“Fallible characters are more interesting than superheroes in the end,” declares Damian Lewis. The red-headed English actor has frequently struck gold playing flawed, imperious protagonists, most recently as a lean King Henry VIII in the BBC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor saga Wolf Hall and as soldier-turned-terrorist Nicholas Brody in Homeland. Previous subjects include Jeffrey Archer, in a biopic, and Soames in The Forsyte Saga.
Throughout his career Lewis, 44, has hardly eschewed film and theatre, yet every one of the aforementioned roles has been for TV. His latest small-screen encounter with vulnerable mastery is playing New York hedge fund titan Bobby Axelrod in the new drama Billions. Axelrod finds himself under investigation for insider trading by a US government attorney, Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti).
Appropriately, since Lewis has been at the vanguard of the recent golden age of television drama, his antihero in Billions is the quintessential cable TV drama Bad Person Who Does Good Things. A rapacious dealmaker suspected of financial illegalities, Axelrod is also a 9/11 survivor who pays for the college tuition of colleagues’ families who died in the World Trade Center attacks and who steps in to save his neighbourhood pizzeria from closing.
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