“My character, and in some ways the show, is less Mussolini and more Machiavelli,” Paul Giamatti said when asked about “Billions” Season 2 during Showtime’s TCA panel presentation for the high-rated drama. And by that, he means the characters will be “less brutal and more strategic” in the upcoming episodes.
“You see vulnerabilities in them,” co-star Damian Lewis added. “These vulnerabilities and frailties become burdensome in trying to win this game.”
The game Lewis refers to is the winner-takes-all throw-down between Chuck Rhodes, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, an aggressive hedge fund manager who Rhodes suspects is corrupt. Much of Season 1 focused on the two waging war against each other, as Axe attempted to grow his empire and Rhodes aimed to expose Axe in order to destroy him.
But in Season 2, things are intensifying at work and at home for both men… and the women who love them.
“He’s vulnerable in a lot of this — professionally and personally,” Giamatti said about Rhodes. “He changes by intensifying, but he operates in a different way.”
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“Certainties have been eroded in Season 2,” Lewis said. “There’s a fracturing in Bobby and Lara’s marriage.”
The cast, all on hand for the panel, were asked about what it was like to share scenes with their onscreen opponents. After all, the couples often interact, but the rivals rarely share scenes together — a conscious choice by creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien.
“Not acting with each other [often] made it exciting every time we acted with each other,” Giamatti said.
Lewis said, “Resisting overacting those moments [between Chuck and Axe] — the understanding is that they need to crackle, and you have to trust the writing and not do that.”
“Those are some of my favorite scenes […] because it’s so pregnant with tension and exhilaration,” Akerman said about her scenes with Siff. “There’s so many layers to our relationship. There’s a respect there, but it’s almost like seeing ‘the other woman’ and having to deal with her.”
“I feel like I am the other woman, but I’m not the other woman,” Siff said. “It’s got all these weird, uncomfortable layers. We try to make the scenes real and not catty. And also, it’s nice to come to work and work with a lady, which doesn’t happen much.”
“We have a great scene [coming up] in Season 2,” Akerman added.
“Billions” Season 2 premieres Sunday, February 19 at 10 p.m. on Showtime. Watch the new trailer below: