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Lightning Rod: Damian Lewis on Playing the Best Bad Boy on TV – April 4, 2018

Who Says Bad Guys Don’t Win?

by Michael Idato  | The Sydney Morning Herald | April 4, 2018

Damian Lewis as the greedy money man Bobby Axelrod in Billions. Photo: Jim Fiscus

Who says bad guys don’t win?

In the critically acclaimed drama Billions, actor Damian Lewis plays a greedy, game-playing money man who is so despised he was once cornered by a fan who said to him: “Oh my God, it’s Bobby Axelrod, you’re such an asshole.”

The accusation makes the 47-year-old London-born actor laugh.

“To use an English phrase, it’s cops and robbers, it’s Elliot Ness and Al Capone, it’s the sheriff and the cowboy,” Lewis says. “That’s how this show breaks down. That’s its mythology. Chuck is the sheriff and Bobby is the cowboy. It’s always fun to back the cowboy, the outlaw. However bad they’re being.

“It’s not my place to say whether I think people back Bobby more than they do [his nemesis] Chuck, but I think what’s clear is that this is a world of shysters, it’s a world of compromise, it’s a world of desperate men, driven by their need to win the game,” Lewis says.

“And I think that is probably an accurate reflection of what’s going on at the moment in positions of great power.”

Billions is at first glance a show about money. But it is about so much more than that: toxic business practice, greed, globalisation (and the kickback against it) and, ultimately, the human cost of desiring to acquire everything in one’s path.

And in 2018 it has a powerful relevance to a shift in politics, culture and power which is being felt all over the world.

The series, which also stars Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades, the attorney determined to bring him down, is based on the real-life work of crusading federal prosecutor of financial crimes Preet Bharara.

As the new season opens, the show’s anti-hero has been “found with his hands in the cookie jar,” says Lewis. “He’s not able to trade, he’s sitting at home … being typically duplicitous, nefarious, pulling strings and trying to get business done without looking like it’s him doing the business.”

Lewis came to the series not actually looking for a return to television – he had just finished filming on another television series, Homeland – but “in the end one tries to balance finding the best work and being a good dad and husband at the same time.

The price of being away from home, he says, is hefty. For Lewis, who was born in London, he is watching the debate over Brexit – Britain’s exit from the European Union – from the other side of the world. The frustration? “I can’t affect what’s going on,” he says simply.

Read the rest of the original interview at The Sydney Morning Herald