Catching up with Axe & Wags on
Billions Season 1 Finale Set

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Time flies! Can you believe it’s our last rendezvous with Axe & Co, fortunately only for a while, in a couple of days? I just can’t.

Bad news: We will have serious withdrawals.

Good news: We can always go back to Billions Season 1 and watch it. Again. And again. And again.

Better news: They are starting to shoot Season 2 later this year.

Best news: We will have Billions Season 2 coming our way sometime next year.

So the season may be coming to an end, but we still have so much to say about it. For starters, we are currently working on a FUN Best of Billions post that we will publish as soon as the season is over. One of the categories we have to take our pick in is Best Chemistry. And I just can’t help reveal my vote here today: In my humble opinion, Axe and Wags have the most brilliant chemistry on screen and, believe me, off screen, too!


Axe and Wags may be the “couple” with the most shared screen time on Billions. And the way they work off of one another, in every scene they appear together, feels right. They just build the moment together. They are believable, relatable, human and, oh yeah, extremely funny.  I sometimes feel like I am watching this old and odd marriage in which two people know their own place as well as their better half extremely well and they deliver seamlessly. There is no need for words to understand each other but there is always time for a good tease. (“Bad idea. No man is a hero to his valet.” “That goes double for his COO. So you’re fucked with me either way.”)

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

We have seen Axe and Wags time and again play the good cop (Axe) and the bad cop (Wags) with Axe Capital employees as well as outsiders such as Yum Time board members. This asymmetry between them is calculated. Their symmetry, on the other hand, is natural. Are they twins separated at birth or what? 🙂 They are so delightful to watch.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

So I take this opportunity to say a few words for a character that I deeply love in Billions: Michael “Wags” Wagner. Well, yeah, Wendy is right, he is a “complete goddamn animal.” Wags constantly keeps you guessing if he can get any vulgar than that (“We have to be more pure than the Virgin Mary before her first period”) or any politically incorrect than that (“These days, it’s great to have a gay.”) and, hey, he never ceases to surprise you! His loyalty for Axe is genuine (“Fire everyone, right now, including me!”) and he delivers for him. Wags may be a “rapacious scumbag” but he is Axe’s rapacious scumbag, and ours, too!

I said it before, I will say it again. I LOVED David Costabile as Gale Boetticher in Breaking Bad, one of my all-time favorite shows. I LOVED him helping Walter White with the Blue, and I just LOVE seeing him help Axe with the Green 🙂 And I can’t agree more with IndieWire giving David Costabile special recognition in its first review of Billions: “He’s played far quieter roles in shows ranging from “Flight of the Conchords” to “Breaking Bad” and “The Wire.” Here, he’s powerful and brash, and he appears to be having the most fun of anyone on or off screen.”

Absolutely! And here’s my “off screen” Axe and Wags story!

Well… You all know they shoot Billions in all boroughs of New York City as well as in the city suburbs and Long Island. Social media is an amazing source to find out about the locations Billions uses but I never really fancy going to the set mainly because the set is a work place and fans crowding the area could be a real distraction for the cast and the crew… well, until… December 8, 2015. Billions shooting at a specific location for the season finale coupled with the fact that the location is only a 15-20 mins walk from my own apartment is a bit too tempting not to do it. It’s December but we have brilliant and sunny fall weather outside. Then why not go and take a look? You see, I am as good as Axe (or Chuck for that matter) in justifying the means for the ends 😀

Why am I intrigued by the location? Because it is Park Avenue and 73rd street. So? OK. Do you know which fictional TV character supposedly lives on Park and 73rd? Don Draper! He lives at 783 Park Avenue that is exactly at the corner of Park and 73rd! Now I love Don Draper. We know Damian Lewis loves Don Draper. But I also know Brian Koppelman loves Don Draper. So I am genuinely thinking about whether the location is an insider joke or something… It turns out it is not 🙂

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

I first spot Billions posts along with trailers and equipment trucks parked on the west side of Park Avenue. The set seems deserted except for one guy checking his phone on the next block between 71st and 72nd streets. I don’t really expect to spot actors anyway because the production probably has their trailers and trucks parked on the street as they film at some interior location. So I think they are probably shooting somewhere and I could just go ahead and take a few photos…

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

I walk down the block to the corner of Park and 72nd street and see that the guy who is checking his phone is nobody other than David Costabile. He seems to be in his own clothes. Casual. Then I notice the trailers have names on them. And here is the “Axe” trailer!

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

As I am standing in front of “Axe” trailer — not exactly in front of it, a bit to the right  —  and thinking to myself “Showtime never lets us call a Damian Lewis character with his first name, does it?… Nicholas Brody is Brody and Bobby Axelrod is Axe…” And as I am lost in these deep thoughts… The impossible happens… The “Axe” trailer door opens and Damian comes out!

Ooops! I was totally NOT expecting THAT! If only I had an invisibility cloak. That would come handy 🙂 Damian does not see me first. But as he walks towards Costabile, for some reason, he looks to his left:

“Oh, hey, how are you?”

The FUN part is he does not seem very surprised to see me. Maybe he’s used to seeing me at places now… Is this good or bad? Still.. he says he thinks I am “absolutely a spy” because I can find him anywhere!

It turns out they are just done with the morning shoot and on their way to lunch. Then they are coming back for “more stuff” in the afternoon. We chat a bit. I tell them how we, fans, are Team Axe all the way! And I am extremely happy to have the opportunity to tell David, who is a genuinely very nice man, about how much I loved him as Gale Boetticher in Breaking Bad! And hearing Damian tell David “they are doing some amazing blogging” about us is the most delicious cherry on the cake! 🙂

You can see from the body language that Damian and David have very good chemistry off screen and made friends. It’s fantastic they are hanging out together. And, hey, seeing Team Axe going to lunch together reminds me of a fascinating story I read long time ago…

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

The story is from the shoot of the very famous 1968 science fiction movie Planet of the Apes. In the movie, there are three ape species: chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. When the actors playing the ape characters have their makeup and costumes on, it is obviously difficult to take them off for lunch so they basically go to lunch with their ape make up on. And they segregate themselves by species. Charlton Heston notes: “Not only would the apes eat together, but the chimpanzees ate with the chimpanzees, the gorillas ate with the gorillas, the orangutans ate with the orangutans, and the humans would eat off by themselves. It was quite spooky.”

Can you imagine? 🙂

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

So… Maybe Team Axe and Team Chuck are having lunch separately as well? That’s a wild speculation on my part (and most probably wrong since the two teams seem to shoot separately most of the time given that Axe and Chuck do not really have much shared screen time) but it just makes sense to do it just to stay in character, doesn’t it?

Anyhow… back to the set: I was not really expecting ANY OF THIS, I would just take a few photos and leave, so I am not even asking for a photo. It is Damian who says: “Don’t you want a photo? Let’s take a photo. You need to tell the world how you caught us on set!” Well, who caught who is a bit up for debate here, but yeah I would be DELIGHTED to have pics!

So… Team Axe says a big HI from Billions set! BIG thanks go to my favorite Billions boys Damian and David for the fun chat and the pic! You guys are the BEST! We are on Team Axe all the way and hope to catch you again on the streets of New York during Season 2 shoot!

source: Damianista

Later in the day, I find out, thanks to a fan tweet, they are shooting interior scenes at the Explorer’s Club a few blocks away from the trailers. And it’s funny that Wall Street Journal gets a backstage pass on Billions set that afternoon. It should be the “stuff” Damian is talking about before heading to lunch. You will notice the same outfit in WSJ interview picture. There are several pictures from the final episode at this link  — they could be potential spoilers so check out at your own risk!

source: Wall Street Journal
source: Wall Street Journal

Well, the last 11 weeks have been some roller coaster, a WILD RIDE if you will, that has kept us at the edge of our seats. We just cannot wait to find out what they have in store for us in the season finale, an episode that we know will keep us talking for days, weeks, maybe months.

And if you do think, like us, that you will develop serious withdrawal symptoms once Billions Season 1 is over, we may have the right solution for you: We promise to do our share and keep entertaining our readers with Billions posts between seasons. While JaniaJania, Bookworm and I have given a lot of time and energy to our episode recaps, we have had countless conversations about the show, the plot, the characters, and made a LONG list of ideas we want to write about. So, going forward, we will sit back, relax, go back to Season 1, and keep writing about it and, of course, speculate about what could be in store for Team Axe and Team Chuck (and for us!) in Season 2. And we hope you stay with us!

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

18 thoughts on “Catching up with Axe & Wags on
Billions Season 1 Finale Set”

  1. Speaking of withdrawal, I would second the recent idea that the series Life is worthy of reappraisal. When Holliedazzle recently referenced episode 7 of Life, I had to go watch it again to see what she was talking about. I was more impressed with the series than ever before. Let’s not forget Damian made 32 episodes of Life—more episodes than he made even of Homeland. And since he was in almost every scene of Life but only half of Homeland (Carrie took the other half), there is a lot for Damian fans to appreciate in the series that featured him.

