Bobby Axelrod: The Man With No Heart?

Hello, all! Hope 2017 is treating you all well. I’ve managed to make it about half way through the brutal winter here in the arctic tundra known as Minnesota. It won’t be that long until warm weather will return!









Aside from counting the days until Spring, I know that we are all waiting, with baited breath, for the season two premiere of Billions! February 19th can’t get here fast enough. I’ve been keeping myself busy with re-watches of my favorite holiday gift, Billions on DVD! (Shout-out to Mr. Dazzle for knowing exactly what I wanted. I don’t think he even had to read my shopping guide…)

Can you wear out a DVD? I hope not.

In my first couple articles written for the blog, I delved into what the three zones of the body correspond to. For a quick and dirty recap: Mind, Heart, Body (I usually prefer vitality). Mind, your head. Heart, your chest. Vitality? Your pelvis. And within each of these zones, lies mind, heart and body breakdowns of their own. From head to toe, within all of our appendages, as well, macrocosm to microcosm, these three elements are all present. It’s a fascinating study that I hope to learn to teach, myself, one day!

Stanislavsky can bite me.

So, at the end of last season, we were left with this phenomenal showdown between Axe and Chuck. Among the ruins of Axe Capital, the two titans of their respective worlds faced off. Words were exchanged, personal space invaded, salt was thrown into wounds. Axe warned Chuck of the atomic-like crater he left in the wake of his torn-up settlement check, and Chuck threatened that Axe should be afraid of a man with nothing left to lose.

I posted the gif above to a Facebook group that my Delsarte teacher, Joe Williams, runs. Once again it was shown that I still have so much to learn about Delsarte.

lower liiiiiiiip

“I’m loving the lower lip emphasis.”

He’s poking Chuck with the mind finger in the mind zone of the chest. He’d better listen.

Mind. Blown.

How had I missed this? How? Mr. Mind is what we called him in my first write up, and I wasn’t wrong. But I was missing this really important thing! That’s what I really love about the Three Pillars Arts technique that Joe teaches. The study is always ongoing, the learning is always happening.

There’s a lot of lower lip in this scene, too.

When I was noticing Bobby’s “mind” emphasis, I certainly still felt something very vital about him. I didn’t know if it was just what I knew about his character that was swaying me. The masculinity, the swagger, the testosterone. It was all there, even when we weren’t seeing the vital zones I’d already noticed. When Axe got angry, and that camera pulled in tight, what was so vital about it? What was I missing?

That lip was it.

He’s touching his heart, to emphasize honesty.

Despite that lip, Bobby does lead with the mind. Well, this Bobby that we see here and now. We see that he is, at times, desperate to cling to this. He wants to keep his head in the game, he wants to stay smart. I think the younger Bobby was much more vital, much more prone to solving problems with violence or anger. He may have admitted to really “feeling good” when he hit that man who drove his children while drunk, but he was deeply ashamed, as well. After dumping a joke boxing trophy that the guys got him, he stormed out of the room, embarrassed. That was not the legacy he wanted. He didn’t want to be known for solving problems with his fists.

We see him lean head first into conversations, whether seated or standing.

We see his forehead wrinkle with attention, his brows raised or furrowed. He nods, he shakes his head, he stares. He squints, which is a mind position in the eyes. He also talks with his hands-the hands are our minds on the arms!

He points, the pointer finger is the mind finger!

source: Showtime

But when REAL power needs to come out in that mind, his bottom lip wraps around his bottom teeth, his jaw is clenched and prominent, his nostrils (vital of the nose) flared. He backs up that mind with a little of the old Bobby, a little more of the wild animal he once was.

source: Showtime

His vitality is also present in many other places, aside from that lip. I caught those relatively early. His swagger is definitely one of them. His walk as Bobby is really unique to this character, and immediately it stood out as the most physically east coast thing I noticed.

It was like seeing my old friends from Queens – that walk! It’s very isolated to the bottom half of the body. The arms don’t swing freely, they are more rigid, if they move at all, really. The feet hit the floor loud, percussive. With feet being the mind, again, we see the blending of mind and vitality in Bobby’s movement library. It’s a very deliberate stride.

We’ve made it this far into this post without hardly a mention of the third side of the trinity. We have Bobby leading with his mind, backing it up with vitality, but where is Bobby’s heart?

In his final session with Wendy, Bobby contemplated what it meant to be able to operate with such a lack of feeling, of sentimentality. She described him as having a different set of wiring than most, and that he was able to divorce himself from feeling and get things done, when needed. Almost upon command. And we see this, definitely, in Bobby’s lack of heart in most his body language.

Heart is found, of course, in the chest. Bobby spends a lot of time with his arms crossed.

Heart is expressed in the forearms, with vitality in the upper arms. Those crossed arms sure do put the vital arms on display. It also hides the hands, which are mind. When hands are hidden, it can indicate deceit. I noticed when he doesn’t cross his arms, his other go-to is hands in his pockets.

Add this to my list of “If I ever get crazy billionaire money…”

On the head, heart is found in the eyes. Bobby doesn’t shy away from eye contact, but he is often looking up, his head being tilted forward, mind engaged. Mind leading over the heart.

source: Showtime

He does use that heart, but for very few. Being emotionally open, being tender, being vulnerable, is something that only few ever get to see. Lara certainly sees it, she is the closest thing to an equal that Bobby has. He is still in charge, that much is clear, but she has a really big say in what happens.

