Damian Lewis
Actor, Dad, Redhead, and Ping Pong Champion
Categories Billions Magazine Review

The Schneiderman Allegations Make the TV Show Billions Look a Lot More Like Real Life – May 9, 2018

“Lewis, with his singular white-skinned, red-haired coloring and swimming-pool blue eyes, is always mesmerizing to watch”

by Eve MacSweeney | Vogue | May 9, 2018

One of the credibility stretching conceits of the Showtime drama Billions is that one of its lead characters, a high-ranking government lawyer played by Paul Giamatti, is a hard-core sexual masochist. We meet him in the pilot, bound, gagged, and hooded, cringing under the heel of a dominatrix. (That she turns out to be his wife is another of the rapid plot twists that keep the series’ heart pumping.)

With the accusations breaking this week of the physical abuse of four women by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, that high-concept premise is starting to look less contrived. Schneiderman is the alleged perpetrator, not the recipient, of violence in news accounts, but the disconnect common to both characters—the real and the fictional—is unsettling. Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is so possessed by the desire to nail his nemesis, hedge-funder Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) that he is willing to sacrifice friends, family, ethics, and his own financial interest in its pursuit. This punitive zeal makes an ironic contrast with his sexual preference. Schneiderman’s apparent hypocrisy lies in his support of #MeToo, taking action against Harvey Weinstein, and, as a legislator, introducing specific laws against verbal threats and physical choking, two of the crimes of which he now stands accused.

Continue reading The Schneiderman Allegations Make the TV Show Billions Look a Lot More Like Real Life – May 9, 2018

Categories Billions Print Media Review

Billions: Super Antiheros – April 24, 2018

The Superhero Show About Finance and the Tale of Two Warring Goliaths

by Rachel Syme | The New Republic | April 24, 2018

Billions reckons with the inflated egos and muddled ethics of Wall Street.

The first season of Billions premiered in January 2016— eight years after the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and eleven months before a self-proclaimed billionaire was elected president. This was the sweet spot, timing wise, for a bombastic prestige drama about the world of money. In 2011, the sharp and enraging documentary Inside Job, which charted the corruption that led to the financial crisis, won an Oscar. In the winter of 2016, The Big Short—a sermonizing, big-budget Hollywood comedy about reckless bankers—was nominated for Best Picture. The mea culpas had been issued, the bad actors identified, and although only one person officially went to jail, the coast looked clear for new stories of Wall Street and wealth.

Of course, in the wake of the crisis, a showrunner could not simply rehash the old Gordon Gekko formula for a modern audience. Slickness was no longer glamorous but gross; very few Americans had an appetite for captains of industry slurping down midday martinis at the Capital Grille. Instead, the three creators of Billions—the longtime writing team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien, along with The New York Times’ financial reporter, Andrew Ross Sorkin—took a populist genre and grafted it onto the honeyed, moneyed lives of the rich and infamous: They made a superhero show about finance.

Continue reading Billions: Super Antiheros – April 24, 2018

Categories Billions Print Media Review

How Realistic is Billions? – March 22, 2018

For the Love of Trading

by Tom Teodorczuk | Market Watch | March 21, 2018

Source: Showtime

We asked Anthony Scaramucci and other financiers: How realistic is Showtime’s hedge-fund drama ‘Billions’? Is the hit show on the money when it comes to Wall Street?

This story contains some plot details about season 3 of “Billions.”

Things have been busy recently for Anthony Scaramucci. Prior to serving as President Trump’s White House Communications Director for just 11 days, “The Mooch” founded hedge-fund investing firm SkyBridge Capital and a hedge-fund conference known as SALT.

Continue reading How Realistic is Billions? – March 22, 2018

Categories Billions Media Print Media

Billions: The Show So Smart it Makes The West Wing Look Slow – Feb 21, 2017

Billions: The Show So Smart it Makes The West Wing Look Slow

As the Damian Lewis v Paul Giamatti epic returns, we salute a fast world where risky behaviour rules – and which will only get more gripping by the week

by Mark Lawson – The Guardian – February 21, 2017

Source: Showtime

For the makers of a TV drama, there are two potential disasters at the end of a first season: not being renewed, and being renewed. Disappointing as cancellation is, it at least leaves the possibility that one day the show will come to be regarded as an unfairly truncated lost classic. But get a second run and screw it up, and the successful first year will be weakened by the failure of the next.

But, in approaching Difficult Second Series Syndrome, Billions has more going for it than most contenders. The Showtime series – which returned in the US on Sunday and resumes in the UK on Tuesday – started from a scenario that has long and energetic legs.

The mutual obsession with each other’s destruction between US Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and hedge fund maverick Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) left many places to go and grow from the former’s attempt to charge the financier with corruption in the first run. Manic pursuit has the potential to play out over a long time, which is why Tom & Jerry has survived for almost 80 years and Moby-Dick is 600 pages long.

Source: Showtime

Cultural allusions are a big part of the Billions shtick, so it seems no accident that Rhoades – bearded, damaged, bordering insanity in his desire to bring his quarry in – has many similarities with Captain Ahab, Herman Melville’s whale-hunter, as well as Ahab’s premier literary descendant, JM Barrie’s crocodile-obsessed Captain Hook. Giamatti would be natural casting for either sailor.

