Emmy Award winner Damian Lewis made a name for himself on the Showtime hit series “Homeland” as Brody, a prisoner of war-turned terrorist. Now, Lewis is taking on a much different role in “Billions,” which offers an insider look at the high-stakes world of finance.
Lewis stars as Bobby Axelrod, an ambitious billionaire hedge fund king who epitomizes the “American dream,” building up from humble, blue collar beginnings. Bobby’s success, spending and taste for real estate catches the attention of Chuck Rhoades who is his utter opposite — an Ivy league-educated U.S. attorney determined to fight for the public.
Lewis’ character comes under the suspicion of Rhoades, played by Paul Giamatti, who believes his hedge fund isn’t trading above board.
“It’s kings in their kingdoms, it’s chiefs in their chiefdoms. It’s about power politics, it’s about wealth, political power and financial power and what are these guys prepared to do to retain that power,” Lewis said on “CBS This Morning” Wednesday.
The creators of the show also met with U.S. attorney in New York Preet Bharara, as well as many other sources in the finance world, thanks to co-executive producer Andrew Sorkin, who is a financial columnist for the New York Times.
“In recent history, I think there’s been this relationship played out a little between the U.S. attorney and the financial titans here in New York,” Lewis said. “So we hope that… much in the way that “Homeland ” sort of dovetailed in and out of real news while it’s fiction, we hope ‘Billions’ might have some of the same effect.”
The British actor also discussed choosing the right “New York accent” for his role, joking that he initially went for a Joe Pesci impression.
“I did try that for about half a day and Brian and David, the show’s creator’s said, ‘This is fine, but it’s not our show,” Lewis said. “So in the end… emphatic quality with pace and speed was the most important thing to latch onto so I hope I found that.”
Lewis, who is also the current favorite to become the next James Bond, also addressed the speculation, although he refrained from giving a clear-cut answer.
“I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you,” Lewis said. “Look, when you’re growing up as a kid, if somebody said to you, ‘Would you like to be James Bond?’ First of all you’d laugh and say, ‘It’s never going to happen.’ Secondly you say, ‘Yeah, obviously.'”
“Billions” premieres on Showtime on Jan. 17 at 10 p.m.
Showtime released the first poster for the upcoming series…have a look..It’s worth it:)
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Click below for pictures of Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory and the Emmys and at HBO’s Emmy After Party on Sunday night.
On Tuesday Showtime unveiled a new trailer for ‘Billions’ and announced the drama will premiere on Sunday, January 17th at 10 p.m. ET/PT (after the Season 6 premiere of Shameless)! Click below to view the trailer!
More from Tuesday’s panel:
Damian Lewis is back on Showtime with the new Wall Street drama Billions. However, when the former Homeland star appeared at the Television Critics Association summer press tour Tuesday, he was asked about a different TV role.
“I think the king analogy might be apt,” said Lewis about the comparisons to his role as Henry VIII in the miniseries Wolf Hall. “But I think [the characters] came from different places.”
The series explores New York City’s power politics and finance through two ultra abrasive and influential opposing figures: hard-charging, blue-blooded and politically savvy U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and the brilliant, calculating, blue-collar billionaire hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Lewis).
“What’s going to be interesting about this story is specifically this story,” said Lewis. “So who will Bobby Axelrod turn out to be? And what is he prepared to do to retain power?”
Lewis pointed out an important difference between the two larger-than-life figures. “Henry VIII was born into quite a lot of power,” said Lewis. “And Bobby is a blue-collar guy who, if you like, is nouveau riche, new money, and I think lives by a code of honor, a set of street rules, if you like, a little bit more. A kid from a blue-collar community where loyalty is fiercely protected and people are dispatched ruthlessly if they don’t adhere to that code.”
Co-creator and executive producer Brian Koppelman, who hails from Long Island like Lewis’ character, described Bobby as “somebody who didn’t have certain advantages and wasn’t admitted to the club.”
The role marks a departure for Lewis in multiple ways. His Billions character hails from Yonkers and subsequently boasts a bit of a New York accent — a new challenge for the British Lewis. “I just wanted to go all Goodfellas with it. I thought, ‘This is going to be great. I’m going to have a fantastic time pretending to be be some gangster from the Bronx,” said Lewis with a laugh. “The guys repeatedly said, ‘That’s awful, can you stop that?'”
The key to his New York accent? The vowel sounds, according to Lewis. “You just tighten it up a bit and I’m trying to just concentrate on that,” said Lewis. “Having seen the pilot, I was struck by how little I thought I was doing and different my accent is in this show than … Homeland or anything else. So they’re small little shifts, but they read large.”
Also helping him get into character are Bobby’s clothes, which include jeans (instead of suits) and a Celtic cross. “All these things just help make him be a guy from his neighborhood who happens to have a lot of money, and that empowers him,” he said. “I think Bobby is one of these guys who’s quite empowered by his sense of himself anyway without the money.”
Billions premieres on Sunday, Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. on Showtime.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
More from the Showtime TCA Press Tour:
Variety – ‘Billions’: Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti on Making Greed Into Good TV
The Wrap – Damian Lewis Talks ‘Billions’ Moral Dilemma
Deadline – ‘Billions’ Not Moralizing About Power Politics Of New York High Finance – TCA
See Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod for the first time! Watch the short preview clip below released by Showtime on Tuesday promoting their online streaming service.
More expert opinions from the recent LA screenings:
“Billions was fascinating “we were particularly impressed by the high acting level.”
“ Billions pilot shows complex drama”
“it was a pleasure to watch Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti… impressive acting.”
“The complex story and the fantastic acting by Lewis and Giamatti proves once more that TV is the new cinema”
“The Billions pilot proves again how multilayered a TV show can be and it’s a real treat to watch Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti Billions was one of the highlights.”
Sounds very promising and we are ready to see a teaser this year!
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