Parade Interview: From Coloring Books, Private Jets and a House in the South of France to Immunotherapy and Billions
by Walter Scott | Parade | March 16, 2018
What are Axe and Chuck fighting about?
There’s a clear moral vision, which is a libertarian one represented by Axe, who believes in the free market; and the moral position by Chuck that no one should be able to amass that much wealth, that [wealth like that] in itself is an immoral act. They both happen to be the best at what they do, and [being] king of the castle is important to both.
If you had that kind of money, how would you spend it?
Immunotherapy trials. A lot of it would go to charity, but I’d definitely have a private jet to avoid [the hassles] at the airports, and a house in the South of France.
Have you made red hair cool?
Red hair was always cool! In Britain, some redheads get teased as youngsters. I avoided it, mostly. I was lucky because I played sports. I’m going to recommend a coloring book called Colour Me Good Ginger. It’s filled with all your famous redheads, and I’m on the cover. Buy this book, and then go and buy an orange felt tip. You only need one color, orange, and then you paint us all in orange. It’s Ed Sheeran, Julianne Moore and Prince Harry, we’re all in there.
What was it like to meet President Obama at the White House “Evening with Homeland” panel?
Unforgettable. I was a huge fan of the president’s, and it turned out that he was also watching Billions in addition to Homeland. He said, “I love Billions. I love Bobby Axelrod. There’s only one problem: Hedge fund managers aren’t that cool.” I think he’s a rock star, so it was a very good thing.
Do you understand all of the ins and outs of these deals that Bobby makes in Billions?
Yes. With a show like this, for people who do understand the deal that is being discussed, the show is authentic, so I think that gives great pleasure to people who understand it. If you don’t fully understand the intricacies of the deal, it shouldn’t matter too much. You should just know that one person is trying to f— over another person and it should always be clear within the emotional beats of the scene who’s trying to do what and whether it succeeded. As long as you can track that, then you’re OK.
One of the really likeable things about Bobby is, despite temptation, he was faithful to his marriage vows, until his wife, Lara (Malin Akerman), left him. What’s going on with their relationship?
I agree that that was always one of the attractive qualities of Bobby. He was a family man, adores his children, but he’s in the mire. At the end of season two, he was outmaneuvered by Chuck. At great personal cost to himself, Chuck threw everything away that he had personally in order to derail Bobby. He caught Bobby out, and Bobby now has a pending jail sentence hanging over his head.
So, Bobby is a man on a mission. He is a man who has a sense of his own destiny. Men like that can be careless in their personal relationships, so the people who are married to them, who are their children or are in any way related to them can feel a little bit like they are being dragged along on the journey. I think that has been the sacrifice Bobby’s had to make and that definitely has been the collateral damage.
Lara has finally had enough. You would have to say, “Good on you, girl.” She kept being hit over the head by Bobby and coming back to him. He kept managing to talk his way around her, but was always a little economical with the truth. In this season, she says to him very clearly, “I can’t support you any longer, I’m going and I’m taking the kids.”
When she says she’s taking the kids, Bobby responds. He’s very like a cornered animal, and he comes out teeth bared. That’s who he is. So, he comes out, claws out, teeth bared, and then he deals with it.
Has being around the show made you a more savvy investor, or has it made you go, “I don’t care to be in the market, it’s too volatile”?
No, because the market did incredibly well in 2017. It was one of the craziest years in recent history. I like investing and I still invest because I did well last year.
Do you do the research yourself?
No, I have a financial adviser who helps me, but I keep up to speed. I make sure it’s a moderate-risk spread like the amateur that I am. I don’t do anything really crazy. I have a small, high-risk portfolio.
Billions and Homeland are both shows that start conversations. Billions about wealth and how it’s used or misused, and Homeland about terrorism. Do you search out projects that spark conversations?
Without question. I’d be happy doing a big, summer, popcorn movie where I’m shooting aliens with a plastic gun. I’m happy to do that too. But, yes, I would say mostly that this is my taste. I look for things where I think the subject is challenging and has relevance in some way, absolutely, whether it’s Billions, Homeland or Wolf Hall, which, obviously, was a historical piece.
You were Eaton-educated. That’s 180 degrees from Bobby. How do you find relatability?
I don’t think you always have to find relatability. I think you can play somebody who is entirely out of your own personal experience and that’s why acting is this great, creative and imaginative craft. If you do enough research, go and meet people, understand how they think, breathe and move, and what their value systems are, then I think you can get inside their skin. I think Bobby’s smarter than I am, but I think the ambition, the want to do well, there’s a similarity there maybe.
The worst job you ever had?
I’ve had a lot of good jobs, but I’ve never been as cold as standing in British Columbia, minus 27 degrees Fahrenheit, doing Dreamcatcher outside in just a shirt. That’s the coldest I’ve ever been.
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