She’s touching him on the vital of his heart….she knows her man.

I love that moment that they laid together after their pool time romp, or the late night Facetime after the Metallica concert. He admitted to Lara, during a discussion about their children, that he used to be an animal, and that she helped correct that. While I feel like Wendy helped Axe figure out his mind, Lara did a lot more for his heart. It shows in the tenderness he has with her, the ease, the openness of his heart zones around her.

His children get a fair share of that heart, as well. In one of his bigger dick moves, we see his heart zone, front and center, as he “saves” his sons from their camping trip. I really hated that he went over Lara’s head like that, and I think that little tip of the head, the vital chin and jaw out, shows that it really was more of a power play than he might have wanted to let on. It felt good to be their savior, to be good cop to the bad cop. Axe is always in control. Or, well, he’d like to think he is.

Bobby’s other big heart moment came during his visit to the firehouse after the 9/11 revelations were made. His pleading to the firemen, his admissions of guilt that went even beyond what the press had released, were delivered with really honest, heartfelt body language, Straight on heart zone of the face, direct, unbroken eye contact, even his normally proud and lifted shoulders were rolled, his chest even a little caved. His feelings were written all over his body. That body language honesty, mixed with honest words, probably won a few hearts and minds that day at the firehouse.

source: Showtime

Having a balance of the three-mind, heart, vitality, is what makes someone truly powerful, truly content, truly in control. In my opinion, heart is the most powerful part of the trinity. It’s the zone that maintains balance, and keeps the other two in check. In my most recent time with my teacher, Joe, we had a lovely moment in class where we discussed the power of the heart, the emotion, the honesty. What is more powerful than honesty?

And right there might be exactly the key to why Axe never really shows that heart to many. Heart is the home of honesty. And while we might be able to call Bobby a loyal man, a generous man, a smart man, honesty really isn’t the first word that springs to mind.

6 thoughts on “Bobby Axelrod: The Man With No Heart?”

  1. I love this! After reading this, I will certainly be watching Billions with a very new perspective, looking for all these “tells”!
    I agree with you about him not being truly an honest man. But who is he not being honest with – others or himself? πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you! I really enjoyed writing this. It’s fun to be able to enjoy the show on a completely different level, to study the craft and art that the actors create. These “tells” don’t just apply to actors, they apply to everyone around you, as well. It’s interesting to see the truth in Delsarte once you start looking for it. It’s like “seeing the matrix”.

  2. Holliedazzle, you certainly dazzle me with your analysis! You know, I am a perpetual student, I have BIG LOVE for learning, and I always learn from your posts, in particular your interpretation of Damian’s body language speaking for the character. Amazing!

    Lower Lip! Lower Lip! Lower Lip! The gifs and pics you use to support your argument are very helpful but I really need to go back to Billions and see this for myself — I need to do a Season 1 marathon before Season 2 starts anyway!

    Where is Bobby’s heart? I LOVE THIS: “And right there might be exactly the key to why Axe never really shows that heart to many. Heart is the home of honesty.”

    True, Bobby is loyal to his family and people that he loves like family, e.g. Bruno from the pizzeria. Bobby is generous. Bobby is smart. But is Bobby honest? Especially in business. What about his Telecom Play? Isn’t it pure insider trading? It is true that the way he conducts is pure genius — he is seemingly on a break from Axe Capital waiting for his play to fold out — but it is not honest business, is it? Or that he does not tell Donnie they may have him participate in an experimental study that would give him time until xmas? Axe stole Donnie’s xmas. He knows THAT and he is in fact uncomfortable that he feels okay about having done that. I can make the argument, as a rational person, that those couple of months of extra life would not make a difference for Donnie and both Axe and Donnie ultimately benefited from their agreement, and they really did! But being rational is not necessarily being honest, is it? The kind of moral dilemma that I find myself in sometimes as I watch this show is mind blowing — which I believe is a huge success of the show! So yeah I don’t think honesty is the first word that would come to my mind to describe Axe, either. Or Chuck Rhoades for that matter πŸ™‚ I don’t even know if you can really keep your honesty at Axe-level or Chuck-level positions. I really don’t know because I have never been there.

    I totally agree with you that Bobby sometimes has those dick moves bypassing Lara especially about the kids. I have not liked it at all when he “saved” the kids from the camp or when he offered to call interns at Axe Capital to make the xmas gift packages Lara was having the kids make with her. As much as I know where he is coming from — coming from a poor background where he had to work for pocket money, he wants his kids to be care-free and be happy all the time — it is not right. Bobby has a very subtle macho side to him (which makes sense given that he, in his own words, “used to be an animal”) that can get annoying at times. And as much as Lara is an equal in their partnership, there is still so much he does not share with her, and does (or did) share with Wendy instead, which I believe makes Lara not really jealous but sad.

    1. I love sharing about Delsarte with you all. It’s such a fascinating study, and really useful for so many areas of life. I can read people, read advertising intent, it helps me of course on stage, etc. It’s just super fun. I am so glad to have this outlet here to apply it to my favorite actor!

  3. Great analysis. I think it speaks very clearly to Damian’s talent that he can give us outwardly heartless characters – a rapist, a terrorist, a remorseless capitalist – yet still keep us looking, and persistently wanting to look, for the heart in them. A very special technique of bait and switch, not shared by many other actors.

    1. That’s very true. His ability to bring forth each character’s humanity, to play them with depth, is truly a gift. It makes the characters really come to life and seem genuine.

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