“Every American Has a Little Bit of Bobby Axelrod in Them”
by Stuff | March 18, 2018
Damian Lewis has a simple way of explaining what drives the sexy, ego-driven world of high finance that is the SoHo show Billions.
“This is a show about compromise, about the desperation in people, and the lengths they are prepared to go to, to win,” he says.
Over the past two seasons, audiences have watched his Billions alter ego, the corrupt hedge-fund owner Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod, regularly dabble in bribery, bullying, insider trading and more to achieve his own dubious ends. But season two ended with the sheriff/FBI agent, Axelrod’s nemesis, US Attorney Chuck Rhoades, outwitting him after a high-risk game of cat-and-mouse, albeit at considerable personal cost.
“There is a pending prosecution, Bobby’s assets have been frozen – he is a sort of Harry Lime character (the con-artist in The Third Man), living in the shadows,” says Lewis.
“Axe’s marriage is not going well either. It turns out that you can’t repeatedly lie to your wife and keep her happy. But being Bobby, he manipulates situations to find a way to keep operating.”
Axe, however, is not the only one who is compromised.
“Both the lead characters are mired in their own duplicity,” Lewis notes.
Paul Giammatti plays the equally manipulative and morally questionable Chuck who, according to the actor, “Has gone from being Mussolini to being Macchiavelli” over the past two seasons, as he has tried ceaselessly to bring down Axe by fair means or foul.
It is this seemingly insatiable thirst in both Chuck and Axe to destroy one another that fuels the tension in the show.
“I always think it feels a story about two rival spies, from two intelligence agencies, trying to outwit each other and take each other out,” says Giammatti. “But it also seems reflective of what’s happening in the world. It seems to have tapped into general truths about politics and finance, and the macho guys who run those things, and how destructive and self-destructive that machismo is.”
Lewis agrees. “I think the show would have relevance at any moment in time,” he says. “But the fact that we now have a billionaire in the White House, who has been questioned over a number of things – in his business life, his personal life, and now in his political life – means that the melding and merging of finance and politics is even more in our faces and has given our show an even greater relevance.”
He does believe, however, that America’s relationship with wealth is, perhaps, more complicated now than in the past.
“Every American has a little bit of Bobby Axelrod in them but, I think, after the sub-prime mortgage crisis, there was suddenly a question over how money was being made, and at whose cost. So there is confusion and conflict here at the moment.”
In real life, Giammatti also struggles to comprehend the public attitude towards extreme wealth.
“What is it that is so attractive to everybody (about billionaire bankers)? They are glorified accountants. I don’t know why everybody thinks they are so incredible,” he says.
“I am continually amazed at the glorification and the valorising of them. Some of them do wonderful things and give their money back, but a lot of them are jerks and do horrible things.”
For his part, in this season Chuck is reunited (to a certain extent, at least) with his wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff), whose loyalties have long been split between her husband and Axe, for whom she works as an in-house psychologist and performance coach.
And their reunion means a return to the screen of one of the show’s juiciest elements: Chuck and Wendy’s penchant for S&M.
Read the rest of the original article at Stuff