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.
Damian Lewis on Conquering the New York Accent for Billions
TV Review: ‘Billions’
If you are immune to the many charms of Paul Giamatti’s work, and the endless ways in which his “Billions” character displays intelligence and irritation through a series of perfectly deployed glares, this tale of high-powered hedge-fund players and the lawyers they battle may not be up your alley.
Giamatti plays Chuck Rhoades, a well-to-do U.S. Attorney for New York who feels compelled to rein in Wall Street excesses, with Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod, a hotshot mega-billionaire who can’t resist throwing his might and money around in ways that make for bad P.R., and bring scrutiny from law enforcement.
That description raises the question of whether you’ll be able to work up any sympathy for the one-percenters locked in combat in this slick series.
Many regular folks who’ve witnessed the frightening fallout of some of Wall Street’s high-stakes games may find that the subject matter itself is a dealbreaker. Just about every character in “Billions” has, at the very least, a trust fund and a few million in the bank — but many have substantially more.
Whatever their headaches, the day-to-day lives of these hedge-fund guys, especially Bobby, make Don Draper’s lifestyle look like a monk’s.