for an interview during a break in filming. Though he was born in London and is a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, there's no trace of an English accent on the phone, as befitting his character, LAPD detective Charlie Crews.
"It's easier for me to stay in this accent when I'm at work, rather than switching in and out," Lewis says. "I've done [American] several times now, and I've settled on a persona in terms of accent that I'm happy with. I can't tell where it's from - a lot of people think it's Midwest."
Lewis's detective has rejoined the force after spending twelve years in prison for a triple homicide he didn't commit. And as you might expect, he's determined to find out who set him up.
In prison he discovered Zen Buddhism and absorbed its lessons, which he shares with his partner, the by-the-book Dani Reese, played by Sarah Shahi. The stoic Reese has had her own tribulations, including a stint in rehab for drug addiction, and is not always up for Crews's quirks - such as an insistence on eating fruit - and his "Everything is connected," "Stay in the moment" platitudes.
While Life shoots on a soundstage at NBC Universal, much of the time the series goes on location, reflecting Crews's predilection for expansive rooftops and other wide, open spaces after years in maximum security.
"I love being on location," says Lewis, who first played American as a soldier in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, for which he scored a Golden Globe nomination. "Los Angeles is very much a character in the series. It makes our show a little more ambitious than most, and more filmic. It's great for me - I've been like a tourist."
Shahi agrees, saying she particularly likes visiting the city's many historic buildings, such as the Mayan Theatre in downtown L.A. The Texas native and former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, last seen in The L Word, calls Reese and Crews "a couple of misfits. Dani is quite an androgynous character. She has a lot of masculinity in her. [After being in rehab] she wants to keep her head down and not have attention drawn to her, but Crews gets in the way of that."
Shahi: Black lame dress by Dalia; diamond necklace and ring by Erica Courtney. Lewis: Tuxedo by Hugo Boss; dress shirt by Ferragamo; tie by Hugo Boss.
Scripted misfits, perhaps, but personally the two enjoy working together.
"Sarah's absolutely lovely," says Lewis, whose real-life partner, actress-wife Helen McCrory of the Harry Potter franchise, has a small role on the show. "Sarah has a big personality, kind of goofy and funny. The chemistry between us - the playful, fun comedy timing - is good."
Lewis admits he wasn't particularly familiar with Zen concepts before this role, though he studied yoga on a vacation in India and Sri Lanka. Shahi did have some prior knowledge. "I try to live my life in some sort of peaceful way," she says. "It's out of control too often. So much of this business is up and down."
These days, Shahi is learning the meaning of life in a literal way. She's pregnant with her first child, due in June; the father is Reba alum Steve Howey, whom she married in February at the Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas.
"The wedding was great!" she enthuses. "And [motherhood] is the most important role I'll ever have, the greatest creation I'll ever make. Being pregnant, I feel like Mother Earth, like I can open my arms and encompass and nurture anybody."
Shahi's pregnancy won't be written into the storyline. To curtail the actress's workload, her character has been temporarily assigned to an FBI–LAPD joint task force and Crews has a new partner, Jane Seever, played by Gabrielle Union.
"Damian was great when I told him," Shahi reports. "He gave me a big hug. And I'm so tremendously grateful not to be working seventeen-hour days now."
For Lewis, the new-partner dynamic is a bit different, of course. "It's charged it up a bit," he says. "It's actually all worked out quite well."
Spoken like a true in-the-moment Zen master.
Shahi: Black one-shoulder dress by Sheri Bodell; peridot necklace by Erica Courtney. Lewis: Charcoal wool suit by Theory; lavender dress shirt by Calvin Klein; shoes by Gordon Rush.