Sunday 25 February 2018

New series Billions 'to dovetail in and out of hard news', Damian Lewis reveals

Damian Lewis at the London Stock Exchange ahead of the UK premiere of Billions
Damian Lewis at the London Stock Exchange ahead of the UK premiere of Billions

Damian Lewis has said his new series Billions will follow in the footsteps of Homeland and "dovetail in and out of the hard news".

The British actor starred as US Marine Corps scout sniper Nicholas Brody in political thriller Homeland, which addressed terrorism and the war in Iraq.

In Billions he is instead transformed into hedge fund manager Bobby "Axe" Axelrod, an outwardly charitable and generous 9/11 survivor who uses dubious methods to raise his firm's wealth.

Paul Giamatti co-stars as Charles "Chuck" Rhoades Jr, a US Attorney who takes him on.

Speaking at the London Stock Exchange ahead of the UK premiere of Billions on Thursday, Lewis said: "It was an opportunity to look at the hedge fund world and, given the notoriety of some of the big name hedge funders of the last 10 years, the way that they have been pursued on Wall Street, being pursued by the US attorneys.

"It was an opportunity to dovetail in and out of the hard news, which is exactly what Homeland was able to do. Which Billions is now able to do.

"It's a very different feeling and smelling show from Homeland, but it has an opportunity to do exactly that. It's a piece of mass entertainment, whilst drawing from hard news."

He added: "You'll look in the papers and see something is happening and it might well end up in our show, and I think that's a sweet spot for a TV show."

Starring opposite Giamatti was a "thrilling" experience, Lewis said - because their characters were so combative.

"You have two gladiators; two kings in their kingdoms if you like - Paul Giamatti and myself," he explained.

"Paul is sensational. He's one of the most delightful men I've ever met and he's brilliant and so I hope I have more scenes to do with him because being on camera with him is thrilling.

"He's smart, he's funny and he also brings a physical presence to all his characters so I think we enjoy the physicality of being in that cage together.

"Two lions, if you like, prowling. I think we both get a kick out of that."

The London-born actor said the financial crisis had left everyone "a bit more clued up" about the financial industry - even if some people had returned to business "as though nothing happened".

He said: "The financial sector here in London is one of the big engines; it's what helps to make London an international city and one of the great cities in the world ...

"It's a powerhouse and it must be allowed to thrive, in my view.

"But certainly superficially on the face of it, it would seem that some people have gone back to business as though nothing had happened."

He added: "I think everyone is a bit more clued up about the financial industry.

"I think everyone was astonished how little the CEOs at the big banks knew of what was actually going on or in fact, even the instruments that had been created through which people could make bets - it was going on right under their noses."

:: Billions premieres on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on May 12.

Press Association

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