References to the Hanna-Barbera cartoon may be less intentional, although, like the mouse Jerry, Damian Lewis’s mega-rich banker is often, counter-intuitively, the more attractive of the central duo. As in the animation, the viewer is sometimes surprised to feel pleased when the latest hot iron dropped by the enforcer of order lands scaldingly on his own foot while the rodent slithers away.

But, whereas Tom & Jerry came from a TV era in which it was believed that the key to success involved repeating the same situation to infinity, Billions knows it must adapt to survive. Season two cleverly flips the plot, so Axelrod becomes more the hunter, with Rhoades now the one under investigation for inappropriate behaviour.

Continue reading Billions: The Show So Smart it Makes The West Wing Look Slow – Feb 21, 2017

Categories Billions Media Print Media

Power Player: Damian Lewis talks new Showtime series ‘Billions’, Los Angeles Daily News, January 14, 2016

Power Player: Damian Lewis talks new Showtime series ‘Billions’

Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades in Billions (Season 1, Episode 1). - Photo: JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: Billions_101_5107.R

Damian Lewis as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades in Billions (Season 1, Episode 1). – Photo: JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME

Although he’s done extensive research for his role as super-rich hedge-fund titan Bobby Axelrod for Showtime’s intriguing new drama “Billions,” Damian Lewis isn’t about to do his own investing. Continue reading Power Player: Damian Lewis talks new Showtime series ‘Billions’, Los Angeles Daily News, January 14, 2016

Categories Billions Media Print Media

‘Billions’: Can Showtime’s Big Bet Be TV’s First Wall Street-Based Hit?, Variety, January 13, 2016

‘Billions’: Can Showtime’s Big Bet Be TV’s First Wall Street-Based Hit?

Categories Billions Media Print Media

‘Billions’ on Showtime Profits Off Our Fixation on Money – Jan 8, 2016

‘Billions’ on Showtime Profits Off Our Fixation on Money

by David Zurawik – The Baltimore Sun – January 8, 2016

Great TV always scratches some deeper itch in the culture. And, in the last three decades at least, that itch has often been connected to money.

“The Sopranos” explored the gangster soul of capitalism and the profound emptiness even in its winner’s circle. “The Wire” showed how the drug trade in Baltimore was not that different from the business done on Wall Street. “Breaking Bad” started from the premise of a middle-class teacher who turned to making illegal drugs to provide for his family after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Given that history and the six hours I have seen of Showtime’s new Sunday-night series “Billions,” which premieres Jan. 17, I’m feeling like we might be looking at greatness here.

The drama about a ferociously ambitious U.S. attorney and a high-flying, regulation-breaking hedge fund king features two great actors in Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis. Giamatti plays the attorney, Chuck Rhoades, who sees the prosecution of Lewis’ character, Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, as his ticket to higher office.

As the chief federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan, Rhoades has enormous power over the great financial institutions of American life. And while he speaks in the high-minded rhetoric of civic reform and “servant of the people,” he comes from a world of privilege and lives a life of compromises, contradictions and look-the-other-way lies.

His arrogance in the workplace is unbounded. If he’s the good guy here, he’s not a very likable one.

“When I bring an action, it’s not some county or even state,” he warns. “It’s the United States versus. Don’t give me a reason.”

Or how about this lovely quote: “My father always taught me ‘mercy’ was a word p—— used when they couldn’t take the pain.”

He revels in his power, except in the bedroom, where he’s the “M” partner in an S&M marriage.

The series opens on one of the most intense and graphic S&M scenes I’ve ever seen on mainstream TV — even premium cable. But in its exploration of sex as power, it is artistically righteous. I was rooting for “Billions” from the opening bell for going there so fearlessly.

Rhoades’ wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff), is just as complex a character. She works as an in-house performance coach at Axelrod’s Axe Capital firm. She goes way back with Axelrod and is one of the few people in his uber-competitive boiler room in whom he seems able to confide.

Siff is superb as an ambitious professional using her psychological training to carve out her own territory of control as she navigates between these two male combatants. You might remember her as Rachel Menken, the department store heiress and Don Draper love interest in “Mad Men,” another great drama that was all about money, power and desire.

“Knowing isn’t enough,” Wendy Rhoades says. “You’ve got to exercise control.”

And she does.

In the hands of lesser dramatists, the obvious conflicts of interests involving this marriage might derail the series.

I can imagine someone reading this and saying, “Wouldn’t she have to quit her job?” Or, perhaps, “Given her job, wouldn’t Rhoades have to recuse himself from the case his office is trying to build against Axelrod?”

Both questions are valid. There are wisely scripted and convincingly played scenes in which those questions are raised, debated, worried over, and raged against at work and home. This being a very, very contemporary marriage, Mr. and Ms. Rhoades throw the conflict in each other’s face when it suits them.

It’s great stuff. But Bobby Axelrod is the character you can’t take your eyes off of.

“Axe is no ordinary billionaire,” Rhoades says. “He’s an icon of the wealth of our age. And he’s a fraud. So when he falls, he’ll hit the ground hard.”

Given the anger that remains over how few of the men and women who drove the economy off the cliff in 2008 were ever prosecuted, it would have been easy for the producers to make Axelrod the target of all that enmity.

But that would make for a polemic, not drama.

Continue reading ‘Billions’ on Showtime Profits Off Our Fixation on Money – Jan 8, 2016