    So if the summer doldrums leave you craving Damian on screen, maybe it’s time to relive Life.

    1. I still need to go back to Episode 7 of Life and see it again, too! I am sure I will appreciate it now more than ever as well. Holliedazzle has given us so much material to go deep into Damian’s acting – I love it! True, there is a lot of Life out there – 32 episodes! If we are doing something serious on this blog then I really need to go back and study Life. Because, I all 32 episodes in a couple of weeks. As much as I enjoy binge-watching, it does not give you the depth you need to go and talk about individual episodes. So, we can make this summer LIFE summer altogether. Wouldn’t it be fun watching and thinking and writing and talking about it? 🙂

    2. I really enjoy re-watching Life, as well! I watch it while rhinstoning/working on costuming. I’ve watched it so many times now that it’s easy to enjoy while I multi-task. I’m glad that I was able to provide an insight that enriched your viewing of the show. Studying an actor and how they create their craft is incredible. Damian is a great actor, naturally, and has studied and put so much effort into what he does.

  2. I’m so envy you could talk to Demian , thank you for your enthusiasm and great article

    which always makes my day

    1. Florence, and you have just made my day! Thanks so much for your very kind words, and for visiting and reading us! And, yes, that was a very HAPPY day 🙂

  3. What a cute anecdote! Damian knows you now! Hey, you can’t help it if they film practically on your doorstep. Of course you’re going to check it out. That’s so nice! And that is a really nice picture of the 3 of you. Everyone looks good in the photo. He really likes your blog. What actor wouldn’t like something like this blog? Intelligent blogging about their work. They probably all want this. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thank you! It was easy to justify the means for the ends for this one — just a 20 minute walk through the park and I was there! I think I look a little big high in the photo but it’s ok. I was a little bit starstruck since I was not expecting any of it! But yeah Damian likes our blog and him telling David about us doing “some amazing blogging” was just so nice of him! He’s the best! We can’t be happier.

  4. “Don’t you want a photo? Let’s take a photo. You need to tell the world how you caught us on set!”

    When I read this my mind just shifted and the rest of the words you wrote just blurred. I zeroed in on the photo of you mighty three. Brilliant! Historic even for this fan of Damian and now, from your beautifully written piece, of David Costabile. Genius!

    I am a great fan of Paul Giamati. A Babe Ruth of acting, hitting a home run in all his roles. But to be sandwiched between Damian & David is the Olympic gold medal of fandom! Captured in photo for all to see. Damn girl, you’re my hero!

    1. Oh My God, thanks so much, may I declare this comment my all-time favorite? 😀 “The Olympic Gold Medal of Fandom.” I am honored to have it.

      I am obviously a huge fan of Damian Lewis, but I love Paul Giamatti, too. I loved him in Sideways so much. I still think he should have received an Academy Award for his fantastic Miles!

  5. Oh, and FANTASTIC article! Original in concept, pointing out this Wall Street dynamic duo. Excellent writing.

  6. Oh my, to paraphrase the great Wayne and Garth…”I’m not worthy!”
    But big time thanks and keep up the great writing.

  7. I’ll just reiterate what I said when you first told us this story. It’s like old friends running into each other on the streets of NY now, not fan and object of fan love. You guys are like old buddies now. Can you believe it? Pinch yourself, it’s real!!
    (and, again, love that the encounter outside the trailers happened on my birthday of all days….felt like a great birthday present, this story)

    1. Please reiterate, because it’s so sweet to hear this! Old buddies running into each other on the streets of NY? Ok, I buy that! Why not? 🙂
      And, hey, how do you know I did not pinch myself that day? 😀 I love it that it happened on your birthday, too!

  8. How lucky to have met Damian, and above that, Damian, you acknowledged!
    It is unimaginable, and I am pleased that Damian knows and loves your blog because your blog is great, and I love it!Stay always present, because fans of Damian, need you
    At this point, a French chanel diffuse, , 3 episodes of Life every Saturday afternoon, and I look at them with always the same pleasure And still I admire the impressive Damian ‘talent! Tomorrow I get settled in my room, and nobody has the right to disturb me!!

    1. Thank you, Monique! And, hey, Damian is not going anywhere. So we are not going anywhere, either. And the support we have got here from you all keeps us going and going. Thank you so much! And, yes, Damian time = No calls answered! 🙂

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