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HIGNFY Guest Host interview: Damian Lewis

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David Thair | 17:35 UK time, Friday, 1 May 2009

Damian LewisIn case you hadn't spotted, Have I Got News For You is back. Guest host on tonight's episode is Band of Brothers star Damian Lewis (pictured above in a 2005 Shakespeare adaptation looking worryingly similar to Murray from Flight of the Conchords).

The Have I Got News For You Team asked him a few questions before he could escape the studio:

This is the second time you've hosted the show - what made you come back for more?

Damian Lewis: It's always been my favourite show on TV and I'm a sucker for punishment.

HIGNFY: You were brilliant in the iconic series Band of Brothers. If you were in a real combat situation who would you rather have in your unit - Ian or Paul?

Damian Lewis: Well I think Paul would be the decoy wouldn't he? Paul would probably stand and get his head blown off because he'd be too tall for the trenches but Ian would be perfect. He'd be scuttling along in the trenches. He'd be doing the hard work, probably delivering some message Mel Gibson style so I think I'd take both of them.

HIGNFY: How have you prepared this time for the quick fire wits of HIGNFY? Any actorly warm-up exercises? Trust games?

Damian Lewis: Paul and I have actually just been in the green room with his eyes closed falling on me, waiting for me to catch him. Ian didn't want to do that because it was a bit too physical. And a lot of coffee, just to speed me up a bit.

HIGNFY: As a viewer, who has been your favourite guest host and why?

Damian Lewis: My favourite guest host? Well I'd have to say I like what Alexander (Armstrong) does. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to HIGNFY, I think I watched it most in the old days when Angus was doing it and I loved that mix. I suppose for people who are outlandish and perhaps a little bit different I've always enjoyed Boris Johnson doing it, he's amusing.

HIGNFY: You have performed in satirical dramas in the past, and your fellow guest Chris Addison is currently appearing in The Thick of It spin-off In the Loop. How important do you think the role of political satire is in the UK, both dramatic and otherwise?

Damian Lewis: It's very important to sit hidden somewhere in the undergrowth taking pot shots at people. So satirists are very important.

HIGNFY: Have you ever met Janet Street-Porter before, and do you think she'll give Ian and Paul a run for their money?

Damian Lewis: I've never met Janet. I'm delighted to be working with her this evening. I'm sure she'll give us all a run for our money. We'll all have to be on our best behaviour. She's terrifying, absolutely. I shall be toadying up to her from very, very early on, ingratiating myself to her in any way I can.

HIGNFY: You've been living in LA recently, how would you say American Television varies from British Television?

Damian Lewis: How does it vary? It really doesn't, there's the same pressures. There's more money out there but then they try and cram more into the short space of time they have because they have that more money. Really the dynamic is exactly the same.

The one thing they don't have out there is legislation about working hours so you pretty routinely end up working 70-75 hour weeks and no one comes along to try and stop it and you just bumble through as best you can.

HIGNFY: For you what has been the most interesting news story of the week and why?

Damian Lewis: Well I think Gordon Brown's demise has got to be high on the list but swine flu this week is obviously a massive story, notably for the hysteria generated by the media.

On the one hand we have people telling us that it could be the end of a generation, but then we have experts coming on and saying if you just cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, we can contain the whole thing. So it seems pretty conflicted.

HIGNFY: How does an occasional host of a cynical, British panel show end up fronting a great big glossy American cop show?

Damian Lewis: Well, just by being a little bit of all those things: being occasionally cynical, insincere and shallow and occasionally being insincere and glossily shallow. That pretty much covers it. 


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