Saturday 21 July 2018

Damian hedges his bets and takes advice from high-flying brother for ruthless role

From the world of espionage to big money, in-demand Damian Lewis reveals his Irish loves to Mark O'Regan

MONEY TALKS: Damien Lewis and Malin Akerman in a scene from Billions
MONEY TALKS: Damien Lewis and Malin Akerman in a scene from Billions
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

When Homeland star Damian Lewis landed the much-lauded part of ruthless hedge-fund boss Bobby Axelrod in the hit drama series Billions, he was able to call on some close family connections to get a first-hand feel for the role.

His brother, William, is very much a high roller in the dizzy heights of high finance in the City of London.

The 50-year-old is chairman of Asset Management Firm CDAM - and previously worked on the equity sales desk at Merrill Lynch.

He has also been dubbed 'Five Star' by his peers because of his indulgence of some of the finer things in life.

Damian says, good humouredly, that his brother certainly gave him an up close and personal feel for the world of big money and high-octane deals.

"He put me in touch with a couple of people - although my brother is in equities rather than the hedge funds.

"But I did also meet a number of hedge-fund guys working in the UK and the US. I wanted to get a sense of what they do. I was surprised to see how clearly they see themselves as independent of mainstream Wall Street.

"In that regard, they often feel they are the underdogs, which is odd given they are dealing with such large amounts of money.

"They're making bets against the market, and against public opinion, so they're very protective of what they do."

Lewis (44) enjoyed huge success on Showtime's Homeland, and won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy, for his portrayal of US marine sergeant and former prisoner of war Nicholas Brody.

In his latest role, the English actor plays a 'take-no-prisoners' hedge-fund king, Bobby 'Axe' Axelrod.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he said what drew him to the part was its exploration of human psychology, and the lengths some individuals will go to achieve success.

He suggested certain highly successful individuals tend to be extremely ruthless - and in career mode their actions may be in conflict with some of their better emotions.

"This series promises to show two sides of the same coin.

"It's about the idea of people subscribing, in economic terms, to the open market, and what is morally acceptable, within the laws this market.

"It's also about what people are prepared to do, so as to try and justify their own actions to themselves. I find that world very interesting.

"It's not always entirely clear who is the good guy, or who is the bad guy, because ambition and compromise rule the day.

"It's really about very powerful men going after their goals - and what they're prepared to do get what they want.

"Bobby is certainly one of those guys."

And on another level, despite Damian's flame-red hair the in-demand actor confesses to having not a drop of Irish blood.

But he is an unabashed admirer of some of our best-known names in the world of film and drama.

"I'm a big fan of Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Fassbender.

"Cillian Murphy is another favourite of mine, and I can't understand why he isn't being nominated for the best actor role every year. I'd love to work with all of them. I've filmed in Dublin which I love.

"I've had lovely times in Ireland over the years. I've also been to Bantry Bay, which is beautiful spot."

Asked if he has a preference between TV or film roles, he says while there are similarities between them both, he enjoys the "speed" of TV.

"I like how hard you have to work at it. I really like that. In terms of storytelling, each medium is slightly different."

In Billions, he's paired opposite Golden Globe and Emmy winner Paul Giamatti (48) in a timely expose about the hard edges of the financial sector and Wall Street.

He puts the success of the TV series down to the subject matter, which "resonates" with people.

"It's got a heavyweight-title fight quality about it. I think the general public's relationship with very rich people has changed slightly, even in America.

"That's an interesting development because the wealthy were always the aristocracy in that country.

"They inspired others, and were admired, and respected. But there is a suspicion now about how people may have made really big money."

'Billions' starts on Sky Atlantic on the May 12

Sunday Independent

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