The Many Colorful Things Dominic West Has Said About Cheating and Extramarital Affairs

Dominic West and his wife of 10 years maintain their marriage is strong after photos of him kissing Lily James off-set made the rounds—and there are several possible explanations.

By Natalie Finn Oct 13, 2020 10:00 PMTags

It just so happens Dominic West has had a lot to say on the subject of cheating on one's spouse.

Not that he could help that playing the adulterous Noah Solloway for five seasons of The Affair, one of the best feel-bad shows around, repeatedly put him on the receiving end of questions about... well, affairs!

But what he had to say was pretty fascinating, especially considering the random scandal he's enmeshed in at the moment. On Monday, photos of the Golden Globe-nominated actor kissing Lily James in Rome hit the Internet—and the tender scene unromantically butted up against the fact that West has been married to Catherine FitzGerald since 2010.

Not that there couldn't be a few explanations, starting with the fact that the British actors have known each other for almost a decade, having shared a Sheffield stage as Iago and Desdemona in a 2011 production of Shakespeare's Othello, so, you know... old friends? They're also co-stars once again in the upcoming BBC One miniseries The Pursuit of Love, based on the Nancy Mitford novel of the same name, and according to available information, West appears to be playing James' father. ("Yes, it hurts. It does and anyone who says it doesn't is lying," West once said about being cast as Lara Croft's father in the Tomb Raider remake.) And they share a manager, Angharad Wood, who joined them for an affectionate-looking lunch.

And yet, the photos looked like two people enjoying each other far more than anything Italy had on offer that day.

Lily James' Best Roles

But, on Tuesday, West was back home in the Cotswalds with FitzGerald, the mother of four of his five kids, and a handwritten note posted to their gates read, "Our marriage is strong and we're very much still together. Thank you." Signed, "Catherine & Dominic." They even went outside and kissed.

The message did not, however, read, "Nothing happened." Which also doesn't mean that they weren't telling the truth about the state of their marriage. According to West, in fact, a marriage has no business chugging along solely on the basis of what society outwardly finds acceptable, a.k.a. monogamy.

"I mean, I think women should be more indulgent of affairs," the now 50-year-old actor, who's also best known for The Wire and the making-of-the-BBC series The Hourtold the Evening Standard in March 2016 (in an interview that's obviously coming back to haunt him this week). "I really do. It's daft to kick someone out over a fling. Isn't it? Everyone should turn a blind eye to men's behavior between the ages of 40 and 50. Let it all blow over...Milk and sugar?"

To be fair, the tea-drinking interviewer noted that she couldn't be sure if he was being facetious or not, as he easily could have been poking fun at his tortured but remarkably self-centered, self-righteous character on the The Affair. And perhaps at his younger self. (He did not care to clarify when The Australian broached the topic some months later.)  

West and FitzGerald, a landscape designer who hails from Irish aristocracy, first met when they were students at Trinity College in Dublin, but after dating in school, she moved on and married the 7th Earl of Durham in 1995. They divorced in 2002 and she rekindled the flame with West a few years later, getting engaged in 2007. Already parents to daughter Dora and son Senan, they married on June 26, 2010, at Castle Glin in County Limerick, her family's ancestral home. 

"I fell in love with her when I was 21 and she fell in love with me about eight months ago, when she realized all other options had been exhausted and she had four kids," West joked to the Standard. (Their brood soon grew to include son Francis and daughter Christabel.)

He first had a daughter, Martha, in 1998 with his then-girlfriend Polly Astor, whom, he has acknowledged, he treated rather shabbily while he was off in the U.S. making The Wire.

"That got a lot of things out of my system—hopefully," he told the Standard. "And now I just act it. There are a lot of sex scenes in The Affair. If Catherine was in something like that I would not be happy. But she's OK with it. She's cool."

Of course, no one's that cool.

"Oh, f--k no!" he exclaimed when asked if he and his wife ever watched the Showtime series, which ended in 2019, together. "She saw a bit of it on the plane once, and I saw a bit of it on the plane. Neither of us watches it. Can't bear to—although apparently it's quite good." (Ruth Wilson, his co-star and the initial object of Noah's extramarital affections, won a Golden Globe—"Your arse is something of great beauty," she quipped to West in her speech—as did Maura Tierney, who played Noah's blindsided wife.)

Talking to the Standard's ES Magazine in 2017, he was asked if arousal ever occurs on set shooting those intimate scenes, and he amiably replied, "Of course." But, he continued, "It's tied down, so to speak. Also I think actresses don't mind when it happens, in fact they quite like it. Everyone likes to be thought of as attractive."

And he included himself in that lot.

West said he was quite flattered by the renewed attention he was getting from The Affair, calling it "wonderful."

He added, "It's The Affair of course, I won't take the credit. The breadth of people who are into it is staggering. We were filming in New York recently and this bunch of doddery 70-year-olds streamed past us and one of them shouted, 'Keep it up!' It's amazing what the older generation get up to in those nursing homes nowadays with Viagra and a bit of dirty telly. If I'm relieving the boredom, I'm glad I can help out."

Interestingly, since it was pointed out that West wasn't wearing a wedding ring in those photos with James, he told ES three years ago, when complimented on his Tiffany watch, that he generally wasn't much of one for accessories. "I don't even like wearing my wedding ring to be honest with you," he said. "In fact I think I might have lost it—but this is really rather beautiful."

But while his probable joke about adultery from four years ago is making the rounds, West had already shared some more sober thoughts on the subject and why The Affair was connecting with viewers. (And, in hindsight, to why photos that suggest someone is cheating can be so explosive.)

"It's such an emotive issue, affairs and adultery," he told the Evening Standard in 2015. "People find it instantly interesting when people talk about adultery and affairs. Part of it is a lot of people feel very strongly how wrong it is and what a betrayal it is and how it's probably the worst thing that happens to some people.

"And then," he continued, "I think a lot of other people just wish that they'd done it. Or they're jealous or, I don't know, thinking if only they could get out of that bloody loveless marriage."

He loved playing Noah, a "total dick," West said, because he's such a fascinating character, a husband and father who blows past what's expected of him to fulfill his own desires and tries to rationalize that he's doing the right thing.

"You're a man, you're supposed to look after your wife and family. You're not supposed to abandon them," West explained. "And of course, if you're divorcing someone you think their behavior is unacceptable and they do things that are, you know, appalling, which that person doesn't perceive at all. 

"So that's what's really fun because you are basically playing two different characters or several different characters. I don't care what a dick he is—I just put it all in perspective."

He took the job in part because it filmed in the summer, allowing him to bring his whole family to America with him.

"It's the most important factor in my decision about work," he told The Australian in 2016. "This year I'll do The Affair and my family will come out for the summer and autumn half-term, then I'll be at home for the rest of the year. It's all very carefully thought out because they are at an age now where I don't want to miss any of it. It's the most important thing in my life at the moment."

At the same time, he's fine if his family doesn't actually watch any of it afterward.

"It's embarrassing," he told Ireland's Independent in early 2016. "I don't have parents, but I've got five sisters and a brother and they haven't watched it. My sisters were saying, 'Yes, we heard it's good. We heard you do certain things there and we decided not to watch it.' 

"Maybe they have watched a few but my wife wisely hasn't. I mean, it's not something I'd like to watch her doing."

He called FitzGerald a "wonderful woman" from an "amazing family," his late father-in-law, Desmond FitzGerald, having been the 29th Knight of Glin.

"They have an amazing history and that's something I treasure very much," West said. "I find it very romantic and appealing and I hope to do whatever I can to continue that history."

By his own account, he was madly in love with his wife —and had been for years and years.

"I fell in love with my wife when I was at university and I managed to persuade her to fall in love with me for about three months but then she ran away and married someone else," he told British Vogue with a self-deprecating laugh in 2015. 

"But I've been in love with her since then and still am, even more so. What doing The Affair highlights for me is that I think I have a really good marriage, mainly because my wife is so cool and I adore her and we have all these kids.

"The mistake people might make, if I may be so bold, is expecting so much of a marriage and hoping that there can be perfection. I think, really, what marriage is is two people helping each other to live the best lives they can. And that's what happened with me and my missus. That's why it works. She doesn't get jealous, either. If she were doing the scenes I'm doing in The Affair, I would hate it."

Originally postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shooting on The Pursuit of Love resumed over the summer in England, one of the first big U.K.-based projects to get rolling again.